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Annual Booklist 2017-2018 : Stephen Ede-Borrett

Stephen Ede-Borrett is Chairman of the Pike and Shot Society (www.pikeandshotsociety.org) and author of Lostwithiel 1644: The Campaign and the Battles (London: Pike and Shot Society, 2004) and The Army of James II (Helion: Solihull, 2017)


Major N P Dawnay, Standards and Colours of the Household Division 1660-1973 (Tunbridge 1975). Dawnay’s book is, quite simply, a tour de force covering the history of the flags of all of the regiments that (in 1973 at least) comprised the Household Division. The level of research and detail is stunning and whilst there may be some small additional pieces of information to add as the decades pass (such as the early 18th Century Coldstream Guards’ colour in Dorchester, which Dawnay was unaware of) it is unlikely that the book will ever be truly surpassed - as Milne’s Colours and Standards of the Army is still unsurpassed after well over a Century (I might have included this on my list were in not that it is so hard to find since it was published in a print run of only 400).

Serena Jones, No Armour but Courage : Colonel Sir George Lisle 1615-1648 (Solihull 2016). Whilst there are numerous biographies of the generals of the English Civil Wars (albeit that if it isn’t Cromwell those of any individual can be counted on the fingers of one hand), full-length studies of lower ranking officers, especially of the Royalist officers, are exceeding rare. Jones’ study of Lisle is not only a good read but also an interesting view of the Wars from a lower viewpoint. I keep hoping that Jones’ book will be the first of other similar tomes but nothing so far and so the book stands out on its own.

Chris Pascoe, Death Destruction and a Packet of Peanuts: A Pub Crawl Through the English Civil War (London 2009). The inclusion of this book on a list like this is always going to be controversial, since Pascoe’s book is undoubtedly in the ‘humorous’ category. However even having admitted that, it IS historically accurate and a superb guide to the battlefields of the English Civil Wars. If a book can make you giggle and still educate then it has achieved what many others have not. I have read many (perhaps too many?) general histories of the Civil Wars but for a light-hearted view of what is, in truth, a gory subject I always come back to this book.

Clifford Walton, History of the British Army 1660-1700 (London 1894). Reading Walton’s book is probably what first extended my interest in the English Civil Wars into the later Stuart period. For many this is not a book that you can actually sit down and simply read, but I would disagree. I started on this book as a piece of research but was soon captivated by the sheer joy of Walton’s writing and the level of minor detail, which he so obviously revelled in. Like other books in this list Walton’s opus will always be the basis for any study of the period AND it’s a great read.

Peter Young and Richard Holmes, The English Civil War: A Military History of the Three Civil Wars 1642-1651 (London 1974). ‘You should never forget that there is a war on’, the problem with many, perhaps most, histories of the English Civil Wars is that they do not actually remember this. However important the political discussions, the aborted and projected treaties, the discussions with foreign powers or the ‘wooing’ of Prince Rupert’s brother, in the final analysis the decision was finally decided on the battlefield. Young & Holmes would still be the best starting point for any understanding of the Wars and still the first place I turn to understand the movement of the armies.

The unwritten book that I hope for would be a study of the Trophies taken by the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. The records survive and there are similar studies of those taken by French, Prussian and Russian and Spanish Armies (perhaps Austrian as well, although if it exists I haven’t found it) but the most successful army fighting France is still waiting for its successes to be truly trumpeted abroad.

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