Monday 5 February 2024

A Couple of English Civil War Titles

A bonus, or not, this time as I’m reviewing two books covering different aspects of the English Civil War. I put these on Amazon a while ago but forgot to post them here as well. 

I might have used this metaphor previously but it’s worth repeating; if one considers all the British Civil Wars as an elephant, then Helion’s approach to bettering our (i.e. my) understanding is to enable us to eat said elephant in small bites. It works for me.

The Town Well Fortified. The Fortresses of the Civil Wars in Britain, 1639-1660 by David Flintham is No. 110 in Helion’s ‘Century of the Soldier 1618-1721’ series. It is an examination of the tactical and strategic importance of fortifications and their impact on war efforts of all sides, together with their use and development during the conflict.

The author explores a wide range of topics, including discussion on the importance of geography on fortifications, the art and artists of fortifications, construction and the influences on design, the importance of bastions and ditches and more. Suffice to say that each chapter provides a wealth of information, coming together to provide a well-researched and definitive account of the 1,000+ fortified places in the Three Kingdoms, be they fortified manor houses, reinforced town and city walls or newly-constructed fortresses, of which over half were to come under siege during the wars; a significant number when compared to the number of engagements and pitched battles during the same period.

For me one of the most interesting parts of this book are the two appendices, as they provide summaries of fortified sites, by county, throughout the UK, plus a directory of bastions, ditches and forts taken from the Civil War Fortifications Register.

This book is well written and clearly a labour of love for the author. It is nicely illustrated with a range of contemporary drawings and modern-day photographs of various surviving fortifications.

A very useful book for those with an intimate or passing interest in the British Civil Wars and fortified places in particular.

ISBN 978-804513-48-4. Softback 243 pages

Paul Sutton’s ‘The City Horse, London militia cavalry during the English Civil War 1642-1660’ is an interesting and quite narrow topic for a book, following the various City Horse units throughout the Civil War from their first combat experience at Winchester in 1642 to Worcester in 1651 and ultimately to their involvement in the return of Charles II to the city. 

The bite-sized chunks of English Civil War military history such as this, published by Helion as part of their Century of the Soldier 1618-1721 series (no. 103), are for me the ideal way to learn about the topic (obviously) in much more detail, but also the wars in general; far better in my humble opinion than trawling through the many traditional weighty volumes I remember putting me off the subject 50-odd years ago.

The author begins with a summary of the road to war and the political situation found in London at the time, the efforts to raise and equip the City Horse, with chapters on a selection of the individual regiments and their commanders. There are then chapters covering more politics, the Second and Third Civil Wars, and the Interregnum before the return of Charles II. We also have chapters explaining how the City Horse were equipped and financed, and their unique status within the armies of Parliament.

The book is well written and I found myself effortlessly reading much of it one sitting. It is illustrated by a number really well executed original pen and ink drawings of the troops, several handy maps and a number of original colour plates depicting the various ‘cornets’ born by a variety of the London militia cavalry troops and regiments that were raised during the war.

This is another excellent addition to Helion’s growing catalogue of books covering the many different aspects and theatres of war of the Civil Wars and one I can wholeheartedly recommend if, as I mentioned at the start of this review, you prefer your history in focussed and easily digestible mouthfuls rather than an epic and perhaps rather dry smorgasbord-type of book.

Well worth the read whether you be a serious historian or a layman with a passing interest and perhaps wishing to learn more.

ISBN 978-1-804511-99-2 Softback, 334 pages.

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