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The Wars of the Roses: Peace and Conflict in Fifteenth-Century England

3.52  ·  Rating Details  ·  94 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
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 battle ...more
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published 1981 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson
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Oct 19, 2015 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 demo ...more
Kristopher Swinson
Feb 22, 2009 Kristopher Swinson rated it liked it
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 o
Sep 09, 2015 Nancy rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Kenneth Sherman
Dec 27, 2012 Kenneth Sherman rated it it was amazing
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 an ...more
Dec 19, 2011 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Chris Steeden
'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 (fi
May 12, 2015 Toni rated it it was amazing
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
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
Aug 31, 2015 richard mills rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good summary

This 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.
Oct 29, 2015 Diana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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.
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 th ...more
Jun 11, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Endeavour Press
This book is published by Endeavour Press.
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  • The Wars of the Roses: Through the Lives of Five Men and Women of the Fifteenth Century
  • The Wars of the Roses
  • Fatal Colours
  • Edward IV
  • Bosworth 1485: The Battle that Transformed England
  • Richard III and the Murder in the Tower
  • Richard and John: Kings at War
  • Richard III and the Princes in the Tower
  • Warwick the Kingmaker
  • The Wars of the Roses: England's First Civil War
  • The Hollow Crown
  • Richard III: The Maligned King
  • The Rise of the Tudors: The Family That Changed English History
  • Richard III
  • The Life and Times of Richard III (Kings and Queens of England)
  • The Last Days of Richard III
  • The Plantagenet Chronicles 1154-1485: Richard the Lionheart, Richard II, Henry V, Richard III
  • Henry VIII
John Gillingham is emeritus professor of medieval history at the London School of Economics and Political Science. On the 19th July 2007 he was elected into the Fellowship of the British Academy

He is renowned as an expert on the Angevin empire.
More about John Gillingham...

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