Atlas of the English Civil War

By P. R. Newman | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

This book is concerned with the topography of the English Civil Wars of 1642-51 and, to a lesser extent, with events prior and subsequent to those dates. It sets out to fill a gap in the available literature concerning the period, by offering a series of complementary texts and maps aimed at explaining, for the most part, the sometimes confusing prose accounts of campaigns and battles. Over the last thirty years or so, there has been a marked and widespread interest in the civil wars amongst a more general readership, an interest to some extent created and satisfied by 'military histories', of varying quality, of the civil wars. The best of these, those of Burne and Young (1959), Woolrych (1961) and Young and Holmes (1974), have presented first-class accounts of specific campaigns and battles linked together with brief, explanatory texts. The worst have sought to encompass everything, touching lightly and inadequately upon social, political, economic and religious causes of the civil wars as a means of putting military events 'in context'.

Such an approach was only possible when the issues, even to historians of stature such as Gardiner or Firth, appeared more clear cut than they actually were. No single book can hope to encompass with any balance every aspect of the years 1642-51, let alone the years leading up to civil war and the events subsequent upon the fall of the monarchy. Few, if any, professional historians would have the temerity to suppose themselves capable of producing such a study. Historical research, if it is to contribute properly to our general understanding of the past, has become and will remain an area of relatively narrow specialisation. The general readership of books dealing with the civil war will, therefore, be better served by books setting out a specific theme or adopting a clear approach.

This atlas can be used, it is hoped, both in its own right as a source for understanding the military developments from 1642 onwards, charting the progress by which the King lost, and the Parliament won, the war; and also as an adjunct to more detailed military histories as well as other works which touch in passing upon military events. It is, in other words, an aid to understanding, and does not pretend to offer any original insight into events themselves, except where account has been taken of pertinent advances in scholarship to explain events or phenomena; for example, the appearance of the Clubmen and the unrest in the New Model Army.

The value of maps in dealing with military campaigns will be self-evident. Not only do they elucidate occasionally confusing written accounts, but they also serve to provide the general reader with a spatial context for events. They offer an opportunity to trace the progress of war both in specific regions and localities, as well as provide a broader picture of those areas of the country which saw much, and those which saw little, prolonged fighting. They show, for example, that whereas the whole of the country was involved in one way or another in the war effort of either side (and sometimes both, depending upon which had the upper hand), not everywhere saw fighting, either on a large or a small scale. Kent, for example, remained virtually untroubled, at least until 1648, and the same was true of Essex; whilst counties like Cumberland and Westmorland, ostensibly royalist in outlook and alignment, experienced little or no real action until late in 1644, whereas Lancashire to their south had been fought over quite extensively in 1642/3 and early 1644. The Midlands, the south-west and the Welsh border lands were the major battlegrounds of the civil war years 1642-6. It will also be apparent that military objectives were hardly ever conceived on a grand scale. The King's march on London in late 1642 after Edgehill was an obvious step for him to take, but it came to nothing when London faced up to his

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