Jerry Brotton

Speaking with the Dead

The English Civil War: A People’s History

By

HarperCollins 624pp £20 order from our bookshop

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’. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,