At the start of the century, the British people were ruled by King Charles I. He seemed remote from his people - especially the protestant community. Drawn to Catholicism he was a high-handed spendthrift, full of self-importance and frequently disrespectful of parliament. He ruled from 1600 to 1649 when he was beheaded in London.
I wanted to know more about the seventeenth century - especially the civil wars that affected the land in the middle of the century so I bought a book titled "The English Civil Wars - 1640-1660" by Blair Worden. Though I came to that book willingly, I am afraid that I found the reading of it rather painful.
What the drily academic writer did manage to convey is that these twenty years were confusing in so many ways. Skirmishes broke out hither and thither. People changed sides. There were executions and accusations. Parliamentarians argued interminably and there were issues surrounding taxes, war chests and land ownership. It was all very complicated.
With Charles I dispatched and his first born son in exile, Oliver Cromwell became the nation's leader on behalf of Protestantism allied with parliament and its "new model army". There was even a powerful movement to have him crowned as a new king but Cromwell resisted He himself died of natural causes in 1658 and soon after, Charles II was restored to the throne with the hope that the nation's wounds might be healed.
It was a very turbulent period in British history which foreshadowed the modern age. Of course I could go on and on about The English Civil Wars until you screamed for submission but I am no torturer. Newspaper and journal snippets that accompany Worden's book suggest that it will be "lively", "gloriously lucid", "easy and enjoyable" but I found that not to be the case.
To me it was pretty turgid. He didn't even pause to paint pictures of Charles I's execution or the life of Oliver Cromwell before he rose to power. It was all fact after fact with historical connections, speculations and implications but little colouring. Very dry and I would not recommend it but that is not to say that the history of The English Civil Wars is a subject to be avoided by general readers. It was a troubled but fascinating time in our history when of course America's east coast was still under British rule. The ripples went there too.
The results of some of these disputes are still with us. We have denominations that can't agree on minute issues. However, I'll take your advice just this one time and not read this book.ReplyDelete
Only read it if you have become interested in self-harming Red.Delete
People have been fighting for so long about everything and nothing. Money, power, land, resources, religion and none of it really matters in the end. We all die and can't take any of it with us. Doesn't matter if you're a king or a pauper, dead is dead.ReplyDelete
It doesn't make sense to me.
Virtually all wars have been caused and driven by men - not women.Delete
Thank you for this review. It is certainly a book I can pass by without regret. But you are of course right - only because this one was not "lively" and "enjoyable" does not mean the subject itself is not interesting.ReplyDelete
Compared with the English Civil Wars, most wars are relatively straightforward to understand with clear combatants.Delete
I can feel Hamel straining at wanting to say something on this blog entryReplyDelete
Hee hee! Too right!Delete
You American girls are so mischievous.Delete
Turbulent and turgid probably sums it up YP - it was hardly the most exciting, or colourful period in England's history, so I think I'll give it a miss too.ReplyDelete
How will this present era be viewed in 400 years time, I wonder?
Yes, I feel that Hamel would have much to say on the subject!
There were episodes in those twenty years that were exciting and colourful CG but getting your head around how it all knitted together is very difficult.Delete
I used to walk where the Battle of Lansdown took place, so you could potter along the ridge on which they fought. It was also sad because it divided friends and families to take either side. Prince Charles had a poodle that would follow him into battle It is the little incidents that fill out the humanity. 'Dryasdust' books are something else.ReplyDelete
I didn't want to read a soap opera version of the English Civil Wars but I did want some "pictures". Professor Worden may be the leading authority on this era but he is not a leading authority on how to grip general readers so that they are hungry to read on.Delete
Think I would of been a Digger if I lived in those times YP.ReplyDelete
The Diggers were touched upon but only lightly. Do you know how to handle a spade Northsider?Delete
Pretty sure that's one I won't be reading unless I am stranded on a desert island and that is the only reading material available. In which case- eh, maybe.ReplyDelete
Even then you might be better off counting the grains of sand on the beach.Delete
That's a period in history that has never interested me, dramatic as it was. Did it seem like there were parallels between the religious partisanship (if that's the right word) of that period and the political conflicts (Democrats vs. Republicans, Tories vs. Labour) that we see today? People are so inherently tribal.ReplyDelete
The seeds of today's politics were certainly nourished in that turbulent time. Those who were behind the monarchy were unsurprisingly called "royalists" or sometimes "cavaliers" and had a rather conservative outlook. They sought a return to old traditions rather like "Make America Great Again". The parliamentarians were often called "roundheads" but I believe that Cromwell's supporters did not apply that term to themselves.Delete
I often think that period, and those where protestants and catholics clashed,ReplyDelete
must compare a lot to Brexit. The fores and against, the changing sides, the venom and corruption. It seems we never learn.
Good point ADDY. Many parallels. Another national exercise in self-harm and for what?Delete
Who is the intended readership? It sounds academic. Academics who write for a general readership have difficulty in being taken seriously by other academics - e.g. Dominic Sandbrook and Brian Cox.ReplyDelete
I understand that Worden, a bookish man, has little time for for historians who effectively "sell out" - going for the lowest common denominator.Purportedly he wished to appeal to a general readership with this book but as one of those people I found his approach most unappealing in spite of what various professional reviewers said.Delete
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