This is a major survey of how towns were governed in late Stuart and early Hanoverian England. England's civil wars in the 1640s broke apart a society that had been used to political consensus. Though all sought unity after the wars ended, a new kind of politics developed--one based on partisan division, arising first in urban communities, not at Parliament. This book explains how war unleashed a long cycle of purge and counter-purge and how society found the means to absorb divisive politics peacefully. Legal changes are explored with reference to the rarely-studied court records of King's Bench, to which local competitors turned for help in resolving their differences.