The best books on the Wars of the Roses from a historian and author

Who am I?

I write historical fiction some of which is set during the Wars of the Roses - a period that has always fascinated me. My two series, Rebels and Brothers & the Craft of Kings span the whole topic. But underlying the fiction there is a wealth of knowledge because I have studied or taught about this period for the best part of fifty years. I have also produced in recent years over forty podcasts on the subject which have been very well received by listeners – including students currently wrestling with the sometimes labyrinthine complexities of the topic. 


I wrote...

Feud

By Derek Birks,

Book cover of Feud

What is my book about?

As the Wars of the Roses begin, the rule of law breaks down... In 1459 open war breaks out between the Houses of York and Lancaster and a desperate struggle for the crown of England begins. Yet, while the fire of civil war burns, an old local score is being settled in the heart of Yorkshire.

Young and untried knight, Ned Elder, finds himself at the centre of a bitter feud when his father is executed, his brother butchered and his sisters abducted. Ned barely escapes with his life and is pursued across the land with only a few loyal companions. Determined to find his sisters, recover his lands and put an end to the feud, Ned is forced to take sides in the civil war. He soon gains a formidable reputation in the Yorkist army of young Edward, Earl of March, but the path he must follow is brutal for his enemies are relentless and will show no mercy.

The books I picked & why

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The Wars of the Roses

By John Gillingham,

Book cover of The Wars of the Roses

Why this book?

Where to start? There are so many books but John Gillingham’s study of the Wars of the Roses, though published many years ago is still in my view the best overall account. Why? Because this is a topic where contradictory views abound yet this author manages to bring some common sense to his analysis. It cuts through many of the current – and older – myths on this subject. It is also a very good read and covers the whole period very well. Anyone starting to explore this subject should try to unearth a copy of this work.

The Wars of the Roses

By John Gillingham,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Wars of the Roses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frequently remembered as a period of military history which both saw the French beat the English and then the English fight amongst themselves, traditional military historians have tended to pass over the period hastily, regarding it as an episode that wrecked England's military greatness. John Gillingham's highly readable history separates the myth from the reality. He argues that, paradoxically, the Wars of the Roses demonstrate how peaceful England in fact was. From the accession of the infant Henry VI to the thrones of England and France in 1422 to the accession of Henry VII following the Battle of Bosworth in…


Edward IV (The English Monarchs Series)

By Charles Ross,

Book cover of Edward IV (The English Monarchs Series)

Why this book?

Like Gillingham’s book, it was published decades ago yet it is still the best overall work on Edward IV. Ross manages to give the reader a clear picture of this king and the tumultuous events in which he played a pivotal role. It is a balanced, thoughtful account which is ideal for a newcomer to the subject.

Edward IV (The English Monarchs Series)

By Charles Ross,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Edward IV (The English Monarchs Series) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his own time Edward IV was seen as an able and successful king who rescued England from the miseries of civil war and provided the country with firm, judicious, and popular government. The prejudices of later historians diminished this high reputation, until recent research confirmed Edward as a ruler of substantial achievement, whose methods and policies formed the foundation of early Tudor government. This classic study by Charles Ross places the reign firmly in the context of late medieval power politics, analyzing the methods by which a usurper sought to retain his throne and reassert the power of a…


The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family

By Susan Higginbotham,

Book cover of The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family

Why this book?

Despite the prominence of the Woodville family throughout the Wars of the Roses, there are few books about any of them. Often references to them are lifted from dubious and unsubstantiated sources and repeated on the internet and, I’m afraid, elsewhere too, as fact. Few scholars of the period have really given the family close scrutiny but that is what Susan Higginbotham has done. She has truly lifted a veil from the Woodvilles and her book is essential reading for anyone who wants an unbiased take on this very important group of people.

The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family

By Susan Higginbotham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Woodvilles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1464, the most eligible bachelor in England, Edward IV, stunned the nation by revealing his secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, a beautiful, impoverished widow whose father and brother Edward himself had once ridiculed as upstarts. Edward's controversial match brought his queen's large family to court and into the thick of the Wars of the Roses.

This is the story of the family whose fates would be inextricably intertwined with the fall of the Plantagenets and the rise of the Tudors: Richard, the squire whose marriage to a duchess would one day cost him his head; Jacquetta, mother to the…


Richard III and the Princes in the Tower

By A.J. Pollard,

Book cover of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower

Why this book?

There are so many books about these two boys that one could be forgiven for not reading any of them. But, if you are going to read one make it this one. Pollard knows what he is talking about because he has a background of authoritative historical study second to none. What you’ll find in this book is as near as anyone is going to get to a balanced account. Forget all the dark myths and whitewashes of Richard III and just read this book.

Richard III and the Princes in the Tower

By A.J. Pollard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Richard III and the Princes in the Tower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard III has divided opinion for over 500 years. Traditionally, he has been perceived as a villain, a bloody tyrant and the monstrous murderer of his innocent nephews. To others he was and remains a wronged victim who did his best for kingdom and family, a noble prince and enlightened statesman tragically slain. This work explores the story of Richard III and the tales that have been woven around the historic events, and discusses his life and reign and the disappearance of the princes in the tower. It also assesses the original sources upon which much of the "history" is…


Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors

By Chris Skidmore,

Book cover of Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors

Why this book?

The Battle of Bosworth was a defining point – arguably, the defining point of the period and there have been many books written about it. This is as good as any and better than most. Skidmore gives a comprehensive context for and account of the battle. The book was published in 2013 so it takes into account much of the recent archaeological work which has been done to locate and describe the battlefield itself. It is a very useful guide indeed because, though Skidmore analyses possibilities where evidence is hard to come by, he does not stray into the realms of fantasy.

Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors

By Chris Skidmore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bosworth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard III and Henry Tudor's legendary battle: one that changed the course of English history.

On the morning of 22 August 1485, in fields several miles from Bosworth, two armies faced each other, ready for battle. The might of Richard III's army was pitted against the inferior forces of the upstart pretender to the crown, Henry Tudor, a 28-year-old Welshman who had just arrived back on British soil after 14 years in exile. Yet this was to be a fight to the death - only one man could survive; only one could claim the throne.

It would become one of…


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