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Marston Moor 1644: The Battle of the Five Armies
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2003
Paul Robert's first became interested in the Battle of Marston Moor when he read Peter Newman's book twenty years ago. He then spent eighteen years, and innumerable miles, tramping the battlefield, in all weathers, with his metal detector. Every find was meticulously recorded, and a picture formed of the spread of artefacts across the battlefield. This picture began to challenge most of the long held ideas about the battle, and some of the more recent theories. Paul was introduced to Peter Newman, and the pair began a reappraisal of the battle, from contemporary accounts and the archaeological evidence. This book is the result of their efforts.
The book comprises of an introduction, five chapters, and two appendices. Chapter one outlines the strategic background of the battle. The next three chapters, the bulk of the book, cover the battle in depth, while the final chapter talks about the aftermath of the battle. The two appendices look at the history and context of the battle, and the archaeological project.
The three chapters covering the battle go into great depth, and give a very good reappraisal of the battle in light of the archaeological evidence. Three major areas that challenge the "standard" story of the battle are the duration of the cavalry fight on the western flank of the field, the location of the Whitecoats last stand, and the location of the final cavalry action. Although all three differ from what has been written before there is hard evidence to support the new version of events.
All in all, this is a very good book. It is very readable and presents the evidence for the new version of the battle succinctly. I would have no reservation in recommending it to anyone with an interest in the Civil Wars, or military history in general. Also highly recommended is a digitised version of Paul Roberts' finds map.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2007
Marston Moor 'Battle of the Five Armies' is to some extent a reprise of Newman's better known 'Battle of Marston Moor' published as long ago as 1981, and also builds upon his University of York Borthwick Paper on 'the Sources and the Site'- which saw relatively small scale distribution in 1978. To get the best of all worlds you need to consult all three of these publications: nevertheless 'Battle of the Five Armies' does go to new places and materials - most notably the metal detector survey of co-author PR Roberts.

Though it is possible to pick holes in the methodology this book does demonstrate that battlefield archaeology and metal detector surveys (which are not the same thing) can provide valuable supporting evidence to the traditional accounts - which are almost entirely based on the paper record. The book is also somewhat controversial in that it raises currently very significant questions regarding the legitmacy of detecting in certain historically sensitive areas - and specifically the issue of metal detector rallies held on battlefields. Unlike the reading and re reading of books and papers archaeology is by its very nature destructive of the evidence that it seeks out. Once material is lifted there is no going back. Also, as Newman himself points out, the finding of odd objects can be pretty meaningless unless accompanied by a study of other sources.

However, whatever one's standpoint, Paul Roberts has to be praised in that his approach throughout has been to record what he has found - and to work with one of the leading figures in the field of Civil War military history in extracting historical meaning from what has been removed from the ground. Clearly huge amounts of painstaking work has gone into this project over a long period of time. More maps and plans would have made this volume more useful - but the large red patches on the map that is provided are startling enough. It would also be nice to think that the original data will land up with the local records office and / or be reported via the Portable Antiquites Scheme. This would be a lasting tribute to all concerned, and would allow future generations to review the detailed evidence in the light of whatever else may emerge in later years. ( I am unable to comment on the CD Rom which does not come with the book, but is availiable as a separate product from the publisher.)

The result of combining the traditional approach with the unconventional certainly has novelty and 'vim'- though it is arguable that some of the criticism of other respected authors found here is somewhat gratuitous. Though still valuable the account would probably also have benefitted further from more detailed comparisons of texts,locations, and objects -which is where its real strength is to be found.The colour pictures are well chosen, but sadly the quality of reproduction is not high - and does not bear comparison with Brigadier Peter Young's 'Marston Moor' now nearly 40 years old.

Nevertheless, and despite such quibbles anyone who is interested in the English Civil Wars will find plenty of interest in this book. It may indeed mark something of a watershed after which the integration of archaeology with written data will become expected - even the norm.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 July 2003
An excellent book challenging convetionally held theories about battle progression and outcomes for the Battle of Marston Moor / the English Civil War. A book that is all the more interesting for reflecting a partnership between an established academic and a hsitorian from a non traditional background. The maps and details of the battle are particularly useful.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2003
An excellent book that discusses the account of the battle in great detail, yet remains challenging in the inclusion and proposal of new / challenging theories of battle progression and outcomes for the English Civil War.
Well done to both authors. A particularly interesting partnership between a traditional academic historian and a non conventional historian. The content of the book flows smoothly and the two traditions of critique are well integrated.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2003
This new book contributes to a developing interest in battlefields as archaeological resources and ushers in a new era of collaboration between landscape archaeology and historical research. For the first time the field of battle is as well understood as the battle itself.
"The finest study to date of the biggest battle of the bloodiest war ever fought by the English and probably the biggest ever fought on English soil".
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