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3.9 out of 5 stars
The English Civil Wars: 1640-1660
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
The book has been well researched by the author and it shows in the wealth of detail and facts. It is complex in the sense it is not casual reading and you have to dedicate time to read this book which will be rewarded as you begin to understand the politics and the wheeling and dealing that went on over almost 20 years. It does not go into detail about the actual battles themselves, so perhaps if that is what you want from this book you'd be dissapointed. However if you are wanting to find out the reasons and the background to these turbulent times in English history this is a definite for your collection. It is well written.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2010
If like me you know very little about our own Civil War and would like to learn more this is £9 190 pages and 5 hours well spent. I'm an avid reader of history but this subject just doesn't get me going but I'm very pleased with my purchase despite that.

Well written engaging and thankfully short, I nearly bought a 900 page monster on the Civil War and was glad I didn't this is perfect for the passer by - recommended.
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2009
A slim book that provides an excellent explanation of the English Civil Wars. If you want to understand the whys and wherefores of that period, this is for you. We see our modern ideas here and there but scattered around all parties and always bundled with what seems weird to us. Freedom of religion? Absolutely - that's provided you're not Catholic or Anglican. The book shows the whole period provides a classic example of the law of unintended consequences and reinforces the idea that Cromwell is the last person who should be commemorated outside Parliament, given his attitude towards it.
My one issue is that it's not strong on the narrative of events - you get a great explanation of why X happened, but the fact that X DID happen kind of gets taken as read. I guess if one wanted a strong narrative history as well, then the book would have got much bigger.
Buy it for an excellent, short, clear explanation - and the depressing conclusion that, in the end, nothing much came out of that period.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2010
There have been several "short" books about the English Civil Wars in the last year- by John Miller and David Clark for instance. To aim to write a short account of such a momentous event (with such a voluminous, lengthy, library filling back catalogue) can be seen either as a nice counterbalance to all those thick academic tomes or as a foolish enterprise, guaranteed to short change even the general reader. So Blair Worden could be on a hiding to nothing. How can he possibly cram in everything thats necessary?
Well, in truth he can't but this book is an unflashy, but impressively written account thats answers the questions a general reader might want to ask- what caused the war? why did Charles 1 lose? (oops sorry- gave away the ending there)- and it isn't done in a reductive Horrible Histories sort of way.
Unsurprisingly, Worden is rather sharp not only in referring to recent research but also inproviding some eye- catching points. Ship Money for example- an unpopular tax, but one that ended up funding a navy that fought against him in the war. Worden states that as a proportion of the population this civil war may have killed more than our losses in World War One. Provocative stuff.
He is particuarly ambitious to take the book right through until 1660 and includes a useful bibliography. All in all Wordens book is a triumph in giving such a good account, of religious struggles, political manoeuvering;
military supply and individuals in simple straightfoward prose. As a starting point in could hardly be bettered but those who think they know this war can learn a thing or two as well. A well executed addition to any civil war library, if you forgive the pun...
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
This is history as it should be written - clear, enjoyable, concise. For the first time I understand why they felt they needed to execute Charles I, and indeed the difference between the various Parliaments (Long, Short, Rump etc)of the time. Admirable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 20 September 2014
Concise and to the point, this is an erudite work which gives a brief overview of the twenty period from 1640-1660. If you want to read about battles, then this book is not for you, but it is a valuable step to those who wish to broaden their knowledge of this traumatic period.
It is short and inexpensive. A really good buy.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A simple 'popular history' style introduction to the English Civil Wars, Worden's book is, stylistically speaking, commendably easy reading. However, its very concision leads to a density of information that isn't necessarily that easy to digest, at least to my mind, and inevitably certain aspects and events feel too lightly dealt with. As an absolute beginner in ECW history I thought I'd start here, with a nice quick intro, before moving on to more detailed treatments.

I have to admit that I found occasional statements slightly odd. On p. 55 Worden says 'The English Civil Wars have no place in the evolution of military strategy.' Well, ok, maybe there were no major tactical developments, but surely any significant conflict has some kind of a place in such a history? Even if just as a footnote, or as an example of how developments reached a point of stasis. I know this might be seen as quibbling, but wouldn't it have been better to say 'no significant place'? And there's even reason to dispute such claims based on Worden's own accounts elsewhere, which we'll come to. Also, in dismissing past versions of reading the ECW as a chapter in the evolution of class struggle, favouring a more relativist and contingent approach (admittedly in some respects a more subtly nuanced and realistic view), he states that 'the crisis itself... has no discernible place in any long-term development of the social structure.' Well, it may now look like an anomaly, but it does nonetheless fit into a gradual change, albeit an erratic blip on that gradient of change. But 'no discernable place'? How about 'no easily discernable place'?

In this respect I feel he occasionally allows the broad historical strokes (the baby) to be thrown out with the foggy befuddlement of detail (the bath-water). Even if the results of the wars showed some of the details within them to be aberrations, nonetheless these details still reflect a gradual and continued move towards more modern ideas of liberal democracy and the reformation/enlightenment, and away from the traditions of Catholicism and feudalism. Indeed, whilst I understand that he's talking, perhaps, about what one might term 'classical' ideas of innovation in strategy and tactics on the one hand, and a continuity of historical development on the other, he seems to offer an answer that refutes both of his own tentative relativist hedgings in this one quote, on p. 68, in which he attributes the Parliamentarian victory to the founding and reorganisation of the New Model Army: "Here as elsewhere the civil war showed how much managerial ability had gone unused in the ordinary course of monarchical politics." Surely this alone has a bearing on both military strategy (the importance of good management) and sociopolitical change (recognition of merit rather that of birth/blood)?

The confusing details of parliaments and religious schism, the latter positively fractal in their abundance and complexity, definitely require a more thorough treatment than Worden has time or a space for. But Worden deals with this, and indeed all his abundant material, very well, and all this makes the book a good appetite-whetter for further reading. Whilst this is avowedly popular history, nonetheless, a 'cast of characters' and glossary, such as are provided in Thomas Asbridge's excellent The First Crusade, would've been useful. Remembering who's who or what such-&-such means, in such a dense narrative, isn't always easy! And I personally don't believe that end-notes and footnotes are for academics only. I always like to be able to check sources!

A pretty good introduction to the subject, I nonetheless came away rather wishing I'd bought a bigger more in depth study, as so much that was touched on needed - for my rather poor retention - to be more fleshed out. Perhaps the effect of brevity here has been to render the narrative a tad dry, Worden conscientiously cataloguing key events, and perhaps in that compressed detail losing a little of the effect a bigger picture can convey.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2014
A well respected short guide to the period which perhaps fills in the gaps and provides an overview of the literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2015
An excellent read both for the scholar and the casually interested.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 September 2014
A very readable account of the english civil wars
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