Sarah Bryson's Reviews > The Wars of the Roses: The Key Players in the Struggle for Supremacy

The Wars of the Roses by Matthew  Lewis
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it was amazing

Matthew Lewis’ book has to be one of the best books on the Wars of the Roses that I have ever read. I went into the book having some previous knowledge of the Wars of the Roses but I openly admit I did not know who all of the players, events or battles were. (Let’s face it, spanning well over thirty years the Wars of the Roses can be quite confusing at times with multiple Kings, people and even a whole country involved!) Matthew Lewis’ book was clear, concise and brilliantly written. I was able to read through the events of the Wars of the Roses to gain a deeper understanding of not only what was happening at the time, but also the motives behind decisions that ultimately changed the course of English history.

Lewis book is not simply a retelling of the events of the Wars of the Roses it is an experience to be relived. From the very start of this book I was captivated. The first two sentences of the book depict such vivid imagery and set a detailed tone that is carried throughout the rest of the book. Lewis does not just write about the Wars of the Roses he paints the most lucid, life like scenes that unfolded as each sentence is read and create the most amazing, breathtaking and sometimes horrific images of real life events.

As the title suggests Lewis works though the events of the Wars of the Roses in an orderly manner, detailing the major players of the later 15th century as well as people and events that sometimes get overlooked. By providing information about people and events not commonly written about the reader is able to gain a greater understanding of one of England’s most turbulent periods of history.
The detail which Lewis provides within his book is just astounding and it is evidence of a great wealth of research to ensure that all the events and players within the Wars of the Roses are explored and detailed. It was simply fascinating to learn the deeper reasons as to why people during this time period made the decisions they did. It is clear that Lewis delved deeper in his research to not just provide the facts but to explore each player’s reasoning behind their actions. I also greatly appreciated that when no clear reason as to why a decision or action was made Lewis provides several possible theories. He appreciates the reader’s intelligence and allows them to make up their own mind, rather than forcing an idea or opinion upon them.

The Wars of the Roses is often considered to be a battle between Lancaster and York, starting in 1455 and ending at the Battle of Bosworth when Henry Tudor claimed the throne. Yet Lewis shows that tensions were simmering long before this date and by no means ended with the new Tudor King. Lewis provides in depth details as to the events that led up to Richard, Duke of York’s claim to the throne as well as the many perceived threats that even King Henry VIII felt long into his reign. While it seems easy to reduce the Wars of the Roses into a nice, neat thirty year time frame, this is simply not the case and Lewis does a marvellous job of detailing events before and after this time period.

At the end of his book Lewis leaves the reader with one final thought: “In the absence of irrefutable evidence you can only make up your own mind, but do so without centuries of prejudice and reach a conclusion dimly illuminated by those facts that we do have.” (Lewis 2015, p. 279). This I feel is perhaps one of the most important ideas to take away from his book. There are many events and decisions that were made during the Wars of the Roses that we in modern times simply do not have any hard evidence to explain why they happened. A classic example of this being who killed the Princes in the Tower? There is no secret diary, no parliament record or document to state who killed the Princes or if they were killed at all. The only conclusions that can be drawn are based upon examining the scant pieces of evidence available to us. This of course means that each person’s natural bias comes into play.

Lewis also stated on social media that two people can look at the very same piece of evidence and draw two completely different conclusions. This is how the Wars of the Roses can be understood and it is vital that the author does not impose their own personal biases into a book. Lewis has steered away from this, providing the details of what is known while offering suggestions as to what might have happened but ultimately leaving the reader to make up their own mind based on the known facts.

I absolutely adored Matthew Lewis’ book on the Wars of the Roses. It is one of the very best books on this period of history that I have ever read. It was well written, thoroughly researched and provides the reader with a wealth of information. Not only would I recommend this book, but I would also strongly urge everyone to get a copy of Lewis’ book and read it immediately!

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
March 9, 2017 – Shelved

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