Civil War: The History of England Volume III Hardcover – Unabridged, 25 Sep 2014
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The third volume of Peter Ackroyd's magisterial six-part History of England, taking readers from the accession of the first Stuart king, James I, to the overthrow of his grandson, James II
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In Civil War, Peter Ackroyd continues his dazzling retelling of England's history, beginning with the progress south of the Scottish king, James VI, who on the death of Elizabeth I became the first Stuart king of England, and ending with the deposition and flight into exile of his grandson, James II. The Stuart dynasty brought together the two nations of England and Scotland into one realm, albeit a realm still marked by political divisions that echo to this day. More importantly, perhaps, the Stuart era was scarred by the cruel depredations of civil war, and the killing of a king.
Ackroyd paints a vivid portrait of James I and his heirs. Shrewd and opinionated, the new king was eloquent on matters as diverse as theology, witchcraft and the abuses of tobacco, but his attitude to the English parliament sowed the seeds of the division that would split the country in the reign of his hapless son, Charles I. Ackroyd offers an equally brilliant portrayal - warts and all - of Charles's nemesis Oliver Cromwell, Parliament's great military leader and England's only dictator, who began his career as a political liberator but ended it as much of a despot as 'that man of blood', the king he executed.
England's turbulent seventeenth century is vividly laid out before us, but so too is the cultural and social life of the period, notable for its extraordinarily rich literature, including Shakespeare's late masterpieces, Jacobean tragedy, the poetry of John Donne and Milton and Thomas Hobbes' great philosophical treatise, Leviathan. Civil War also gives us a very real sense of ordinary English men and women, living their lives against a backdrop of constant disruption and uncertainty.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
I do appreciate Peter's Ackroyd' style.
Peter Ackroyd is wonderful at giving snippets of information that are generally lacking in other works. Instead of James II abdicated - we get James II "rose from his bed and departed through a conveniently opened back door ........" This event should have settled the issue - but we know from 1715 and 1745 it did not.
And what was the issue? Simply - who had the right to rule - king or parliament? The answer - those who have the ability. Enter Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector. In eight months Cromwell and the council, in the absence of parliament (too much talk and not enough action), passed more than eighty ordinances. The postal service was reformed, prisons and highways improved, and the treasury re-organised. Christmas, duals, cock-fighting, bear baiting, swearing and drunkenness, were banned, and Opera and music flourish.
The cost to human life was astronomical. Not until 1914 were the numbers exceeded. What was the result? Parliament did win the war, and science begun to flourished, but without this interlude would this have happened? Who knows.
There are occasional asides regarding literature, the role of women, and other things not found in the traditional narrative of kings, dates and battles, but there were plenty of kings and courtiers here, though very few battles in an age of warfare, foreign and domestic.
It was a ‘good read’, but that is the best I can say.
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