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Customer Review

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Marred by carelessness with facts, 13 July 2012
This review is from: Going to the Wars: Experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638-51 (Hardcover)
This book came out just as I was finishing my D.Phil. thesis covering one specific county's experience of the English Civil War peiod. It is at once thoroughly illuminating and downright frustrating.

No-one has previously attempted to cover the wars in the way Charles Carlton does, bringing together the experiences of individuals from the soldiers who were ordered to kill each other to the hapless civilians they plundered or worse. It deserves full marks for bringing home the sheer horror of the events, that led directly or indirectly to the death and permanent ruin of a far higher proportion of the population of every part of Britain than any conflict before or since. This is no mean feat, given that 17th century Englishmen were not particular likely to record their experiences, much less their feelings, in a way that the modern mind can easily relate to.

There is a huge 'but' though and it is to do with unforgivably sloppy writing, editing and fact checking. On one single page, for example, Carlton refers to 'Strafford', then 'the earl of Strafford', then 'Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford'. All the same man and quite clearly the wrong way around.

To pick just on the localities I know best, Carlton at least twice correctly names Edward Massey as the governor of Gloucester during the siege, then on another occasion names him as Colonel Sir George Massey, who never existed; he has the county levies being smashed by the Royalists in Gloucester, not Cirencester (despite later repeating three times in the same chapter that the majority of those who were captured by the Royalists at Cirencester signed up to serve them); worse still, he even once puts the siege of Gloucester, by many people's reckoning the turning point of the war, in 1644 instead of 1643.

In another place, he has Alderman Thomas Heyle of York committing suicide in dismay at the king's execution. Hoyle, to spell his name correctly, actually hanged himself a year later to the day. The link is far from certain and Hoyle played no part in the king's trial and execution, though Royalist hacks made it anyway.

Trivial details? Maybe, but if his inaccuracy in the details about one county are reproduced throughout the course of the book as often, its value is seriously diminished. There are also some spelling mistakes (Liecester for Leicester, pus for plus) and punctuation errors that a schoolboy could spot. Plenty of footnotes, but some are quite clearly wrong too. Hopefully a later edition will have cleared some of this up.
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