The English Civil War A People’s History

by Diane Purkiss.

Prior to reading this book, I didn’t have a particular interest in the English Civil War. I knew a little of it, but not enough to foster a genuine interest.

This book was lent to me by my grandmother and I was pleasantly surprised by it. Erudite and well-written, it puts across the individual struggles of people from all walks of life as they struggle to survive in a world which was changing before their eyes.

Before reading this book I had never truly understood the political/religious context of the time and thought little of the various religious tensions but this book shows the 1640s to be a hotbed of hysteria and religious upheaval.This book isn’t a stodgy tome of unlikeable, alien people. They are made to be as human; as recognizable as we are today.

Having been written by a female author, this book seems to sympathize especially with the women. However, while the women are certainly shown to be oft worn down by childbirth, disease and despair, at the same time Purkiss shows that women were no shrinking violets and spoke out often against masculine rule, often petitioning Parliament on their husband’s behalf or rallying support for various causes. The book also touchingly shows that not all marriages of the day were tactical political maneuvers and could sometimes be love matches.

The main bulk of the book is taken up with chapters about the various battles of the Civil War. It is hard to imagine the blood and brutality against a modern landscape but the way the conflict shaped the world as we see it today is truly tantalizing. There is a very florid bibliography and footnote section should any curious reader want to know more (I don’t – but then you never know…)

My only complaint with this book is that it is that the early chapters are quite disorganized and poorly structured. The book itself is also quite doughy (and thus will probably not go on my Top 10 books list) but once you get through that it is a thoroughly enjoyable book. Even though it was a non-fiction book, I could very well see it either as a fiction book or as a film.

MY RATING: **** / *****


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