Two of the most significant factors in the development of European nation states are the enforcement of the law and the political relationship between central government and the provinces. The establishment of powerful national institutions in the Middle Ages, the successful incorporation of its geographical fringes, and the involvement of local elites in implementing national law and policies have made England a challenging subject to test this interaction between the center and the localities. Although this relationship could never be free of tensions, reflection on the context of the English Civil War has suggested a new interpretation. Pursuing the inquiries initiated by the so-called “gentry controversy” in the 1950s and 1960s, a group of historians has studied individual counties and argued that, for local aristocrats and gentlemen, provincial values and issues took precedence over national policies. The Civil War, in their view, appeared to be a conflict between an increasingly interventionist and “nationalizing” central government and semiautonomous shires.