Top critical review
7 people found this helpful
Well worth reading
on 26 October 2013
I bought this because it was only 77p on my new fangled kindle, and I am interested in Richard III/Wars of the Roses.
I have read lots of books on this subject and period and Markham crops up in most of them, generally described as a pro Ricardian and usually has his feud with James Gairdner referred to. I never really felt any urge to read Markham's book, but I'm really glad I did.
I liked the layout- everything is split into nice, easily accessible chapters and paragraphs and is an engaging and interesting read. It also lacks the all pervading pomposity of some modern books on this subject.
Markham is a very interesting character in his own right, a geographer and explorer, a very intelligent man.
Whatever his thoughts on Richard III, he has done plenty of research and there are some very interesting little nuggets of information I have never read anywhere else, taken from the original manuscripts and sources.
The style of writing is dated (obviously), but I quite liked this. Although it could tend to be overblown, it gave a good feel of the style of Markham's era.
I found Markham's attitude to Margaret of Anjou and her son interesting. To me, Markham was not swayed by the usual pro York/Lancaster or Tudor/Plantagenet side taking, he seemed to admire certain people for no other reason than the qualities he saw in their characters (real or imagined).
Margaret of Anjou is (unusually),portrayed as a brave, valiant woman. And her son, Edward, as some sort of chivalric hero, despite very little being known of him.
Edward is usually viewed as being "warlike", yet in his day, this would have been a valuble quality.
Markham writes emotively of Edward's death, his "golden hair falling onto the horses mane", very evocative.
It is, massively, pro Richard III. I would not say this invalidates Markham, but, to me, it puts him in the same category as the massively anti Richard camp-ie. a bit unreliable.
Markham, at times, does seem to get a bit carried away and gets very emotive and over the top, describing Richard's actions.
I feel Markham saw good points in Richard's character, and, to Markham, this exonerates Richard from any wrong doings as he is an honourable man. I found this a bit naïve.
All in all, the thing that most struck me about this book was how much this whole argument goes round and round in circles. The same old things seem to keep getting eternally "discredited" then brought back as "new" theories.
At the moment, we seem to have the pre contract argument doing the rounds- this is in the Markham book, then seemingly it was "discredited", only to be resurrected in our present day.
No doubt someone else will pop up and try to discredit it all over again.
Reading this also made me re-evaluate my own attitude to these older books.
Before, I was content to read the standard modern historian's usually glib description of Markham's work. I am glad I read this for myself, and I'm going to read all of these older works now and judge for myself.
I am going to read James Gairdner, Markham's old sparring partner, next. Just to get a bit of balance.
I think Ricardians would like this book, traditionalists will dislike it(sorry to state the obvious).
As someone who is just very interested in this whole topic, it is a very worthwhile read.
I gave it 3 stars as it is a bit too biased for me, I think 3.5 stars would be ideal, but this option is unfortunately not available.