- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
Stephen and Matilda: The Civil War Of 1139-53 Paperback – Illustrated, 15 Sep 2005
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Civil war and the battle for the English Crown dominated the reign of King Stephen, and this popular account is the only complete account of the complex and fascinating military situation. The war is examined in detail throught the various campaigns, battles and sieges of the period, including the two major battles at the Standard and Lincoln, showing that Stephen always held more ground than his opponents and was mostly on the offensive. The nature of the warfare and the reasons for its outcome are examined, along with comment on the strategy, tactics, technology in arms and armour, and the important improvements in fortifications. Full use has been made of the numerous detailed chronicle sources which give some indication of the horrors of twelfth-century war, the depredations which affected the ordinary people of the land, and the atrocities which sometimes accompanied it.Full of colourful characters - the likeable king, the domineering Matilda, the young and vital Henry of Anjou (later Henry II), his intelligent and effective father Geoffrey Count of Anjou, the powerful barons from Geoffrey de Mandeville to Ranulf of Chester - and illustrated with photographs, maps and manuscript illustrations, this is a fascinating story of rivalry for the English throne which throws new light on a much-neglected aspect of Stephen's reign.
About the Author
Jim Bradbury taught history at Brunel University College before taking early retirement to devote himself to writing. He has written widely on medieval military history.
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Interestingly, for an author supposed to be biased and favouring King Stephen, one of the most interesting points made was to show to what extent the allegiances of the nobility could fluctuate depending on their interests, and more precisely on their need to preserve their patrimony. This, which can also be found in Crouch’s work, tends to seriously qualify the naming of the whole period as “Anarchy”. It also shows that legitimacy was somewhat fluctuant and that it was simply not enough to be the closest relative to the dying king to be crowned as his heir, especially when said heir was an heiress and was married to the Count of Anjou, the traditional foe of the Anglo-Norman nobility and of the Norman Dukes. The point here was not so much about whether King Stephen was a usurper or not. Rather, it is whether the nobles believed he was in a better protection to guarantee them the possession of their lands and this is indeed what most of them seemed to believe during the early years that followed the death of Henry I, regardless of what the latter’s death wishes may or may not have been.
A second feature related to this is that King Stephen’s support from his leading barons was somewhat fickle, but the same holds true for the other side. Most of the major landlords tended to change their allegiances and rally one side or the other when it seemed to be on the winning side, with the book showing to what extent this happened after Stephen’s defeat and capture at the battle of Lincoln in 1141. As the author also shows rather well, however, neither King Stephen nor his opponents ever managed to decisively defeat the other during the whole period in England. Although winning in England, Stephen did lose the Duchy of Normandy for good to Geoffrey of Anjou. He was also forced to compose and designate Henry Plantagenet as his heir for political reasons – that is because his barons would not fight – rather than because of the military threat that the contender for his crown posed.
A third feature is about the military events themselves, and this is perhaps one of the best parts of the book. The strategic goal of medieval war was the control of the land through the control of castles, with set battles being rare and generally taking place as a result of castle war, typically when an army came to the relief of a castle besieged by the enemy’s army. This is for instance what happened at Lincoln and at Winchester. While King Stephen failed, lost and was captured in the first place and was still a prisoner when his side won in the second instance, the author does show that he seems to have been more effective than he is generally credited in waging such a castle warfare. He put down rebellions in the East and put the rebels’ castles under his control and slowly reduced the grip of Mathilda’s main warlords in the west until most of them either died, fled overseas or submitted.
One feature that remains difficult to determine is to what extent the military events and accomplishments during the reign can be attributed to Stephen himself or to his lieutenants and family, whether William of Ypres, the Flemish mercenary captain and cousin of his wife, whether to his wife herself and, latter own, to Eustache his son. Clearly, the major blunder of the battle of Lincoln and Stephen’s capture were largely self-inflicted, although most of his leading nobles essentially deserted them on the battlefield, allegedly because they believed that the battle was hopeless to begin with. Just as clearly, Stephen did not have any role in the rout of the Empress and the capture of her half-brother Robert of Gloucester since he was still a prisoner. However, once he had been freed in exchange of Gloucester, his military role seems to have been more prominent and he seems to have been more efficient, as demonstrated by the author.
However, as also shown by the author, Stephen’s personality could lead him into committing a different type of blunder – this type political ones – by arresting potential enemies, or generally putting pressure on those magnates whose castles he needed to control without necessarily having a strong case to make against them. This could only alienate some of his magnates, just as it did alienate those of King John, to the extent that it exposed them to the “tyranny” of their monarch and made them unable to guarantee their possessions. In other words, King Stephen may have been a less reckless military commander than what the disaster of Lincoln tends to show him to be. He does however seem to have been a poorer politician.
I brought book as it was suggested by reading group. I did not know too much about this period and even less about medieval warfare. When I started reading I was aware of Mr Bradbury's enthusiasm and knowledge of his subject but I found his style too disjointed and overwhelming, especially his tenancy for interesting diversions. However, perseverance paid off as gradually all the threads began to come together. It was interesting to learn that hand-to-hand combat was rare in this conflict and the sieging of castles was main form of attack. Also the number of castles built interests me, and something I would like to investigate further. The main influences on the cause seems to have been the deaths of nobles, often from causes not related to conflict. Jim Bradbury uses primary sources with discretion enabling to extract important information whilst querying their reliability, where possible cross referencing to other sources. His conclusion are particularly enlightening and casts a very positive light on Stephen.
Matilda's position is less explored, but that is more likely to be due to lack of primary material than any bias on Mr Bradbury's part. I found the details on Henry's father, Geoffrey of Anjou, gave me more of an insight into his son. Also, Robert of Gloucester (Maltilda's step-brother) involvement seems crucial in the igniting of the conflict.
As I stated I knew little about this conflict to begin with and Mr Bradbury's book has caused me to question the preconceptions I had developed over the years.
So I bought it because it was the one that was available at the time, but was delighted when it proved to be a good read based on good research.
My assessment of the authors primary position is that Stephen deserves a higher reputation than is generally given to him by historians. He explains why some of the decisions that to us seem bad (like returning Maud to his enemies) where at the time understandable.
He also explains why there were only two battles of any size and covers the "castle war" very well.
So I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good introduction to "The Anarchy" (the Pillars of the Earth period)
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
Very well researched and strong arguments