It is a brave, some might say foolish writer who embarks on a history of the English Civil War these days. The grand historical narratives of the war that raged from 1642 to 1649, written by the likes of the Victorian Samuel Gardiner and later Dame Veronica Wedgwood, are these days regarded as unfashionable, qualified into virtual irrelevance by an avalanche of recent micro-studies of the causes, effects and practices of every facet of seventeenth-century English political, social and domestic life. The historical revisionism that began in the 1970s has persuasively rejected the Whig and Marxist views of the Civil War as a bourgeois revolution, which inexorably propelled us all towards parliamentary democracy. Instead, historians have sought explanations for the causes of the civil conflict in local internecine conflicts over trade, religion, social status, and of course religion. Others have broadened their scope to argue that the pivotal involvement of Ireland and Scotland requires us to call the conflict ‘the Wars of the Three Kingdoms’.
Stepping into this ideological minefield, and drawing extensively on the revisionists, comes Diane Purkiss, with her ‘people’s history’ of the Civil War. Heavily influenced by the ‘history from below’ pioneered by writers like Carlo Ginzburg and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, her book tries to capture the war’s effect on those