In this compelling history of the violent struggle between the monarchy and Parliament that tore apart seventeenth-century England, a rising star among British historians sheds new light on the people who fought and died through those tumultuous years. Like the Magna Carta and the American Revolution, the English Civil War resolved fundamental questions of sovereignty and political rights that are still the guiding principles of democracies today. However, the price of peace included the execution of a king, brutal persecution of Catholics and Royalists, and years of tyranny. Drawing on exciting new sources, including letters, memoirs, ballads, plays, illustrations, and even cookbooks, Diane Purkiss creates a rich and nuanced portrait of this turbulent era. Purkiss peoples her story with fascinating characters, from the obstinate King Charles I to his opponents such as the poet John Milton, from the brutal and egomaniacal Oliver Cromwell to the self-styled prophet Lady Eleanor Davies, to witchfinders, revolutionaries, and ordinary men and women. The English Civil Warâ€™s dramatic consequences—rejecting divine right monarchy in favor of parliamentary rule—continue to influence our lives. In this colorful narrative, Diane Purkiss vividly brings to life the history that changed the course of Western government.
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Diane Purkiss is a Fellow and Tutor at Keble College, Oxford. She is the author of the highly acclaimed The Witch in History and At the Bottom of the Garden . She holds a B.A. from the University of Queensland, and a Ph.D. from Merton College, Oxford. She lives in Oxford, England.From Publishers Weekly:
There are many ways to approach the history of the 17th-century upheaval that beheaded a king and laid the foundations for democratic revolutions to come, and this absorbing, ungainly study tries them all. Oxford historian Purkiss (The Witch in History) draws a gallery of sharp biographical sketches of participants from Cromwell to ordinary soldiers, paying special attention to the oft-neglected doings of women, like aristocratic intriguer Lucy Hay and radical dissenter Anna Trapnel. She also slathers on plenty of social history, digressing on everything from contemporary housing to cookbooks. And she interweaves an avowedly disjointed, episodic kings-and-battles narrative of military campaigns and political maneuverings, replete with dramatic eyewitness accounts. Fixated on trees rather than the forest, Purkiss offers no clear overview of events or much coherent interpretation of the conflict, aside from some facile psychoanalysis ("Charles I's longing to make the monarchy independent of any hurtful criticism proceeded from the bullied child he was"). The book doesn't work as a general introduction, but readers who already know some of the history will find it full of colorful personalities and scenes and evocative period writings that bring to life the people, culture and violent turmoil of the age. Photos. (July)
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