THE CIVIL WARS OF ENGLAND by John Kenyon

THE CIVIL WARS OF ENGLAND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A history-by-numbers sketch of the English Civil Wars, by the author of The Stuarts, The Popish Plot, and The History Men. In his account of the internecine wars--the ""recent troubles"" to some contemporaries--that wracked England from 1642 to 1647, Kenyon takes as his guiding theme a quote by Sir Charles Firth: ""A civil war is not only the conflict of opposing principles but the shock of material forces."" Kenyon takes this to mean that the Civil Wars can be meaningfully reduced to raw numbers: numbers of men enlisted in various regiments, numbers of pounds levied in various counties to support the war effort, numbers of miles marched by various protagonists. Thus the rise and fall of the hapless King Charles I, the gradual revolutionizing of Parliament, and the accession to power of the once-obscure Oliver Cromwell are described in time-line manner, with statistics--rather than people and passions--taking center stage. Kenyon reduces the epic divisions occasioned by the war, the desperate battles of the conflict (Edgehill, Marston Moor, Roundaway Down), and the complicated political philosphies vying with each other to one long series of calculations. A meticulous book, useful to those who want a statistical overview of the Civil Wars, but otherwise unremarkable--except for its stunning ability to render one of the most colorful and tumultuous periods of English history as nothing more than a dull, precise still-life.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1988
Publisher: Knopf