Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The English Civil Wars, 1640-1660

Okay, so I'm behind (again...), and I make no promises about my ability to catch up with all the books I've read and not reviewed over the past few weeks, but I shall try.  It seems that every term, life starts to get on top of me, I don't post for a while, and then it feels like such an effort to catch up that I decide I don't have time.  Anyway.  For now, here goes  :)

On the basis that there are probably a fair few books out there entitled The English Civil Wars, this is the one by Blair Wordon.  It's a good introduction to the topic.  That, it makes plain in the introduction to the book, is its sole aim in life, so I suppose it succeeds.  I thought a little bit more on the military side of things--the experience of those who fought in particular--would have been good.  I mean, it says in the introduction that approximately 1 in 10 people probably fought, and that casualties were probably higher than those caused to Britain by the First World War, but it says very little about battlefield conditions.  I accept that not much is known, but a little bit would've been nice.

It covers the whole period, from the causes (starting with the reign Charles I), right through to the Restoration and why there was a Restoration.  So in that respect, it's not so much on the English Civil War as I expected.  It's also distinctly English in its treatment of the topic--whilst acknowledging the influence of events in the rest of the country at various points, they are not the main focus or even much of a peripheral focus in this book.

However, those criticisms out the way (and here I add one other, more stylistic point: I thought the chapters were too long), it is a good introduction.  So if you haven't got a clue what happened 1640-1660 and you want to know what Cromwell got up to, why England briefly had a republic, and why we decided that republics were a bad idea and we were better off with a monarch, this is a good book to start with.  It's pretty well written, and the topic itself is (well, in my opinion at any rate) fascinating.  Hopefully, if you enjoy this, you'd go on to read some more detailed studies of various aspects of the period, or even bigger books with a similar title (this one is 165 pages, pretty short for a history book you have to agree).  And when you do read those bigger books, you won't find yourself utterly lost, as I, admittedly was with the whole of the early modern period until about half way through my first term when it all started to make a bit more sense and I realised that Mary Tudor and Mary Queen of Scots were different people...  Hey, I'd never studied the period before ever, I figure it's fair enough that I didn't realise things like that :)

So, in short, it's good as an introduction, and as that is all it makes a claim to be, I figure it fulfils its purpose in life pretty well.

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