Sunday, 16 May 2010

Trebian Climbs Mount Everest

You will have noticed that I haven't blogged recently . That's because a few days ago I set out for the assault on the summit. It was tough, but I've made it back safe and sound.

Well, okay so I haven't actually climbed Everest, it just, meta - phorically feels like it. What I have actually done is finish reading "The Noble Revolt" by John Adamson. Those last few chapters took some reading.

This is a massive tome re-evaluating the run up to the outbreak of the Civil War on an almost day-by-day basis. It starts just after the end of the Short Parliament, and ends with Charles fleeing London in January 1642. Adamson has a second volume on the later period coming out next year.

Strictly speaking this isn't a book for wargamers. Whilst it covers the raising of the army to fight Scotland there's no real military detail. What there is amounts to a massive amount of political detail and a radical interpretation on why the Civil War broke out. In summary Adamson seems to be claiming that the Civil War was a cross between a traditional medieval Barons' Revolt combined with an attempt to create a monarchical republic.

And when I say massive, I mean massive. It's 742 pages, of which just under 200 pages are footnotes. And it isn't printed in a big font either, although it does have colour pictures.

So I finally finished it, and I think I've earned myself a stiff drink. The level of detail is such that it's not a book you read casually. Constantly checking the footnotes and going backwards to keep the multiple threads in your head means it doesn't get finished in a hurry.

It's also not a book for the unwary. Whilst it is beautifully and persuasively written (almost journalistic in parts) that doesn't mean it is right. There were a few points where I almost shouted at the book in disbelief, but then he's a fellow of Peterhouse & I'm....not.

So I checked a few reviews on-line (not those on Amazon, - proper ones written by proper experts) and there's a distinct "flawed masterpiece" air about it, although no one can argue with the industry that has one into its production. If the same detail has gone into the next volume it'll be a must read.

The consequence of this is that I've gone back to re-read an old friend, - Anthony Fletcher's "Outbreak of the English Civil War". This to my mind is the definitive narrative of the years leading up to the war, a much overlooked book (although not by Adamson) and one anyone who has an interest in the Civil War should have read. Alas it has been out of print for over 20 years, but Amazon has the odd second hand copy.

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