Read The Wars of the Roses: Peace and Conflict in Fifteenth-Century England by John Gillingham Online


The Wars of the Roses have traditionally been seen as the last dying convulsion of the Middle Ages, a marker between the medieval and the modern, and above all as a period of violence, horror, and civil disorder. John Gillingham's new book shows that this is a spurious view of the period. His authoritative analysis of fifteenth-century warfare proves that the actual battleThe Wars of the Roses have traditionally been seen as the last dying convulsion of the Middle Ages, a marker between the medieval and the modern, and above all as a period of violence, horror, and civil disorder. John Gillingham's new book shows that this is a spurious view of the period. His authoritative analysis of fifteenth-century warfare proves that the actual battles of the wars involved far fewer men than has been assumed, and that, apart form Northumbria and the Scottish border, England was a society organized for peace.The arts of peace flourished in the fifteenth century, which saw the beginning of printing in England, the rise of literacy and growing interest in vernacular architecture. The wars which sporadically interrupted that peace were fought in a manner calculated to bring them to a swift conclusion. The author shatters the Shakespearian myth of perpetual bloody conflict and shows that the wars had remarkably little effect on the social and religious life of the country or on the structure of politics....

Title : The Wars of the Roses: Peace and Conflict in Fifteenth-Century England
Author :
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ISBN : 9781898801641
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 274 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Wars of the Roses: Peace and Conflict in Fifteenth-Century England Reviews

  • Gary
    2019-05-12 06:18

    Those who have read the magnificent and informative Lancaster and York: Wars of the Roses.will have good insight into the dynastic wars in England during the 15th century known as the Wars of the Roses. Weir's book is a political history of politics and personalities, while in this book Gillingham focuses more on the military side of the conflict.The armies, armaments, weapons and battles are described in painstaking detail, and sometimes the author rushes through the description of personalities involved, but overall does also give an insight into the political play behind the wars.Gillingham's essential thesis is to refute the view given (largely due, in his opinion, due to the influence of William Shakespeare) that the 15th century was atime of chaos for the ordinary people of England and the Tudor era a golden age.)Gillingham puts forward that the ordinary people of England were largely unaffected by the Wars of the Roses and that despite the poltical turmoil England at the time remained a largely peaceful country. He hypothesizes that the quality of life in England at the time was higher than it would be under the Tudors.I have read, in other accounts, that during the Wars of the Roses, cities and town were ravaged and ordinary people did suffer, so I do not altogether accept Gillinghams thesis on this.But he is probably correct that much Europe at the time was in greater turmoil, and suffered more as a result of the wars of this time.Where Gillingham is spot on is his illustration that England was a minor player in Europe at the time and would only acquire great power and influence in the 17th century.His view of Richard III refutes Shakespeare's excesses but certainly does acknowledge Richard's ruthless ambition and the fact that though Richard showed great prowess on the battlefield he was a disaster as a king.Ultimately should be included for those studying the events of this period, though there are more interestingly written books on the War of the Roses out there.

  • Kristopher Swinson
    2019-04-25 08:03

    2.8. Practically only the 15th century Englishman could be more relieved than I was when the Wars of the Roses finally ended. The initial charm of this work—which fell short of the back cover’s promised “dazzling account”—dissipated into protracted, seldom interesting the battlefield.Gillingham employs skillful application of historical method, critical enough of traditional or variant interpretations (103, 106, 120, 132, 154, 200, 222). He’s unafraid to weigh the relative value of sources, especially where the study of battles is concerned. Bosworth goes sadly neglected, but at least we aren’t exposed to fanciful ideas. Some of his commentary has very contemporary application, such as regarding how control of the press molded opinion (9-10), particularly as people became further removed from original events (remember Fahrenheit 451?). “All historians know that dividing history into periods is misleading, but believe that, for practical purposes, it is unavoidable” (12). It was interesting to find a scientific identification for the factor of chroniclers’ exaggeration, placed at “between ten- and sixtyfold” (42). I love how he took Shakespeare’s accuracy as a historian to firm task (2, 7), with a mild aside about “those who know their history chiefly through Shakespeare” (28). He’s willing to go against the grain, particularly in his picture of England as a relatively peaceful society prior to this strife (11, 14-15, 146), which even bordered on intellectual stagnation (8, 22).He also has a good personality, with penetrating psychological analysis, strong knowledge of military ways (38, 163), and a small dash of humor (would that it had been larger). I adduce this as evidence of the last: “With Henry’s return to what passed for his right mind . . .” (84); “Wiltshire . . . . according to popular opinion, . . . had fought with his heels, being a pretty knight whose main aim in life was to preserve his good looks” (90). The Scottish army was made more efficient by a decree that “distractions like football and golf were to be ‘uttirly cryit doune and nocht usyt’” (137). As far as analysis, he utilizes decent comparisons (97, 100) to modern day and continually interprets the times for his reader.I appreciated his discussion of supply as a determinant of strategy (47), and the surprising superiority of archery numbers (36). Also the obvious remark, “Possession of the most advanced military technology that the fifteenth century could offer counted for little when weighed against poor reconnaissance, uninspired leadership and consequent loss of morale” (129). “Looking at his battles in isolation is not the best way to measure a commander’s skill. Once both sides were committed to battle there was relatively little a general could do to influence the course of events. . . . A battle was part of a campaign, and it is his conduct of the whole which has to be studied, not just the most dramatic part” (214). The conclusion was well done.

  • Frédéric
    2019-04-30 05:20

    A somewhat difficult read, especially when you’re not British and totally not accustomed to the long list of Houses, lineage and local nobility, but worth it in the end. The author clearly details the events leading to campaigns and battles; local enmities, succession struggles and so on. The different periods are put into coherent chapters and my main regret would be the lack of lineage chart and maybe some maps here and there. It seems the author has inherently limited his audience to Englishmen born and bred. Gillingham is honest enough to admit the lack of sources considering battles and these are consequently not very detailed but it’s not a military history book so it never was the point.As I’ve already said, this not an easy read but I suppose that if you pick up this kind of book youknow what you’re in for beforehand.If you want to learn more about these 30 years of internal struggle for kingship, this one is short and detailed enough to satisfy your curiosity.Just one more comment on the so-called “peace” of the title. As explained in the first chapter this is not so much peace per se than peace as opposed to what was happening at the same period on the continent. If England was at war abroad the english soil was not touched by war, at least not at the same scale. The country itself was consequently relatively peaceful, troubled by somewhat small-scales engagements (with the notable exception of Towton) over stretched periods of time but not on permanent warfoot. The population didn't suffer too much of the battles either-except in local feuds, nobody having any interest to get in their bad side.The english art of warfare in England also was different, notably for sieges and cities fortifications, reminiscent of more medieval times when the continent was undergoing more radical changes.

  • Mark
    2019-05-04 10:07

    Thanks in no small measure to William Shakespeare, the Wars of the Roses looms large in the English historical imagination. For many, its factional conflicts between various noble families serves as a demarcation between the England of the Middle Ages and the era of the Tudors that began with Henry VII's victory over Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field. Yet at John Gillingham argues, these events and their legacy is often misunderstood in terms of their scope and their legacy. As he demonstrates in this book, the wars themselves were not some epoch-ending bloodbath but a series of factional fights that were not atypical of English politics during that era.Gillingham sees the Wars of the Roses not as one conflict but as three distinct, though related, ones. The first was that spawned by the failings of Henry VI as king, who was unable to maintain England's position in France and who proved equally inept in his ability to govern at home. Henry's rule was challenged by Richard, Duke of York, who had served as Protector of the Realm during Henry's breakdown in the autumn of 1453. Though Richard died in the open warfare that resulted from this struggle, his son Edward captured Henry and replaced him as king. The second conflict arose from the discontent of Edward's supporter Richard Neville, the earl of Warwick, who, disappointed in his expectation of ruling England form behind Edward's throne, rose up in rebellion. While Warwick succeeded in temporarily restoring Henry to the throne, the Lancastrians suffered a crippling defeat at the battle of Tewkesbury, with the death of Henry's soon followed by the murder of Henry himself. This may have been the end of the wars but for the "murderous ambition" of Edward's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who after Edward's death in 1483 used his position as regent to seize power from Edward's son, only to die in battle at Bosworth Field two years later.All of this Gillingham describes in an efficient narrative that is candid in its limitations. He makes it clear that there is much about the era that remains a mystery to us, as the limited sources available even make it difficult to know much about some of the famous battles of the period beyond their outcome. Gillingham goes far in filling in the gaps, using reasonable supposition supported by a solid command of the politics and the military science of the era. His narrative itself is reasonably straightforward, though it is hampered by the large number of people involved, most of whom are not very clearly defined, which makes it difficult to distinguish them in the narrative as a result. Nevertheless, his book serves as a solid overview of the Wars of the Roses, one that succeeds in sifting the reality from the myths and legends that have contributed to our misunderstandings of the conflict and its significance to English history.

  • Nancy
    2019-05-04 05:14

    It was not easy to read. It seemed to be so many tries to be king & to gain power. This power seemed to go back & forth. Almost like the continual bickering of young children. Full of deceit & lost loyalty.

  • Eugene Peery
    2019-05-18 03:18

    Not an easy read, but worth it.

  • Kenneth Sherman
    2019-05-05 05:16

    Gillingham gives a very readible account of the War of the Roses. For much of the 15th century the succession to the throne was disputed and king (two if you count Richard II) was executed and one was killed in battle and another disappeared and possibly buried in the Tower of London. Despite that, Gillingham pointed out that England was actually a more peaceful place than continental Europe during the 15th century. The English seemed to fight differently in England than in France, where they and most armies had a sort of scorched earth policy while in England, where public opinion mattered, the wars did not involve the noncombatants and the armies were much more inclined to pay for what the requisitioned. The great and minor lords often had a hard time knowing who to back in these battles and to choose the wrong side often led to disaster. Securing the North was also critical and Edward IV in particular had a hard time with that. One of the reasons the wars began was that the richest man in England, Richard of York, was given tallies (Sort of IOUs) for money lent to the throne, but king Henry VI was much more inclined to pay back those close to him than York. Richard tried as best he could to get rid of those ministers he felt were giving the feeble king bad advice without seeming treasonous. In the end he could not get his tallies paid and went to war. He died in battle, but eventually Henry VI was deposed, reinstated and executed. I liked this quote from Richard of YOrk, "For though right for a time rest and be put to silence, yet it rotteth not nor shall not parish."Also this one was good, from a Milanese ambassador about Edward IV's attempt to regain the throne, "It is a difficult matter to go out the door and then to try and come in be the windows."New Vocabulary: bastion: large place on top of a wall for cannon placement for a walled city. It allowed for more mobility and a larger field of fire.

  • Melissa
    2019-04-21 07:30

    This is a telling of the Wars of the Roses mostly through the battles that were fought. While it was very interesting it was also a bit dry at times. The author does a good job of using different sources and makes sure to state when he is using only one to tell of events in case of any bias in the information. I also think that having a prior working knowledge of the events really helped in the reading and if I hadn't known what was going on I might have become lost in all the names, dates, and locations.

  • Toni
    2019-04-20 06:20

    My usual go to for history is much more biliographical or society analysis based. This focused more on the war tactics and the factions of the Wars of the Roses.However, despite it not being my normal, I really, really enjoyed this book. I was able to get an understanding of this dynastic feud from an angle I haven't previously delved in to.I will certainly be reading more of Gillingham's books.

  • Gerry Germond
    2019-04-26 03:32

    A good account which helped me sort out this event. I especially appreciated the first three chapters which set the stage for the Wars of the Roses and laid to rest many popular misconceptions of them. There isn't much original source material and the author takes some pains to evaluate them for trustworthiness, weeding out Tudor propaganda. At only 257 pages, a good account.

  • richard mills
    2019-04-27 05:09

    Good summaryThis book focuses mostly on the battles. There is an attempt to put them in perspective and dispel myths but that is not the focus. It is more military minded than political or social. The material is well researched and the author does well to sort through conflicting accounts and biased reports.

  • Diana
    2019-04-28 03:32

    Readable but a little dry. I think the story got lost a little in the facts, so I enjoyed the little anecdotes that were sprinkled throughout. I would like to have seen more on Margaret of Anjou.

  • Boulder Boulderson
    2019-04-22 05:27

    As a book with a bibliography but no footnotes, this very much falls into the category of popular history. Gillingham has a relatively new take on the Wars of the Roses - that they are a series of three largely unrelated conflicts - and interprets evidence in this light.Not being a serious scholar of the period, I couldn't venture an opinion on whether he is correct, but his narrative is strong and the argument convincing enough.While generally very readable, it's not the most accessible of works and is a bit repetitive in some parts; nonetheless worth a read for anyone interested in a new view of the Wars of the Roses, or perhaps has read historical fiction on the period and wants a more serious look at it.

  • Chris Steeden
    2019-04-28 03:26

    'England in the fifteenth century was the most peaceful country in Europe''...wars were extremely rare'Gillingham goes on to say: The Wars of the Roses were not fought with standing armies but between forces raised just for the occasion. If you were born in 1450 and survived to be 40 you would have lived through 3 civil wars known collectively as the Wars of the Roses. On at least 5 occasions you would have seen kings pushed off the throne by force. Henry VI twice in 1461 and 1471, Edward IV (first Yorkist King) in 1470 , Edward V in 1483 and Richard III in 1485. In terms of sudden and violent swings of the political pendulum there is no period in English history which can compete with this one.'In reality there were three separate wars. The first was caused by Henry VI’s manifold shortcomings, his inability either to hold France or govern England. It began in the 1450s, came to a crisis in 1459-61, and then continued to simmer in the north until 1464. The second, caused by Warwick’s (Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick known as the Kingmaker who was the wealthiest and most powerful peer that started as a Yorkist and then changed to Lancastrian) violent discontent, lasted from 1469 to 1471. The third, precipitated by Richard III’s murderous ambition, began in 1483 and ended in 1487.'I did know a little about the Wars of the Roses from history magazines but wanted to learn a little bit more but I honestly found this book confusing which I guess is not surprising considering the above statement. I just had a really hard time keeping track of who-was-who, heads being lopped-off, what the hierarchy was and then of course all these nobleman switched sides when it seemed to benefit them. I went through whole passages of the book reading but not taking anything in I'm afraid.There were a lot of interesting things like on 14-SEP-1422 it was the funeral of Henry V who was only 35 years old and the heir was the 9 month old boy Henry VI (Lancaster). Henry V had married the King of France's (Charles VI) daughter, Katherine, which meant that Henry VI would be Henry II of France because Charles VI had now died only a few months after Henry V died. In fact Charles VI did have a son, Charles VII, but he had been blocked from succeeding.Henry VI's reign began well but soon lost all of France apart from Calais. He would become mentally unstable and seen as a weak King. He married Margaret of Anjou of France (she was only 15 years old) in 1445 and she was to become a strong Queen taking over from Henry when he was in a state of mental illness. By 1450 Henry was very unpopular and Jack Cade led a revolt. The issue was not only a weak King but the people around him who were corrupt and abused their power. There was also the fact that many years of war against France had built up the debt.It was in 1450 that Richard Duke of York returned to England. If Henry VI were to die childless he would have a strong claim to the throne. He was also the richest landowner of the day. Henry kept over-looking Richard for positions like lieutenant-general and governor of France and Normandy and giving them to other people. The government owed Richard a lot of money which they were not paying back. Henry did not die childless as they had one son, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, on 13-OCT-1453. He would be killed in the Battle of Tewkesbury on 04-MAY-1471. It was from this battle that Edward IV became King again and actually reigned through a period of peace until he died on 09-APR-1483. His son Edward V took over but was never crowned and became one of the famous princes in the Tower story involving his Uncle Richard III.All-in-all things were heating up and the first battle at St Albans happened in May 1455. York won the battle and the King is injured but tells Henry that he never intended to kill him just the traitors around him. He was captured in 1460 during the Battle of Northampton. An Act of Accord was set-up whereby if Henry died York or one of his heirs would be on the throne and not Henry's son, Edward. Then Richard of York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in December 1460.The book goes right up to Henry VII Tudor taking over on 22-AUG-1485 from Richard III who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field where Sir William Stanley changed sides.. I'll stop there as that really is just a very basic summary but their are a lot more characters and a lot more battles.

  • Jerry-Book
    2019-05-21 03:02

    The author says there were three wars. The first was the downfall of Henry VI and the triumph of the York Party headed by Edward IV. The second is the revolt of Warwick and Edward IV's comeback and triumph over Warwick. The third is the usurpation of the throne by Richard III and his eventual downfall to Henry Tudor who becomes Henry VII. The author's focus is the battles. Although documents are scarce the author does a yeoman like job in recreating the battles. I was especially interested in the fact that even though Richard III rewarded his followers very well people like Lord Stanley deserted him in his hour of need. He was unable to keep followers unlike his brother Edward IV.

  • Mary Dawson
    2019-04-20 03:31

    Comprehensive and detailed, the book delivered what I was looking for, a chronological overview of what actually happened in the Wars of the Roses. Chapters 4 to 14 were very readable with a balance of anecdotes about people, geography and social / cultural context. It's a wide topic and at times some of the events blurred into each other but given the lack of historical information to distinguish individual battles this is probably inevitable.

  • Steve
    2019-04-30 02:18

    An excellent modern analysis of the war and politics of later 15th century England. Overturns many myths about the "Wars of the Roses" and sets the record straight about what really happened. Not for those who aren't into Medieval English History.

  • Chaplain Stanleigh Chapin
    2019-05-11 07:09

    An excellent primer of military strategies and RoyaltyAt first it seemed like I was back in a school history class and then I kept reading. Viola it was written in a manner that grabbed your interest as well and was informative.

  • Tom Winkelspecht Jr
    2019-05-20 02:23

    Solid, clearly written primer. Wish there had been more depth to some sections.