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Stephen and Matilda's Civil War: Cousins of Anarchy
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Stephen and Matilda's Civil War: Cousins of Anarchy

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  36 ratings  ·  20 reviews
The Anarchy was the first civil war in post-Conquest England, enduring throughout the reign of King Stephen between 1135 and 1154. It ultimately brought about the end of the Norman dynasty and the birth of the mighty Plantagenet kings. When Henry I died having lost his only legitimate son in a shipwreck, he had caused all of his barons to swear to recognize his daughter Ma ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 8th 2020 by Pen and Sword History (first published January 19th 2020)
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Maja  - BibliophiliaDK ✨

Usually, I write my reviews with a list of good and bad things about the book in question. Sadly, I cannot do that with this one. Nothing jumped out at me as either good or bad. Nothing stood out. It didn't capture my attention. It was not bad in any way - it's just not a book I am going to remember a week from today.

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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Rebecca Hill
The Civil War between Stephen and Matilda has long captivated historians and readers alike. Cousins fighting over who the crown truly belonged to - and the issues of a woman being on the throne - makes for captivating reading.
This book is no different, and you are going to get sucked in from the beginning! Get ready for the best game of thrones you will ever read!

On the death of King Henry I, the throne should have passed to Matilda, his daughter. While she was not the first choice, she was wh
Joanna Arman
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Stephen and Matilda's Civil War (formerly entitled Cousins of Anarchy) was an excellent and very engaging popular history of the 12th century conflict often known as 'the Anarchy'. The protagonists were two grandchildren of William the Conqueror, Matilda (AKA Empress Maud) and King Stephen. The period of course, made famous in the Cadfael series.

For readers who know nothing about the period, this book is an excellent choice. It doesn't go into as much depth as some, but is more a summary of key
Again, this is not a period that I have come into blindly - and have a number of books on the subject matter on my own books shelves. What I found in Lewis' book, with his alternating chapters between Stephen and Matilda, was a more balanced history of this turbulent period.

What he also stresses that whilst this period was called The Anarchy - he questions whether this is correct - did this period between the death of Henry I (1153) and the accession of Henry II (1154) - see a complete and total
Jun 11, 2021 rated it liked it
interesting detailed book looking at both sides of this civil war and if there was really was any anarchy overall and looks at all the historical records and the reasons why this period had been overlooked by historians
Nemo Nemo
Apr 03, 2020 rated it liked it

Matthew Lewis was born in England. He obtained a law degree, but history has always been his passion. He has authored numerous historical books, both fiction and non-fiction. You can find his blog here, his Facebook page here, his Goodreads page here, and his Twitter page here.


This book is best suited for historians, students of medieval history or anyone who enjoys learning about the English ancient ruling class.


Stephen and Matilda's Civil War is t
Heidi Malagisi
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Civil wars between cousins have had many names in the past, notably in England, the Wars of the Roses. However, there was a civil war that pre-dates the colorful contest known as The Anarchy. Two cousins fighting against one another from the throne of England, but what makes this contest unique was the main protagonists caught in the middle. One was the only legitimate child of King Henry I, Empress Matilda. The other was Henry I’s favorite nephew, Stephen of Blois. This conflict stretched for d ...more
Stephen and Matilda's Civil War by Matthew Lewis is an interesting book and is very well researched. As the author pointed out near the beginning of the book, it can be confusing at times to keep everyone straight but by going slowly and keeping notes (I know, I'm a nerd making notes and family trees), the confusion can be kept to a minimum. If only people consulted a baby names book instead of "honoring" people by naming their children after them! One would think there were only 20 names or so ...more
Moniek Bloks
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When King Henry I of England died, he had just one living legitimate child - a daughter named Matilda. Although many had sworn an oath to accept her as his successor, it was instead her cousin Stephen who became King of England, leading to many warring years known as the Anarchy. It was a complex and difficult situation.

Matilda succeeded briefly in taking Stephen hostage but she never quite managed to claim the throne and become a Queen in her own right. This right would be reserved for a woman
Chris Stott
May 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
A good read, generally well written and pacey, simplifying some of the complexities that can make this period confusing. I'm not sure I fully buy in to Lewis' view of Stephen as a good, firm ruler, and there is (perhaps inevitably at this distance) a fair amount of speculation behind much of his 'evidence' for this approach, but you could do a lot worse than read this book for a punchy introduction to an obscure period in English history. ...more
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I think I have read about every book on the subject, but this, while not written by a historian, is a very original, very readable book with some refreshing insights, and liberated of the abundance of footnotes a real historian would need to use. Surprisingly clear for what is a very tumultuous and complicated part of England's history. ...more
Lynn A Baumann
Jun 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great portrayal of the Anarchy

The author gave a great detailed explanation of how the conflict between Stephen and Matilda started and how it evolved during 20 years. The resolution was described carefully. I gained a broader understanding of personalities and events through the best facts available for the time and beyond. A great read. Thank you. More p!ease.
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
When I wrote my underground thesis on Empress Matilda, there was only one biography on her. Since then, I've enjoyed seeing what new research comes out of Empress Matilda and the Anarchy period of medieval English history. This is a well researched contribution to the subject. ...more
Kieran O'connell
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fine well researched book
G. Lawrence
Mar 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Good, easy to read writing, well researched, and short, snappy chapters, so easy to absorb. Well done. Particularly liked the conclusion, that the Anarchy wasnt really an anarchy.
Pauline Calkin
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Stephen and Matilda engaged in a 19-year war known as the Anarchy to dispute the succession to the crown of England after the death of Henry I. Both were grandchildren of William the Conqueror, but Matilda was Henry’s only surviving legitimate child following the death of his son William in the White Ship disaster. Stephen was crowned king while Matilda delayed coming to England and never succeeded in having her claim sanctified with a coronation ceremony.

Matthew Lewis presents the history o
Amy  McElroy
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
The white ship disaster struck on 25 November 1120 killing William Adelin, the only legitimate son of King Henry I.
Matilda was left as the kings only heir and his death caused the civil war spanning 19 years between 1135 and 1154 known as The Anarchy.
Stephen, the son of Adela who was the daughter of William the conqueror was the cousin of Matilda through her father King Henry I who was a son of William the conqueror.

Upon the death of Henry I, Stephen had himself coronated  as king whilst Matilda
Dec 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a very good book.

The so-called Anarchy is a very confusing time, and it is not easy to make all that happened and all those involved in it accessible and understandable to a reader. Lewis, however, manages this. Even readers who do not have much background knowledge about the time should not be confused about who was who, who did what and why.

The book's greatest strength, however, is that it succeeds very well at being unbiased. Lewis favours neither Stephen nor Matilda over each other
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is excellent. Well written, researched, detailed and engaging. This book sheds light on a fascinating but rarely written about period of English history.
Nov 01, 2019 rated it liked it
A good look at the relationship and events between the two. Not chaptered into events or situations - alternates between the two with their side to the situation.
Charlie Fenton
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Matthew Lewis is the author of histories and historical fiction novels about Richard III and the Wars of the Roses. The medieval period is a particular passion of Matthew’s, a passion he hopes to share through his blog. He is dedicated to teaching and discussing this period, operating two history podcasts and providing bite-sized facts to his Twitter and Facebook following.

Lewis has degree in Law

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