Going to the Wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638-1651

Going to the Wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638-1651

Going to the Wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638-1651

Going to the Wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638-1651

Synopsis

In the 1640s, thousands of young men in the British Isles set off to fight in the Civil Wars, full of enthusiasm and commitment to the cause. They were soon to be disillusioned. Accustomed to a relatively peaceful and secure way of life, the realities of battle - the mental strain, physical exhaustion, loneliness and violence - were devestating. In Going to the Wars , Charles Carlton studies the British Civil Wars from the perspective of those who fought them, to argue that the event described by G.M. Trevelyan as the most important happening in our history was also the most destructive.

Excerpt

Military history has undergone a great change in the last thirty years. Even in the two decades after the Second World War it remained what it had traditionally been, a record of events and decisions rather than of personal experience. the war inspired a great deal of personal reminiscence, yet historians—even those who were themselves veterans—made little attempt to integrate any of it with their narrative. the development of social history had already influenced political and economic historians; the social history of warfare continued to remain neglected long after historians in other disciplines had begun to realize the importance of admitting the personal dimension into their writing.

Signs of change appeared slowly. in 1943 Irvin Bell Wiley published his remarkable The Life of Johnny Reb and in 1952 followed it with a companion volume, The Life of Billy Yank. the two books attempted to portray, with considerable success, what the material circumstances of campaign were for the common soldier on each side in the American Civil War. He did not, however, deal at length with the experience of the soldier on the battlefield. in 1947 the American combat historian, S.L. A. Marshall, published a short but seminal work, Men Against Fire, which argued that the battlefield experience was a social one; his theme was that social and cultural factors went far to determine how men did—or did not—fight.

These approaches began to bear fruit in the 1970s. in 1976 I published a book, The Face of Battle, which drew upon the methods of both Marshall and Wiley. It attracted considerable attention, was translated into seven languages and remains in print to this day. It was, however, experimental in method and limited in scope. More recently specialist scholars have applied the social history method to particular wars or periods of military history with a more rigorous attention to sources than I had attempted. Victor Hanson, an American classical scholar, re-interpreted hoplite warfare in fifth-century Greece through careful assessment of city-state social history in the texts. Geoffrey Parker had already reconstructed the social dimension of the Eighty Years’ War in great detail from the records of the Spanish army in the Netherlands.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.