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Fatal Colours: Towton 1461 - England's Most Brutal Battle
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Fatal Colours: Towton 1461 - England's Most Brutal Battle

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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  80 ratings  ·  24 reviews
The battle of Towton in 1461 was unique in its ferocity and brutality, as the armies of two kings of England engaged with murderous weaponry and in appalling conditions to conclude the first War of the Roses.


Variously described as the largest, longest, and bloodiest battle on English soil, Towton was fought with little chance of escape and none of surrender. Yet, as if too
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ebook, 288 pages
Published March 29th 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published March 1st 2011)
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'Aussie Rick'
Overall the author provided a decent and interesting account of this period in English history but to me failed in presenting enough information on the main topic of the book, the actual Battle of Towton in 1461. The book is just under 200 pages but only about 10-12 pages covers the fighting/battle of Towton so I was a bit disappointed with the book.

If you have read on the War of the Roses then this has nothing new really to offer. I was looking for a detailed description/account of this horrif
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Ruth
DH's cousin lives down the road from Towton, and all round the area there are bodies buried in graveyards from the battle. I understood that the battle was one of the deciding moments in English history, but I never understood why. Yes, I knew it was gruesome, but wasn't that the nature of medieval warfare?

Well, now I really do understand why Towton was such a schismatic event. The mental degeneration of a king, the rise of his consort as a power in her own right, the complexities of various com
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Les
It took me a while to get into this work but, in the end, I found it a gripping account of one of the most traumatic and bloody chapters in our country's history. Other readers found the description of the Battle of Towton quite sketchy and it's true it is only a small proportion of the book. But I think it is surely right to try to explain the events that led those men to be standing on that field in 1461. I also wonder how much source material you can expect to draw on for an event that happen ...more
Rosemary Prawdzik
The title of this book is misleading - it's less about the actual battle of Towton than it is about what political forces led to the battle of Towton. As an amateur Plantagenet historian, this is one of the best books I've read to understand what really caused the Cousins' War - later deemed the Wars of the Roses. The author goes into great depth to explain the forces in play after Henry V's death, leaving the kingdom inherited by his infant son Henry VI. It clarifies the roles of Henry V's brot ...more
Richard
This period of English history is a favourite of mine and I jumped at the chance to read about the lesser known, but highly important, Battle of Towton. It didn't quite change the course of history as the Battle of Bosworth did, but without Towton we may never have had Bosworth and therefore no Tudor dynasty, ete, etc. The trouble with this book is the battle accounted for only a few pages and the rest was a long and sometimes confusing build up. I have read a few books of this era but I struggl ...more
Susan
Apr 04, 2011 Susan marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This one looks good!
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
The nasty "scuffle" in the streets of St Albans was the day chivalry died and a bloody vendetta arose; the Wars of the Roses. As a lad from Oldham one would expect my loyalties to be with the red rose of Lancaster - after all, isn't there still a "friendly" rivalry between Lancashire and Yorkshire? But the truth is that it wasn't an East-West rivalry but North-South. Now there's a more ancient rivalry (and the house of Lancaster was the North!).
The causes of the Wars themselves lie in the establ
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Éowyn
Overall I thought this was a good book written in a very readable style. I've only given it 3 stars, however, as it does fall down in a number of ways.

First and foremost, the title of the book is a bit misleading. The Battle of Towton itself accounts for probably no more than a quarter of the text. I'm not saying the the rest of the book is bad, because it deals with the whole 'first half' of the Wars of the Roses and looks at how Henry VI's incapacity to rule (and the reasons for this) where in
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Andrew
The Battle of Towton was the bloodiest day in English History, 28,000 fatalities on a cold February day in 1461, which even rivals that of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. However, this was on English soil and was Englishmen against Englishmen. But this book isn't just about one battle, it describes the lead-up to the battle and the personalities of those on the opposing sides. Henry VI, Edward Earl of March (soon to be Edward IV), Warwick the Kingmaker. It also gives insight into the nature of ...more
Justin
Up to 75,000 men fought and as many as 28,000 died at Towton, the battle that ended the first War of the Roses between the Yorkists and Lancastrians. By comparison, no more than 45,000 men (probably far fewer) fought at Agincourt and less than 10,000 died. By the highest estimate, one-tenth of all male Englishmen and Welshmen between the ages of 16 and 60 were on the battlefield at Towton that day. Of 68 members of the peerage, 53 or 54 fought there. It may have seen the first use of composite l ...more
Stoic_quin
Interesting book - the battle itself is a chapter - but the analysis of how they got there is good. I do have some issues with the fact that of the 300 pages a fair chunk is appendix & index - c40 pages I'd guess.

It also has the feel of being the starter book for a series in the area - for instance a teaser makes reference to this being 'warricks battle' but it is a pretty good read as it stands.
Paul Foley
It was Henry VI's unfortunate lot to be cast into the role of king of England (and France). Unsuited and utterly unfit to rule, there were others who were all to eager to rule for him, or in his stead. George Goodwin has written a fine book on what happened when there was a power vacuum in the late medieval kingdom of England at a time when it needed a warrior king on the throne.

Goodwin manages to clarify what could be a confusingly tangled bit of history. He gives due attention to personalitie
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Margaret Sankey
Goodwin does a solid job outlining the political breakdown that led to the Battle of Towton in 1461, and the economic, social and religious pressures that put such huge numbers of men on the field, motivated them to fight for a particular king and then caused them to both fight to the death and eschew capture and ransom of enemies for large-scale killing. From old sources, like Vegetius via Christine de Pisan to new forensic information dug up by the licensed metal detectors of the Battlefield T ...more
Calum Spencer
An excellent read. The account of the battle takes up a surprisingly small amount of the book, the bulk of the text deals with putting the battle into its historical context, stemming from a failure of government (in the form of Henry VI)and loss of the French territories. The author also devotes time to the latest interpretations of the mental condition of Henry VI, making a good case for mental illness, and to the brutal aftermath of the battle - the descriptions of medieval hand-to-hand comba ...more
Sarah
This book is very well written. But, as some others have already stated this is not so much about The Battle of Towton as The Wars of the Roses. Only one chapter deals with the actual battle whilst the rest is context. I don't think there is anything that Goodwin's account really added to the many books already out there on the topic. Still it was an enjoyable enough read.
Robert
This book is more properly subtitled, 180 Pages of Background and Perhaps Six Pages on the Actual Battle. And, given the slimness of the book, perhaps additional space could have been allotted to maps throughout the book to assist those who aren't completely familiar with England, etc. A fascinating historical period - but a disappointing book.
Stephen
interesting read into the battle of Towton in north yorkshire which in relative terms was as bloody as the battle of the somme in 1916 and the events leading up to the battle from Richard II to Henry V's death to the ineffective reign of Henry VI
Jenifer Miller
An interesting take on a turbulent era. I liked that the author went into the personality clashes that helped lead to this awful battle. Recommended for anyone with an interest in the history of England during the late middle ages.
Deborah.C. Foulkes
This was really informative espcially being a local yokel. I loved it and would read again and again. The cover was also a selling point. I found it's gothicness appealing.
Luke O'Neill
Excellent, could only have been improved by having someone other than David Starkey doing the introduction. What a dull man.
Terra Palewicz


A refreshing book on the War of the Roses. I really enjoyed it. Especially the chilling chapter on the battle.
Tom
wonderful book. details culture, politics, society in mid 15c England
Richard
Well told tale of the Wars of the Roses.
Sheryl
Sheryl marked it as to-read
Nov 09, 2014
Dean Morgan
Dean Morgan marked it as to-read
Oct 27, 2014
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8474343
George's first two books are on British late medieval and early renaissance history. They culminate in major events of historic significance and he likes to lay out both the long-term and more immediate reasons for their eventual outcome with anecdotes and examples that aim to establish the characters of the main protagonists, and aims to do so without sacrificing historical accuracy.

George also s
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More about George Goodwin...
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