What I'm Reading
30/3/2020 0 Comments
⭐ Publisher featured review
Using the latest archaeological evidence, this book looks at a little known aspect of the English Civil War. The title puts it in a nutshell.
It opens with the historical context of the new royal dynasty, the Stuarts, who followed when the Tudor line died with the childless Elizabeth. It explains in clear terms how the personality and decisions of the tolerant King Charles I led up to the war and the role Oliver Cromwell played in it. By the third chapter the narrative has reached the third section of the civil war and the battles between England and Scotland, notably the battle at Dunbar in 1650. By this point the English king Charles has been executed and Cromwell is leading the country politically and militarily.
The battle is described in great detail from the strategic and military aspect with references to the War of the Roses, the First and Second World Wars and Vietnam as comparisons, complete with quotes from documents. These comments certainly put a humanitarian reminder beside the cold facts and figures and makes the retelling more exciting. However, some from the twentieth century don't sit quite right and the 'this is how it must have felt for the men then' type of remark removes some of the authenticity. The concept of war crimes didn't exist then.
The Scottish campaign was important to Cromwell as he believed that the Scots were 'planning to invade England to restore the Stuart monarchy'. It would be better, he argued, to have the fighting take place on Scottish soil rather than English. Evidence of the behaviour of Cromwell's army is taken from the records of compensation claims documented at the time, for loss of life of husbands and sons, for damage to property, land and so on, all meticulously recorded. These records also show that most of the soldiers who fought at Dunbar were mainly young men without any military experience.
The 'death march' was the defeated Scots, taken as prisoners, and forced to go to from the battlefield to Durham initially in the first stage to be then taken to the southern ports to be sent abroad as slaves. The prisoners included the soldiers as well as the army follower who were made up of women and children, musicians, medics and other tradesmen. Most succumbed to disease and injury, starvation or were brutalised along the way. Here the records are scant or no-existent. But the journey through the landscape, step by step, still survives.
This is a detailed and well researched book, with appropriate references to evidence, photographs and maps. It concludes by tracing the descendants of some of the prisoners. Perfect for historians or anyone interested in this period, Cromwell. Scottish or military history. Recommended.
Published by Pen & Sword Military 30 January 2020. Currently only available in hardback format. Advanced review copy received from the publisher.