Monday, 12 January 2009

Two Civil War Titles

The weekend was spent reading two excellent new books on the eternally fascinating topic of the English Civil War. Part of Palgrave/Macmillans's excellent 'Problems in Focus' series, The English Civil War, edited by John Adamson, is a fascinating collection of essays by leading scholars which now represents the best overview available of current thinking on the topic.

The editor's opening essay, 'High Roads and Blind Alleys', a fine introduction to current historiography, remind us just how much the revisionists of the 1970s and 1980s owed to the work of S R Gardiner. Other stand out essays include David Scott on the neglect of Royalism and Philip Baker's contention that more work is needed on the relationship between the Bible and Classical works if we are to better understand the ideas and inspirations of the time.

Adamson's collection is not for the beginner, but Blair Worden's authoritative and lively volume, The English Civil Wars 1640-1660, is. Worden, one of our most distinguished scholars of the period (whose essay on the regicide of Charles I is a highlight of our forthcoming February issue), has written a chronological narrative of the upheavals, which deals with its origins, the military conflict, the killing of the king and its consequences, which linger to this day (as readers of our February edition will discover). It is hard to imagine a better introduction to the subject. The English Civil Wars is published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson on 29 January.

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