Saka Light Cavalry

Saka Light Cavalry

Friday, 27 February 2015

Civil War:The War of the Three Kingdoms 1638-1660 Book Review


As The title suggests this is not just a book covering the English Civil War but also the Bishops War and the following wars up to the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II. In fact it goes further with a short section running up to 1690 and the fall of Charles II

The book has just over 800 pages of written word with the rest of the 888 pages dedicated to index and bibliography. Indeed the list of books used is very expansive and probably less than the whole truth. Today's insistence on listed as many books as humanly possible is really off putting to me, especially as the list does not seem to match up to the references. 

Royle's style is relatively easy to follow and whilst this book does not roar along (over 800 pages of close printed text is never going to be a quick read) however it's engaging and for the most part an interesting read. It may be a bit much for anyone who does not have an active interest in the period but for those who do it is likely to have some details you may not already know and possibly a few you might question his view.

Given the page count you can expect most subjects to get good coverage, this is true for most events but others get quite little attention and some times I was left wanting him to go deeper into the subject. What you don't get is a great deal of social history or any real feel for what it was like for the common troops etc. This for me was not an issue as so many books these days are written with this as the main focus and I am more interested in the larger picture when it's the whole war theme. 

What I was a little disappointed in given the size of the book was the restricted detail of the battles. Given the thickness of the book I would have expected more detail. I know there are books catering for single battles but it left me thinking Royale may not have a good understanding of such subjects, a worrying weakness in his work if so. However he makes up for it in other parts of the book where he is more detailed and clear in his writing. Political and Religious subjects get full measure and how each group effected the others was well written. Also the sections covering Ireland was far more in depth than the typical book. 

I suspect the author is both Scottish and slanted towards Parliament from his interpretation of the events and his portrayal of some of the leading personalities within the book. From his feeling that Charles I was so divorced from reality to his indulgence of Cromwell when Cromwell deserved a greater censure.  Though this is nothing new as so many histories are towards one side or the other.

The only real issue I had with the book was the almost slavish reliance in Lucy Huthingson's published account of her husbands involvement in the Civil War and later events. He seems to take what she has written as gospel even though it was clearly written to place him in a good light (difficult as he was a Regicide and died whilst imprisoned) and drips venom on anyone she felt did not see events in the way she did or had any part against her husband. Hutchinson is quoted far more times than any other source, something that should not be considered anything but a worrying sign of over reliance on a dodgy source.

Apart from that rather glaring concern I think the book is well worth getting if you want a book that covers the whole period and helps you understand the wider picture without being too partisan to one cause or the other. Unfortunately it's not on Kindle as that would be the best method of reading as it's quite a heavy book.

6 comments:

  1. Fair comment. It seems unrealistic to have a book on the ECW (keep it simple) without a proper degree of coverage on political and social aspects. To be honest though, I wouldn't have expected much on the battles given the scope of the book, even at 800 pages plus.

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    1. I think your probably right, certainly covered the political-religious aspects well.

      Ian

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    1. Not at all Ray, just not the best for certain readers

      Ian

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  3. I really like this book; it's a great overview or introduction. If you want more detail on the battles, you might like God's Fire, England's Fury. That's got loads of fine grained detail.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I am lucky enough to have a fairly large collection of books on the ECW as it's a favourite subject.

      Will look into your recommendation.

      Ian

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