25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The English Civil War: A People's History (Paperback)
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. . .
Three stars is a generous assessment based on one for the social history interest; one for the fact that the book is inexpensive; and one for 'benefit of doubt'- since I have yet to finish. Read carefully for entertainment and a 'feel' of period - not for factual content.