The English Civil War

By Affleck, Gareth | History Review, December 1996 | Go to article overview

The English Civil War


Affleck, Gareth, History Review


The English Civil War

`Those who can, do, those who can't, teach' -- a well known saying which doubtless the makers of this CD evil be repeating to themselves when they have read this review Nevertheless, I can only write what I have found after using this disk as a student would, and the answer is, if i were a student, I wouldn't!

Cromwell Productions have produced a video and a CD-ROM on the subject of the English Civil War, particularly welcome due to the scarcity of CD's covering the early modern period. The CD is a two disc set, the first a typical multimedia offering, containing text, pictures and video footage, the second containing the entire text of Gardiner's four-volume history of the wars. The opening screen, pictured above, contains an initial overview of the war, useful as a basic chronology, and various topic buttons which lead to more detailed narratives. The coverage is reasonable, though understandably biased towards military aspects, given the title. There are nice animated accounts of the major battles, some narrated and including video footage (though as always this is too small to be of any use), and there are brief biography screens of the major Parliamentary and Royalists figures. The biographies of Charles I and Cromwell are much more useful, providing relatively detailed narrative with some useful analysis. How much more useful then if it could be copied and used by the student. The section about the arms and tactics of the armies is good, for a change making effective use of video footage to illustrate the points. There are a number of interesting and informative eye-witness accounts of various aspects of the war (which again cannot be copied), and some verbal narratives by experts in various fields The `Life in Civil War England' section includes an account of the fate of each man who enlisted in a single Shropshire village, a number of pieces of contemporary music (which play while the disc is in use) and a number of contemporary woodcuts, some of which are illustrated here. So what does all this add up to? The disc claims to be `a comprehensive survey of the Military, Social, Economic, Political and Religious aspects of the English Civil War.' I would quibble with use of the word `comprehensive', but the coverage is certainly reasonable enough for an introduction to the subJect, and more detailed than many other discs However, the two major claims to innovation made by Cromwell Productions are the extensive use of video footage and the inclusion of Gardiner's complete text, and it is here that the disc fails The CD contains large amounts of footage from the video that is available separately, and most of it is played in such a pitifully small window that you wonder why they bothered

The text of Gardiner is a baffling addition -- classic it may be, but it is also extremely dull However, Cromwell have obviously recognised this since it is presented as a series of difficult-to-read pages, presumably scanned from, an original copy (and therefore excitingly authentic -- not! …

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