Edward Hyde, later Lord Clarendon, a parliamentarian turned royalist, believed the English Civil War was the last “great rebellion”; historian C.V. Wedgwood, an internal war caused by a temporary political breakdown. The Whig historian Thomas Macaulay argued that Parliament was defending traditional English institutions against a foreign king who wished to establish an absolute monarchy and deprive English subjects of their historic rights. S.R. Gardiner, a church historian and a Whig, described the Civil War was a “Puritan Revolution.”  Marxist Frederick Engels saw the event as the first bourgeois revolution or, as historian Roger Tawney later explained, the consequence of the “rise of the gentry” and the decline of the aristocracy. H.R. Trevor-Roper saw a revolution of despair, engineered by the mere gentry.

Lawrence Stone, in his 1972 Causes of the English Revolution, argued that “the dissolution of this Government caused the War, not the War the dissolution of this Government.” He saw four “pre-conditions for revolution” in the period from 1529 to 1629:
1. The failure of the crown to acquire a standing army and a paid bureaucracy;
2. The decline of the aristocracy and the rise of the gentry;
3. The spread of Puritanism;
4. The growing crisis in confidence in the integrity and moral worth of holders of high administrative offices.

The folly and intransigence of the government (particularly the policies of Laud and Stratford) in the years from 1629 to 1639 brought the crisis to a head. The trigger of the revolutionary gun was the decision to impose the English system of worship on the Scottish clergy at the same time as the Scottish nobility were threatened with the loss of their ex-monastic estates.

A number of historians see the lack of trust between the king and Parliament as the main factor that led to conflict in 1642. Charles believed that Parliament wanted to overthrow the monarchy and create a republic. Parliament feared to put an army into the hands of the king, convinced he would use it against the Commons.

The constitutional crisis was provoked as much by Parliament as by the crown. Between June 1641 and the outbreak of Civil War in August 1642, radical MPs made sweeping statements of parliamentary rights that clearly implied parliamentary sovereignty; e.g., the Grand Remonstrance of December 1641 and the Nineteen Propositions of June 1642. Charles, in rejecting the propositions, argued that the English constitution supported a mixed government and accused Parliament of dangerous constitutional innovations.

The issue after 1640 was no longer that of the abuse of the royal prerogative. Parliament and the king were engaged in a battle over sovereignty.