The events of Bunyans life were played out in 17th century England. It was a time when politics and religion were inextricably intertwined, and both state and church were facing major conflicts.

King and Parliament in Conflict

King James I (who ruled 1603–1625) alienated Parliament with his high-handed methods and declarations of the divine right of kings, seeing no reason why his royal power should be questioned. Under his rule the opposition groups in Parliament united against him, merging lawyers concerned for the traditional common law, and the Puritans desiring to reform the Church of England.

When James’s son Charles I took the throne (1625–1649), the opposition between Parliament and crown was well developed. The issues were debated throughout England in a heated war of pamphlets, with its share of treasonous statements and resulting imprisonments. Parliament enacted the Petition of Right, bringing a number of specific limitations to the king’s power. In opposition, Charles attempted to rule without Parliament —none was called into session from 1629–1640.


Charles I repeatedly offended the religious sensibilities of the Puritans. Though Charles was Anglican, he allowed strong Catholic influences in his court—particularly evident in the priests at his Catholic wife’s chapels, and in artists and artwork from Italy and France. Protestants also resented Charles’s indifference to the Catholic Hapsburg rulers, who were battling Protestantism throughout Europe during the Thirty Years War (1618–1648). Charles’s archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Laud, angered Puritans with his insistence on the Anglo-Catholic liturgy of his Prayer Book and his continual attempts to reform church ritual.

The dispute between King and Parliament, ...

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