The Civil War and the Restoration 1649-1713

Key concepts

Key events and people

Key authors

In Wider Contexts




The Civil War (1642-1649)


Charles I (1625-49) –  executed


Britain was a republic 1649-1660


The Restoration of the monarchy 1660


The Great Fire of London 1666

Bunyan (1628-1688) Pilgrim’s Progress 1678


Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)



John Milton (1608-74) Paradise Lost



William Congreve (1670-1729)



Robert Herrick, “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”, publ. 1648


Andrew Marvell, ”To his Coy Mistress”, 1681


Historical, Social and Literary Context

After a period of political and religious unrest including the execution of King Charles I in 1649, there followed the restoration of King Charles II to the English throne in 1660 and comparative political calm. The main political conflict was between the King and Parliament concerning power. At the same time religious differences still played an important part in British society where there was disagreement between Catholics and Protestants, and a strong Protestant movement known as the Puritans arose. This group stressed the importance of decent behaviour, and in 1642 the theatres were closed due to their influence.

The theatres were not re-opened until Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660. Charles II was a patron of the theatre, and the dominant genre after 1660 was drama. For the first time in British history the female roles were now played by women. Restoration comedy, which was written in prose, was witty and entertaining and had no didactic purpose. The best known writer of Restoration comedy is William Congreve, who published The Way of the World in 1700.