This is an important book, and any student of the ECW should own it so he can refer to it constantly. So why only 3 stars? Stay with me, gentle reader, and I will explain.
I start from the position of someone who studied the ECW at university, has taken part in re-enactment and is also a wargamer. So I want this book to deliver what it promises, - balanced, source based, analysis of the significant battles of the ECW. It pretty much does that, but with some caveats. It is a battle about the Civil War by a proper historian that actually describes the fighting, - quite a rarity.
The book starts with an opening chapter that any undergraduate student of history would recognise. Make sure you go back to the sources. One source is opinion, two sources may be proof. Be clear what is conjecture. Understand where your sources are from, - how immediate are they? Are they second hand etc? For most wargamers and casual readers this section will be a revelation and will throw cold water over the ardent desire for certainty. The past is a foreign country, and our map is incomplete. Also, beware, - as the saying goes "History does not repeat itself: historians repeat one another".
Following this stiff lecture the book launches into forensic examinations of the battles, weighing the evidence, putting it in context, then postulating a tentative narrative.
And that's sort of where the book is strong and weak. It takes apart many bits of our conventional understanding and replaces it with nothing. In its mission to explain it clearly shows the weaknesses in what we know, but it isn't helped in this by completely inadequate maps. Even given our levels of uncertainlty a much better attempt could have been made to provide good quality maps of the battlefield areas.
The narrative analysis almost makes up for the paucity of the maps, but even given the issues with sources the descriptions are overly brief. Wanklyn may show up the problems with Foard's analysis of Naseby (although his explanation for the location of some battlefileld finds is even more conjectural than Foard's) or Newman's of Marston Moor, but he does not replace them. This book is of real value if you read it alongside the better known battle monographs by authors such as these Young & Adair. It is like having your own history professor criticing your sources as you go along. That's why this book is absolutely essential and is a must buy volume. However, it can't be the only book you buy on the subject, - so alas only 3 stars, not 5.