The English Civil War by Diane Purkiss

The English Civil War

This popular history of the English Civil War tells the story of the bloody conflict between Oliver Cromwell and Charles I from the perspectives of those involved.The compelling narrative draws on new sources such as letters, memoirs, ballads and plays to bring to life the Roundheads and Cavaliers, the foot soldiers, war widows and witchfinders of one of the most significant turning points in British history, culminating in Oliver Cromwell’s tr...

Details The English Civil War

TitleThe English Civil War
Release DateFeb 5th, 2007
PublisherHarper Perennial
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Civil War, English Civil War, Literature, 17th Century

Reviews The English Civil War

  • Cristina
    A very interesting account of the background, events and main actors in the English Civil War. I've read it mainly because I have a very deep interest (okay, an addiction...) for Maria McCann's As Meat Loves Salt and I wanted to know more about the historical setting of her novel. This book certainly gave me food for thought and clarified some aspects of the New Model Army, the Diggers' colonies, the religious factions etc. All things I didn't k...
  • Bluenose
    Contrary to the title, this is not a history of the English civil war of the 1640’s. It’s a collection of contemporary accounts from original documents focusing on a number of people who were prominent and obscure participants in the historical events. The research was staggering and is documented in FURTHER READING at the end of the book. Reading the actual words of the participants is a revelation and immediately conveys the sensibilities a...
  • Daniel Wright
    There is possibly no period of English (indeed, British) history more unjustly neglected than the Civil Wars. Far more than the feudal wranglings of the Wars of the Roses, they made the United Kingdom the nation that it is, politically, ideologically, and even spiritually. This is the central thesis of this magnificent book, illustrated through the words and actions of innumerable individuals: high and low, male and female, all the parts they pla...
  • John Herbert
    The English Civil War is the most underrated occurrence in British history; even the major battlefields are poorly marked and signposted. And yet this remarkable war amongst ourselves changed forever how this island of ours ruled their affairs.Of course there are countless books running through the battles and reasons, but this book goes deeper into the psyche of the real people - the ones who fought, the ones who remained behind to be savaged by...
  • Ben
    The research done for this book was obviously immense and there are many gems about all areas of English society during the civil war. When Purkiss writes about Milton, Cromwell, or the royal family for example, she hits her groove. Or when she gets on a more narrowly defined topic like food, Christmas, iconoclasm, or specific radical reformers, this book is riveting. However, the incredible body of research often takes precedence over the narrat...
  • Shawn
    This history is rather disorganized and sometimes difficult to follow, but it does a good job of purveying the FEEL of the Civil War by examining the wartime experiences of people of more ordinary rank than the royals and grandees and other major players, including several women. Take it for what it's worth.
  • Cropredy
    Seduced by the cover blurbs, I thought this was going to be a history of the English Civil War done in a way more accessible than the C.V. Wedgewood classic - a book I found dry and hard to follow, a book where one gets lost in obscure doctrinaire disputes between the various religious dogmas.So, was this book better?Well, sort of.On the down side - the book is far too long, weaving in first hand accounts of many people, who pop up again and agai...
  • James
    I thought this was an excellent alternative to a traditional top-down history of the English Civil War. I was fascinated, but I am interested in this period so I suppose it wouldn't take much to hold my attention. It was engagingly written and I enjoyed the focus the author placed on religious extremism rather than battles. My only criticism is that she expected the reader to remember the names of all of her little-known figures as easily as they...
  • Czarny Pies
    This is a very solid book about England during the civil war. It covers the events of the war as well as providing a solid overview of the cultural, theological and intellectual context in which in occurred. I have not read enough on the period to know how well it compares to other books written on the topic. It may even be worth an additional star.The book manages to explain both why the monarchy fell and why it would be restored once Cromwell w...
  • Steven Peterson
    If you want a history of the battles of the English Civil War, this is not the book for you. If you are interested in the human side of this horrific period, then this is a book for you. While the battles are mentioned, they are placed in a much broader context. This is a history of the English Civil War, told to a considerable extent through the words of observers and participants. Letters and diaries of people such as Brilliana Harley; tracts b...
  • Nathan Albright
    This book was originally called "The English Civil War: A People's History," and that would have given me a much more clear idea of the perspective of this author and also a great deal less fondness about it given the low quality of people's history thanks to their Maoist perspectives to begin with. To be sure, this book has some of that, but the author manages to strike that ambivalent tone where she shows herself in favor of Christmas and gener...
  • J M-B
    The sub-title, "a people's history" seems not to be any homage to Zinn's history of the USA. Rather it sums up the author's focus on the personal experience of the civil war(s) as available through correspondence and life-writing - the impact on food, housing and domestic security. This makes for much interesting detail, but makes also for an odd mix of social and narrative history. The narrative account of events suffers as a consequence. In com...
  • Chris Thorley
    I realised when I started this book that I didn't really know much about the English Civil War. All I really knew was the cavaliers were royalists and the roundheads were parlimentarian and Charles I got executed at the end of it. It seems to be a subject that school didn't go out of its way to teach in much detail. This book certainly gives a lot of detail about the English Civil war, almost a bewildering amount of information. I liked how the b...
  • J. David Knecht
    Well written and interesting book, which chronicles the English Civil War from the POV of different members of the various classes of 17th century. I do not recommend the book as a first look at the conflict, as the author assumes a good level of familiarity with the topic. It was hard to follow the sequence of events and I ended up watching a BBC documentary to get a better view of the overall story. It would be a wonderful supplement to other r...
  • Joyce
    another book abandoned a few hundred pages in. this time because of moral opposition. scattered through those pages are uncomfortably drawn comparisons between anti-catholic sentiment and the holocaust, culminating in the description of a protestant's belief in the execution of catholics and hitler's anti-semitism as a "genuine moral passion". i literally had to stop reading there, unable to countenance the fact anyone could make that statement.
  • Heather
    For some reason, I found this book hard going. For me, it didn't seem to flow well but I really can't articulate why. It was interesting but that's all I can say.
  • Lp1989
    This is a 2 1/2 stars actually I've read this book a number of times in an attempt to see what precisely Purkiss was trying to say. As far as I can tell her overarching thesis is that the breakdown in social order in the 1640s allowed for a space for those who would not normally have been able to make themselves heard in the era such as women and those of the "lower orders". On the one hand as showing the sheer variety of ideas and views of the p...
  • Chris
    A very readable and interesting history of the English Civil War. if you're looking for a narrative history documenting each of the big political decisions and battles of the war, Trevor Royle's book is perhaps a better place to look. This however, is very interesting and gives a great flavour of the period. I was a little disappointed that Purkiss seems to have a bee in her bonnet about history's representation of the Levellers and Diggers. The ...
  • imngrer
    This is a popular history and lacks the detailed footnotes I want when reading this type of book.I read with very a very specific aim which it would have satisfied had it been footnoted. But I did skip chunks of it as not relevant for what I wanted.However, I seriously disliked her patronising tone regarding Christopher Hill. Should she ever become half the historian he was I would accept her comments but she has to my mind in no way reached that...
  • Lauren Albert
    This took what was for me a long time to read. But it is a very long book. I really liked her vision of the war from "the ground up." It helped me understand the complexities of the situation for the people who were actually living it--and not just the powerful. I hadn't realized how much a fear of Catholics played into the events--not just hatred or bigotry but fear. According to Purkiss, everyday people were convinced that they faced imminant i...
  • Stantontas
    There's some crackingly vivid stuff in this book, which was marred only for me by a bit of sniffyness about the more radical tendencies thrown up by the conflict. That's not what I expect from something billed as "a people's history". Maybe some of Christopher Hill's work is what I need to be looking at for that.
  • Jeff
    This is not your mother's history book. Do not read it expecting to get a linear account of the war, or a nice clean version of cause and effect. Rather, it is an intriguing and insightful glimpse into the complexities of the war, gleaned through the writings and lives of those who lived it. A tragic time, and yet one which really lays much of the groundwork for the philosophies that grounded the American and French revolutions. Fascinating read.
  • Catherine
    I loved this book. It was fantastically written and well presented and Purkiss didn't take sides and try and claim that one side was 'right' or 'better' than the other. She gave heart to the material and often added small personal remarks that were more humorous than anything else. For example, she describes John Milton as 'fiercely competitive, neurotic, insecure and emotionally constipated.' This book is well worth the read for any history buff...
  • John Wright
    So far so good. Standard, but well-written social history of the English Civil War based on the much revived narrative school. Brings in revised understandings based on work done on religious and women's history over the past 20 years. Purkiss' sense of contemporaneous geography, world-view and class bring a fresh sense of how large and how small, how public and private, the worlds of pre-William and Mary English were. Plus I learned what 'repand...
  • Liz
    This book was less interesting than I thought it would be. It probably would have helped if I knew something about British History, but I felt that the timeline was a bit too jumpy. It took me a long time- nearly 3 months to slog through it, without a particularly good sense of the overall argument- was kind of a mishmash of primary sources lacking the backbone of a clearly stated argument.
  • Christine
    It does help to have a basic knowledge of the English Civil War prior to reading this book. Purkiss presents the English Civil War though the viewpoints of the people who fought in it, lived during it, and wrote during it. It is an all encompassing look, focusing on people who do not make the over all big histories. Well worth the read if you like English history.
  • James Stephenson
    In many ways, this is a superb book. The writing is occasionally odd and awkward, but the principle - a social history told by people of significance and insignificate almost half a millenium ago - is fascinating page after page.
  • Sue
    The world turned upside down but Diane Purkiss has written a book that will enable you to keep your footing amid a tumultuous period of English history. So good, I am going to read it again. Thank you for a clear social, political and military depiction of the civil war.