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Stephen and Matilda: The Civil War of 1139-53 Paperback – Illustrated, 15 Sep 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press; New edition edition (15 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0750937939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0750937931
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.7 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 189,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Jim Bradbury taught history at Brunel University College before taking early retirement to devote himself to writing. He has written widely on medieval military history.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Martinf on 11 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I struggled to find a book that covered this conflict. The only other ones I have seen were in hardback and expensive. There are lots of general histories of 12th century England but I wanted one devoted to the civil war.

So I bought it because it was the one that was available at the time, but was delighted when it proved to be a good read based on good research.

My assessment of the authors primary position is that Stephen deserves a higher reputation than is generally given to him by historians. He explains why some of the decisions that to us seem bad (like returning Maud to his enemies) where at the time understandable.

He also explains why there were only two battles of any size and covers the "castle war" very well.

So I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good introduction to "The Anarchy" (the Pillars of the Earth period)
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By BobH on 26 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jim Bradbury has produced a first-rate analysis of `The Anarchy', the period 1138-53 dominated by the struggle between Stephen and Matilda for the kingdom of England. `In the days of this king [Stephen] there was nothing but strife, evil and robbery' sums up the continuation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle made at Peterborough.
Throughout the author makes shrewd comment on events of this tangled period. For example, regarding problems facing Stephen during the period 1138-9 along the Welsh Marches `given the geographical positioning of these places, and the political, feudal and personal links between most of them and Robert of Gloucester, ..... this was no accidental rash of rebellions, but a declaration in arms to accompany the defiance in words of their absent leader in Normandy'(P.66) . Stephen's apparent weakness in releasing Matilda when she'd been betrayed into his hands at Arundel is explained as being uncertain as to what to do with her and being more interested in dealing with her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester, whom Stephen saw as the main threat. That explanation appears totally acceptable - especially as Stephen had already outraged many by his arrest of the three bishops in 1138 and Western Europe was slipping into that idealised mythology, centred on Arthurian legend, which would mark the exalted place (in fiction if not reality) of NOBLE women in the High Middle Ages.
On the one hand, Bradbury sometimes looks at 12th century motivation and activity through 20th century eyes. So there is an excessive understanding of Stephen's failure to punish Robert of Bampton and Baldwin de Revers for their rebellions (PP. 27-31).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wrote review when I completed book yesterday from my kindle, but can't see it so apologise if its in system somewhere.
I brought book as it was suggested by reading group. I did not know too much about this period and even less about medieval warfare. When I started reading I was aware of Mr Bradbury's enthusiasm and knowledge of his subject but I found his style too disjointed and overwhelming, especially his tenancy for interesting diversions. However, perseverance paid off as gradually all the threads began to come together. It was interesting to learn that hand-to-hand combat was rare in this conflict and the sieging of castles was main form of attack. Also the number of castles built interests me, and something I would like to investigate further. The main influences on the cause seems to have been the deaths of nobles, often from causes not related to conflict. Jim Bradbury uses primary sources with discretion enabling to extract important information whilst querying their reliability, where possible cross referencing to other sources. His conclusion are particularly enlightening and casts a very positive light on Stephen.
Matilda's position is less explored, but that is more likely to be due to lack of primary material than any bias on Mr Bradbury's part. I found the details on Henry's father, Geoffrey of Anjou, gave me more of an insight into his son. Also, Robert of Gloucester (Maltilda's step-brother) involvement seems crucial in the igniting of the conflict.
As I stated I knew little about this conflict to begin with and Mr Bradbury's book has caused me to question the preconceptions I had developed over the years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S Garrett on 12 May 2014
Format: Paperback
For many years I have been a little confused about this period of conflict in English history but after reading this excellent book the mists have well and truly cleared. Accessible, well-written and always admirably explained it is a thoroughly enjoyable and informative read - not at all dry or difficult. The author's enthusiasm shines through and he makes no attempt to belittle the opinions of other historians (which he explains simply and expertly) while always backing up his own with convincing clearly explained evidence. I strongly recommend this excellent read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John Hopper TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 May 2008
Format: Paperback
This book presents a fairly persuasive case that the period of the civil war between these two was not quite the uniformly awful anarchy that is commonly depicted, and that Stephen was not the weak ruler with poor judgement that he is commonly held to be. However, I found the writing rather dry, with too much description of military manoeuvres, people switching sides and gaining or losing land, and not enough analysis, hence the relatively low rating for a non-fiction work about a period of history I am interested in.
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