Posted by: internationalroutier | March 30, 2010

17thC Civil War reading list

This suggested reading list is brought to you by the BBC History Magazine Dec 2009, Helmut the German, and the letter R. It was composed by John Morrill a prolific 17thC author and fellow who has read a lot more books than me. This list particularly concentrates on the conflicts between the three British kingdoms.

During the English Civil Wars of 1638-51, there were English armies in Scotland and Ireland, Scottish armies in England and Ireland, and Irish troops in England. There were wars within wars and wars between all three kingdoms. So much was recognised until the 19th century and then forgotten. It is at the heart of much of the best recent writing. The only historian to buck the trend was CV Wedgwood, whose The King’s War 1641-1647 (out of print) interwove the military and political stories effortlessly, and brought out the connections between the civil wars and the interventions.
There is however one wonderful up to date narrative, reflecting a lifetime’s study as well as service in the Eighth Army at El Alamein. Invaluable for the account of the fighting, Austin Woolrych’s Britain in Revolution 1625-1660 (OUP, 2002) is 800pages long, and not one too many. He relates the politics and the fighting in modern times and offers a clear guide through every battle. For those interested purely in the military history, the best guide is a book edited by John Kenyon and Jane Ohlmeyer, The Civil Wars: a Military History of England, Scotland and Ireland 1638-1660 (OUP, 1998) with excellent chapters on naval operations, sieges and fortifications, logistics and supply and the effect on civilian life as well as on the main campaigns in all three kingdoms. Both these should be complemented, however, by the stimulating and challenging work of Mark Stoyle, especially his Soldiers and Strangers: an Ethnic History of the English Civil Wars.(Yale UP, 2005) Bye, bye class conflict, here is the clash of Norman and Celt.
Martyn Bennett has written extensively on the wars as wars of three kingdoms, but his most distinctive contribution is surely his The Civil Wars Experienced: Britain and Ireland, 1638-1661 (Routledge, 2000) which explores diaries, journals, letters, petitions and other writings of men and women of all social groups from Orkney to the Isles of Scilly, from Colchester to Connemara. There are many collections of essays exploring the three-kingdom theme 9and wider european context). Probably the most scintillating is that edited by Jane Ohlmeyer and Allan MacInnes, The Stuart Kingdoms in the Seventeenth Century: Awkward Neighbours (Four Courts, 2002).



  1. I have “Going to the Wars: The experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638 – 1651” (Charles Carlton Routledge, 1992). It’s a military history reflecting the experience of soldiers and civilians as well.

    I’ve read reviews that say it’s an excellent book, although not without bias and at times inaccurate – does anyone have an opinion on this?

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