The English Civil War in 100 Facts by Andrew Lacey

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The English Civil War in 100 Facts by Andrew Lacey

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Category: History
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Van der Kiste
Reviewed by John Van der Kiste
Summary: The author wears his scholarship lightly in this concise introduction to the conflicts which overwhelmed early Stuart England, or 'the war of the three kingdoms' as it is sometimes known. These 100 short essays are an excellent springboard for the reader to wishes to dig more deeply.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: July 2017
Publisher: Amberley
ISBN: 978-1445649955

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The '100 Facts' series is now sufficiently well-established as a guarantee of useful introductory histories. This latest addition, recounting the struggle between King and Parliament, is no exception.

Dr Lacey takes us on a succinct tour of the war (or to be precise, two wars – if not three), the background, the preliminaries, the aftermath, and of course the personalities, in one hundred short essays that rarely run to more than two pages each. In the first he introduces us to Charles I, who as a second son was not born to be King. A few pages later he tells us that the old story of Charles and Oliver Cromwell as small boys playing together and quarrelling is probably no more than legend. The various factors that resulted in the war, and the people behind them, are examined in a few brief sentences – the origins of the Puritans (who liked long sermons), Ship Money (and how it alienated many of those who had to pay it), the disastrous court favourite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, and the treaties of Ripon and London which ended in humiliation for the King. Let us not forget a piece of interesting trivia – the war was actually fought over a piece of furniture, but which one?

The early stages and major battles of the conflict are all summarised very well, as are the failure of the radical movements such as the Levellers and Diggers, and the riots in Ipswich and Canterbury in 1647 when Parliament attempted to ban Christmas and other holy days. The book is to some extent a chronological sweep through the entire saga, with the occasional spotlight on specific aspects and some less well-known personalities. A case in point is the treatment shown to Michael Hudson, a royalist clergyman, who paid dearly for his allegiance at the hands of his vengeful parliamentarian captors.

In a sense, the Civil War did not end with the trial and execution of Charles, as he went from 'a corruptible to an incorruptible crown'. Cromwell proceeded to wage war on the the Irish and the Scots; not for nothing is the whole episode known in Scotland as 'the war in the three kingdoms'. He made himself Lord Protector, was offered the crown but rejected it, and died in 1658. Just over a year later, the revolution went into reverse with the restoration of the monarchy and the return of Charles II, whose supporters had in theory backdated the start of his reign to 1649 on the death of his father. A final essay discusses how the significance of the war is still being debated, asking such questions as whether the experience had any influence on the rise of the Whig and Tory parties in the 1680s, or play any part in the French and American revolutions of the eighteenth century. It ends with an invitation to readers to join the debates and to read some of the fuller, more detailed histories available.

Like its predecessors in the same series, this small handy volume serves its purpose as a good introduction, or a gateway to further study. Here are the basic facts, and an inspiration to follow them up elsewhere. Dr Lacey wears his scholarship lightly, and invites, even inspires, the reader to dig more deeply into the troubled century.

For further reading we can recommend a life of one of the characters who sided with Oliver Cromwell and later played a leading role in the restoration, Lawson Lies Still in the Thames: The Extraordinary Life of Vice-Admiral Sir John Lawson by Gill Blanchard. The life of King Charles's consort is recounted admirably in Henrietta Maria by Dominic Pearce. For another very useful volume in the same series with some relevance, see The Reformation in 100 Facts by Kathleen Chater.

Buy The English Civil War in 100 Facts by Andrew Lacey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The English Civil War in 100 Facts by Andrew Lacey at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The English Civil War in 100 Facts by Andrew Lacey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The English Civil War in 100 Facts by Andrew Lacey at Amazon.com.

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