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The English Civil War: A People's History (Text Only): A People's History

The English Civil War: A People's History (Text Only): A People's History [Kindle Edition]

Diane Purkiss
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Product Description


‘Rich, vivid and passionate…a moving, lyrical and principled piece of writing…Purkiss has a gift for evocation.’ Independent

‘You begin to get close to what it would have been like to live through the nine momentous years from 1640 to 1649…it would be hard to imagine anything more irresistible than this rich layer cake of a book, crammed with the stories and the voices that make history human.’ Guardian

‘Purkiss has an eye for the narrative vignette that can illuminate the age.’ Sunday Times

‘Wonderful…Purkiss offers a sumptuous portrait gallery of the men and women who lived, wrote and died during this turbulent period…A joyous read.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Narrative history at its best: gripping, heartfelt, complex.’ Mail on Sunday

‘This book vigorously brings the horror and humanity of the conflict to life.’ Financial Times

‘Light in touch, though grounded in an enormous wealth of documentary material this “people's history” shows how England’s men and women coped with quite extraordinary times.’ Scotsman


'A seductive and gripping narrative that gives insight into
humanity and into life.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1363 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (1 Nov 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009JWCO18
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #128,566 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but partisan 6 May 2010
By Jezza
I enjoyed reading this - it's popular history well done, for the general reader but assuming the right level of knowledge. Lots of interesting stuff about women in the civil war, daily life, and so on. But I did find the book somewhat slanted towards the Royalists and hostile towards the various other sides. In a way it reads like a riposte to Christopher Hill's claim that the Civil War was England's revolution - so the Levellers, and the Diggers, were conservative, backward-looking radicals; the 'godly' puritans were indeed joyless Calvinistic Taliban, and so on. She's good on the Clubmen though, and one can't help feeling some identification with them - especially now, at election time.

And considering how important religion is to the story, I'd have liked the distinctions between the various denominations and factions set out clearly in one place, rather than scattered through the text for the reader to pick up and assemble themselves. Still, a good book - and a salutary warning for anyone who thinks that revolutions and civil wars are fun.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new slant on the Civil War 26 July 2007
I think this is an excellent book and, unlike a lot of recent history, eminently readable. The insights it provides into what is already a much-written-about period are enlightening and often surprising. It is not a history of battles, nor is it my favourite account of the politics of the period (that has to be Christopher Hill's "The World Turned Upside Down"), but as an account of the effects of the period on the British peoples it breaks new ground in popular history. It is probably as well to have a little prior knowledge of the period to extract maximum pleasure from the book, but even the good old Pelican History can provide this ("England In The 17th Century" - Maurice Ashley)
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A People's History 29 Jun 2007
I'm shocked to see this book receive such a poor rating. It's one of the best history books I've ever read. The reader who complains about the coverage given to women is missing the point. This is, as the title says, a people's history - and people includes women and children, not just the men whose exploits are usually chronicled. There are any number of books about the generals and politicians, but Purkiss's mission is to describe what the war was like for those who lived through it, whether or not they were involved in the fighting or political power-struggles. Hence we get chapters on children, food, art, iconoclasm, the banning of Christmas etc - though she's also excellent on the well-known figures like Charles I, Cromwell and Milton. I found it a gripping read, superbly written and often very funny. This is her account of the latest fashionable play at Charles's court: "It was about love. It was about faith. It was about four hours longer than the audience was used to."
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Marketing Triumph 24 Sep 2007
Having struggled with the 'people's history' for several months - and pushed it around my desk whilst other books get devoured in a few days - I have reached to about page 400. At some point I will read the remaining third of the book: but see no great urgency. Clearly therefore I am not astounded - though I have been charmed by some of the vignettes, and entertained by some of the more arcane details. The illnesses of Charles I, and some of the social history, do make this a worthwhile volume.

Neverthless on the down side even a fairly casual and incomplete reading shows quite a number of errors, or points of confusion. It is worth examining a few of these. On page 3 we read that '800,000 people' died during the course of the conflict: most estimates suggest that disease and fighting between them claimed rather less than 200,000. On page 4 we see that 'universal male sufferage' and 'promotion on merit' were 'invented' during the war as well as the 'need for home and food' (!). On page 45 we are told that 'most' people who experienced the English Civil War were Londoners. On page 48 the Battle of Worcester is fought in 1650 - which is strange as celebrated military historian Richard Holmes has written a book entitled 'Worcester 1651'. On page 56 we are told that 40% of Royal expenditure was on the 'household' - whilst many others have suggested that war and the navy were the really expensive items in Stuart expenditure. How many similar errors occur later in the book is anybody's guess.

In short there are many more reliable volumes on the market - as for example those by Austen Woolrych or Trevor Royle - but curiously it is the 'people's history' which occupies all the best slots on the book chain shelves. This is an object lesson in the power of marketing. . .
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have been reading about the English Civil War since the Seventies, and have designed a number of games on the topic, yet still there is more to learn. Diane Purkiss provides exactly what a reader like me needs; new perspectives.

The book has a number of very useful features. Firstly, a slantendicular look at some of the features of the war that escape me when I proceed through a political, military, or narrative history. Secondly, she has a concentration (though not an exclusive concentration) on some of the lesser known participants, especially those upon whose lives the war greatly impinged; the toads beneath the harrow, rather than the young lords or the marching sectaries. Thirdly, she brings a penchant for "bottom up" history so that, for example, the confusion of a battle is made manifest by seeing it from many ranks below general, though, in fairness, it was probably much the same for the general.

The use of female witnesses to piece out the interstices of history was particularly effective, and executed in a way that allowed these redoubtable ladies to biff their way out of the narrow confines of Women's Studies to take their true place. I very much enjoyed knowing where our heroines and heroes ended after the war; especially the arch-Digger Gerrard Winstanley.

However, the book depends (as do most such temoinages) if it is to be a coherent whole on the reader having the armature of the topic firmly located in their heads. Those of you who find the details of the 17th century tending to move beneath your feet or are freshly arrived at this exciting period will find Dame Cicely Wedgwood's books "The King's Peace" and "The King's War" a better starting place. One can still greatly enjoy this book as a box of historical chocolates, dipping in at random, but you will enjoy it even more when the background of events is clear. There is a little of Galsworthy in the good doctor.

Thoroughly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written masterpiece
Magnificent achievement, a truly readable book about the English Civil War. Love this book.
Published 1 month ago by L. Quigley
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
For leisure I usually read novels, however when looking for a novel based in this era I came across this book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr J A Leach
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable
A very enjoyable read describing at least in part how the Civil War affected the man in the street.This sets it apart from the majority which deal with the battles and... Read more
Published 5 months ago by JG
4.0 out of 5 stars Biased by omission but fascinating
Wonderfully detailed but Cromwell doesn't crop up much! It begins and ends pretty much with Charles. Read more
Published 5 months ago by lizardqueen
2.0 out of 5 stars Scant on important detail.
This book explains the lives of those who lived through these dramatic wars, and the impact of war them as intended. Read more
Published 7 months ago by C. Cor
5.0 out of 5 stars A peoples History
This was a wonderful book wgich, contrary to all others I had read about the Civil War conentrated on the ordinary people caught
up in the war rathger than the soldiers... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Leonard E. READ
5.0 out of 5 stars History brought to life
This book provides an interesting and comprehensive chronology of the Civil War, but the continual references to first hand accounts of those living at the time really brings the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by C M Sykes
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I enjoyed this book it is very informative but also a good read I would recommend to anyone interested in this era
Published 11 months ago by jaysend
3.0 out of 5 stars The Civil War is an epoch
I found it a trifle boring. In fact I have only got half way through it and it was more or less the same thing again and again. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Alan Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for both introductory level and also ECW enthusiasts
Great book for both people wanting to be introduced to the topic and also enthusiasts with prior knowledge. I love the hard back version and the font size is very readable.
Published on 22 Dec 2011 by HRH989
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