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4.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 3 January 2006
This is an incredibly important work, as despite there being a stack of books covering the period of the Wars of the Roses, no other gives a clear and concise background to the conflict (and such information is vital in understanding why it occurred), and there are few others that are as thorough in their approach, without descending into academic jargon.
I should point out that this deals primarily with the background from Edward III to Henry VI's reign, and then focuses upon the years 1455 to 1471, in other words, finishing with Henry VI's capture and murder after Tewkesbury. It is true that the conflict was to continue until Bosworth in 1485 (and technically until 1487), but I believe she has had other volumes dealing with these years.
I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone with an interest in late medieval England, and the Wars of the Roses, as it caters for most levels of knowledge, and deals with the characters behind the violence and politics. It is very well written, and as gripping as I have ever found a history text to be.
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on 10 June 2012
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I began this book with some trepidation having struggled a little with Alison Weir's Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess. The problem I had with that story was not in its telling but in the lack of firm factual information to base it on. Her story of Lancaster and York has no such shortfall.

This is a brilliantly researched and highly readable account of a very complex saga. I have read many other books about and touching on the War of the Roses, but I don't think any of them surpassed this telling of the tale, and I can think of only one has equalled it - namely Paul Kendall's Richard III.

Having just read Juliet Barker's Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle, I was struck by one or two inconsistencies in minor detail between the two books - for instance, Barker's statement that English knights always dismounted and fought battles beside their infantrymen, whereas Alison Weir states the opposite. Barker also depicts Henry V as merciful towards French civilians during his 1415 campaign of conquest, whereas Weir presents him as the complete opposite. No doubt history is full of such conundrums and divergences in interpretation.

Anyway, I have nothing but praise for Lancaster And York: The Wars of the Roses. Weir introduces her book by saying that her intention was to focus on the people rather than the politics, and to present them in more depth than is normally allowed them. In this she mostly succeeds, though the story has far too many characters for more than a few to be given three dimensional treatment. Perhaps most notably, King Henry VI appears less of a puppet than in most accounts, and having a capacity to combine stubbornness with stupidity. However his wife, Margaret of Angou, remains somewhat two-dimensional though perhaps a slightly less evil one than Shakespeare and Kendall present her. I will be interested to see if Helen Castor can fill her out a little in She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

Even if Weir did not intend to focus on the political machinations that underlay the Wars of the Roses, she succeeds in presenting a very clear and detailed account of them, and she has done so in a strictly chronological sequence - no mean feat for such a complicated and interwoven story.

I cannot do justice to this brilliantly written book about an extraordinary period of English history, but I can recommend it with confidence.

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on 5 November 2009
Alison Weir is a great historian and in Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses she has left us the greatest history there is of this civil war which spanned thirty gurling years and torn two royal houses apart.

Weir begins at the source of the many claiments to the English Crown: Edward III abd his many adult sons. This was not a problem at first, she states, but in 1399, when Henry Bolingbroke, son of Edward III's third eldest son John of Gaunt, deposed Richard II and claimed the throne as Henry IV, it now showed that a bloodclaim and force were all that were needed to seize the throne, and as Weir explains, these would envoke dire conquences in the next century.

Weir succeded in mapping out a great history of a really important war that stood England on its head for a while. The Lancastrians-Henry VI, Margret of Anjou, Edward, Prince of Wales as well as the dukes of Somerset and Suffolk-as well as the Yorkists-Richard, duke of York, Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville, and Richard III are all well placed to make their empacts on English history.

Weir succeeded brillantly. She read all the records and she made this period of English history come alive. This book was also very readable. A very well written book, and a good history
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on 5 April 2013
Although the title states, Lancaster & York, the Wars of the Roses, the book covers the later stages of the Hundred years war and the first part of the Wars of the Roses, effectively the reign of Henry VI i.e to 1471. The final stages of the Wars i.e Richard III, Bosworth etc are not covered. It focuses more on providing a good clear explanation of the political elements rather than the military detail. It is written in a highly readable style unencumbered by footnotes, closer in style to a historical novel than an academic history, similar to Paul Murray Kendall's works on the Wars of the Roses.

Positives
1. Easy highly readable style and simple narrative.
2. Focuses on the characters,their motivations and inter-relationships
3. Good simple explanation of the causes of the Wars of the Roses.
4. Useful Genealogical trees of the principal families(though occasional errors)
5. 2 Maps which are clear and easily readable and 23 B & W illustrations.

Negatives
1. Alot of (admittedly minor) errors, for example it states that the Yorkists formed up south of Ludlow on the shores of the River Tern, rather than the Teme. That the Yorkists advanced from Worcester towards London (to the East)going to Kiddermister (to the North)seems rather odd given that statement. It also states that Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Devon was grandson of Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, when he was in fact descended from another line of the Stafford family, that of Southwick. Many more in a similar vein.
2. Total lack of notes, this makes it very difficult to be sure of many of her other statements, as there is no provenance given for them, so it can be unclear as to what is fact and what is conjecture.
3. Partisan - very much biased towards the Yorkists who are good and Lancastrians bad, a very black and white portrayal, perhaps to give a simpler narrative.
4. Genealogical trees are in a "handwritten" font which makes them difficult to read.

Overall good as a starting point for gaining an understanding and flavour of the period. Good for the "lay" reader.

However cannot be relied upon for points of detail if you are looking at it from a more academic viewpoint, unless complemented by other texts. Nor does it cover the military element of the Wars of the Roses in any detail.
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on 26 March 2010
I enjoyed this very much. I found it much easier to read than Weir's book on Isabella of France, and it filled what turned out to be huge gaps in my knowledge - I always thought I had a pretty good grasp on the history of the Plantagenets, but the reign (or reigns) of Henry VI was something about which I turned out to know nothing at all, apart from the fact that he became king while still a baby. It was fascinating to read and Weir presents this confusing chain of events with its huge cast of characters in a way that I found interesting and even absorbing in places. But I am going to have to read some more on the subject to find out whether Margaret of Anjou was a bad as Weir makes her out to be. By the time I finished reading Isabella of France, I could not believe that Isabella was as misunderstood and maligned as Weir made her out to be. As a result, by the time I finished reading the Wars of the Roses, I was not sure whether to trust the presentation of Margaret of Anjou as so very much to blame as she appears in this book. It may be that she was, but I don't feel that I can accept only Weir's word for it, which is a great shame. But then I suppose readers of history should never rely on only one source for their interpretation of events and characters. It was still a 4-star book for me, and I shall definitely keep it for reference and re-reading.

One point about presentation - the family trees were a necessity for me and I referred to them frequently to double-check who was who. I understand that from a stylistic point of view it might've been thought attractive to present them as though hand-written, but I found the font very hard to read, particularly some of the dates.
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on 27 June 2003
From 1455 to 1487, England was torn apart in a conflict that pitted a kaleidoscope of magnates, aristocrats and power-players against one another. Symbolized by the roses that represented the two royal families (York and Lancaster), this war was all about power, vengeance and position. This wonderful book begins in the 1300s, with the roots of the conflict, showing the roots of the war, and who fought it and why.
I must say that it is one of the most fascinating and informative history books I have read in a while. The era that the book discusses has it all - murder, intrigue, battle, betrayal, vengeance, infidelity, murder, and much more. And, as it should be, the author takes this era, and weaves its history into a gripping and intriguing read. Overall, I found this to be a great book, and I highly recommend it to you.
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Given how well-reviewed the book is, I was expecting something brilliant, but for me this book just didn't work. Why? Because it has so much detail in chronological order without that much analysis of wider trends or explorations of the bigger factors behind the day by day, year by year narrative.

It's got a tremendous amount of well researched detail, presented at a fairly intense tempo of names, battles, deaths and the like. Each individual retelling of an event is pretty good, but the overall effect is to drown the reader (or at least me) in more and more names, battles, deaths and more, making it hard to spot the bigger forces at work or to sort out the different pieces of the narrative into a clearer set of themes.

The relentless narrative makes clear, for example, how often political power was dependent on the health of particular individuals, disappearing when they died, but the reasons why more power didn't rest with organisations or families that could persist beyond the one death never gets much explanation. You'll end up knowing a lot about who and when, but rather less of the why.
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on 16 September 2012
I'm just about to begin studying Shakespeare and, being aware that he did not always stick to events as they really happened, I wanted to get some idea of the stories behind Shakespeare's History plays. I'd had this book on my bookshelf for many years but hadn't got around to reading it. When I picked it up I found it pretty unputdownable! The epigram at the beginning, a quote from Sir Thomas More, encapsulates both what Wier has done, and what WS did - a good opener for the book. Like some other readers I found some difficulties with names, sometimes AW uses one name and then uses the title of that person. I was also a bit dismayed by the genealogy trees - an amazing resource to support the history in the book, but really difficult to follow because of the handwriting - after a lot of checking we discovered that the genealogy charts were hand-written not typeset. It's probably fair to assume that Weir created the charts in a larger format - say A3 - which was then reduced to fit the page size of the book, resulting in tiny writing which is difficult to read. I was tempted (and still am) to recreate my own in something simple such as Times! However, having said all that, I got exactly what I wanted from the book - a readable and (probably) accurate history of The Wars of the Roses. A sound background to Shakespeare's history plays. Weir's research is impeccable.
Sometime after writing the original review: We, my OH and I, have now typeset all 8 of the charts and having double-checked and cross-checked we have found only a few errors - quite remarkable in such a mammoth task for Weir. I am also in the process of creating a time-line for the events leading up to the Wars of the Roses and also the First Wars of the Roses. I downloaded the Kindle version as it helped me to search for details - I feel that the index to the paper back book is also very weak.
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on 26 May 2016
I was vaguely aware of the background to The War of The Roses and thought this book may provide some substance to my scant understanding. Boy was I in for a shock!! I knew nothing really. This story is utterly gripping from start to finish. The background information is excellent and I found invaluable in understanding the logic of the protagonists thoughts and actions. I did find the need to keep returning to earlier parts to remind myself of marriages and progeny - in places it is a complicated web to command!!

I had trouble putting the story down if I'm honest. The fact that this isn't a novel doesn't detract from the page turning drive of the story. I liked the writing style but then I should add that I've never been troubled by the style of that which I read. I seem to just adapt to it.

I would suggest that if you are considering reading this then you have an incling of the plot. Just buy it and start reading. You'll be fascinated, intrigued, driven to read on, constantly checking back to remind of the characters` background and personally speaking I went online on more than one occasiont remind myself of the royal lineage. Alison Weir has me in her thrall now!!
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on 23 May 2010
I've just finished reading this book and on the whole have enjoyed it. It has made me want to find out more about the people involved in the Wars of the Roses. If it had been a novel the author could be seen to have been bringing the story to a dramatic climax, but it was history and it really happened (Well at least some of it really happened but as with all history, it depends on whose point of view you hear it from)

I do have a few gripes.

The family trees needed to be much clearer. It was a bad choice of font in my opinion.

Also there were so many characters to try and keep track of that a list of them, names and titles, would have been extremely helpful. Weir had a habit of sometimes referring to someone by their name eg Jasper Tudor and then literally in the next sentence referring to him by his title ie.Pembroke. Unless you've memorised who was given what title, and bearing in mind their titles were at times taken away and given to someone else and there's an awful lot of titled people in this book, then i was forever referring to the index to try and work out who exactly i was reading about. Maybe it's just me but I like to try and follow what's happening especially with people changing allegiances, being beheaded, being jailed and then released etc etc.

Lastly, a map or two showing the main towns and cities mentioned and also all the castles would have been nice. Especially of France and Burgundy. In fact i'm about to look on the internet to find out where Burgundy was in the fifteenth century as having finished the book i now realise it's not where i thought it was!

I do recommend this book. I enjoyed reading it but it could have been more enjoyable for me at any rate if my gripes hadn't needed to exist
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