In the seven years between 1642 and 1649 a
staggering one in ten of the adult male population of the British Isles died.
This was more than three times the proportion that died in the First World War
and more than five times the proportion that died in World War Two.
If disease, dislocation and famine are added to
battle deaths, and the timeframe extended to include the Cromwellian conquest
of Ireland (1649 – 1653) the total
number of dead could be as high as 868,000. The vast majority of these were
in Ireland in the later period (with up to 600,000 deaths).
The English Civil War is poorly named on two main
counts – it had an even greater impact on Ireland, Wales and Scotland and was
as much warfare between these countries as it was internal strife. As a
percentage Ireland was most affected (losing
up to 40% of its population), followed by Scotland (6%) and England (3.7%).
The total number of civil war deaths in Great Britain is estimated to be around
185,000 – around 4% of the total population (compared to the First World War’s
2.19% and the Second World War’s 0.94%).
Other pre-twentieth century conflicts resulted in a
smaller proportional death toll, largely because the fighting took place far
from the island fortress. Britain lost
between 250,000 and 300,000 in the Napoleonic Wars (1803 – 1815)
(representing just 1.875% of Britain’s growing population) and only 22,000 in
the Crimean War.