The best English Civil War books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about the English Civil War and why they recommend each book.

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Grand Quarrel

By Roger Hudson,

Book cover of Grand Quarrel: Women's Memoirs of the English Civil War

A compilation of memoirs and letters by six women from the English Civil War. Immersed in research for a novel, I was up to my ears in pamphlets and battlefields, troop movements, and religious schism; I opened The Grand Quarrel and began reading Brilliana, Lady Harley’s letters to her son at Oxford. (‘I have sent you some juice of liquorice, which you may keep to make use of, if you should have a cold.’)The past was suddenly refreshed.

Grand Quarrel

By Roger Hudson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This work draws together the memoirs of women involved in the English Civil War, on both sides. The accounts of wives and daughters provide an insight into women's experiences of the time for general reader and historian alike. They include the Duchess of Newcastle (who has been called "the first English woman writer") on her husband's role at the battle of Marston Moor in 1644; royalist Lucy Hutchinson, whose writing has the immediacy of a diary; Ann Fanshawe's memoirs of 1676, written so a son could know a father killed in battle (and valued by Virginia Woolf for their "candour…

Who am I?

I dig deep for research for my novels and am entranced by history. It is the soil we grow from; without a sense of history, we have shallow roots. Many history books, however, are academic and tedious. Accounts by living witnesses – from interviews, letters, diaries – bring the past to life with vivid detail.


I wrote...

The Redeemed: The West Country Trilogy

By Tim Pears,

Book cover of The Redeemed: The West Country Trilogy

What is my book about?

It is 1916. The world has gone to war, and young Leo Sercombe, hauling coal aboard the HMS Queen Mary, is a long way from home. The wild, unchanging West Country roads of his boyhood seem very far away from life aboard a battlecruiser -- a universe of well-oiled steel, of smoke and spray and sweat, where death seems never more than a heartbeat away.

By Love Divided

By Elizabeth St.John,

Book cover of By Love Divided

I have a passion for the 17th century and this novel based on actual diaries and letters from IRL people living through the realities of the English Civil War is a favourite. Ms. St. John writes about her own ancestors, and she imbues her characters with so much life, so many contrary opinions. These are difficult times, and especially for mother Lucy St. John whose son is a through-and-through royalist while daughter Luce is head-over-heels in love with Parliamentarian John Hutchinson. Luce is utterly fascinating: intelligent and with a passion to truly reform, she never loses her humanity or her ability for compassion. This novel is a real treat for anyone desiring well-researched historical fiction – with the added benefit of having a spoonful or two of love to complicate things! 

By Love Divided

By Elizabeth St.John,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

”A fantastic read." Editor’s Choice, Historical Novel Society

London, 1630. Widowed and destitute, Lucy St.John is fighting for survival and makes a terrible choice to secure a future for her children. Worse still, her daughter Luce rejects the royal court and a wealthy arranged marriage, and falls in love with a charismatic soldier. As England tumbles toward bloody civil war, Luce’s beloved brother Allen chooses to fight for the king as a cavalier. Allen and Luce are swept up in the chaos of war as they defend their opposing causes and protect those they love.

Will war unite or divide…

Who am I?

Give me a castle ruin or guide me through ancient Roman mosaics and you make my day. Accordingly, my preferred reading is historical fiction. I read (and review) lots of it, like 100 books/year. I am also ridiculously romantic. I want there to be some heart with the blood and war, I want characters I can root for despite the horrifying odds facing them. I want protagonists that step out of the past to drag me back with them. When I read, these are the books I choose. When I write, these are the books I aspire to create—Romantic Historical Fiction, if you will.


I wrote...

In the Shadow of the Storm

By Anna Belfrage,

Book cover of In the Shadow of the Storm

What is my book about?

Adam de Guirande is Baron Roger Mortimer’s man through and through. So when Mortimer rebels, what can Adam do but ride with him? Unfortunately, a failed rebellion comes with a heavy cost and Edward II is feeling especially vindictive. Adam can only watch as his beloved lord is hauled off to captivity, and as to himself, well, he can already hear the hammering on the gallows. 

Ultimately, only one person can save Adam, but is his wife willing to risk it all for him?

The King's General

By Daphne du Maurier,

Book cover of The King's General

Set in Cornwall, before and during the Civil War, this is a terrific tale based upon the lives of real people—most notably, perhaps, Sir Richard Grenville the King’s General in the West. It’s the story of the Rashleigh Family and Menabilly—where Daphne du Maurier herself lived.

Well written as one would expect of du Maurier—it’s a beautiful story, beautifully told; absorbing, exciting and hard to put down.

The King's General

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The King's General as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspired by a grisly discovery in the nineteenth century, The King's General was the first of du Maurier's novels to be written at Menabilly, the model for Manderley in Rebecca. Set in the seventeenth century, it tells the story of a country and a family riven by civil war, and features one of fiction's most original heroines. Honor Harris is only eighteen when she first meets Richard Grenvile, proud, reckless - and utterly captivating. But following a riding accident, Honor must reconcile herself to a life alone. As Richard rises through the ranks of the army, marries and makes enemies,…

Who am I?

I am the author of sixteen novels—six of them set in the mid-seventeenth century. The English Civil Wars and their aftermath is a period very close to my heartcombining as it does fascinating personalities, incredibly complicated politics, and all the drama and bloodshed of civil conflict. My greatest pleasure has been finding and featuring real men whose names are now largely forgotten.


I wrote...

The Black Madonna

By Stella Riley,

Book cover of The Black Madonna

What is my book about?

The Black Madonna is the first in my five book series set against the English Civil Wars. It takes place between 1639 and 1645 and is told largely through the eyes of the Maxwell family; Richard, Member of Parliament, his son, Eden, a soldier in the Parliamentary army, and his daughter, Kate, from their home in Oxfordshire. But it is also told from the perspective of Luciano del Santi, an Italian goldsmith in love with Richard’s daughter whilst pursuing a revenge quest through a war-torn land.

The Black Madonna is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree.

The Children of the New Forest

By Frederick Marryat,

Book cover of The Children of the New Forest

First published in 1847, the writing style seems somewhat ponderous these days. I read it when I was about twelve—and this is where I discovered the English Civil War. It begins in 1647 and tells the story of four children who, their home burned by Parliamentary soldiers, flee to hide in the forest during a time of danger, persecution, and war. Its bias is unashamedly Royalist but that isn’t necessarily a flaw.

The Children of the New Forest

By Frederick Marryat,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

Who am I?

I am the author of sixteen novels—six of them set in the mid-seventeenth century. The English Civil Wars and their aftermath is a period very close to my heartcombining as it does fascinating personalities, incredibly complicated politics, and all the drama and bloodshed of civil conflict. My greatest pleasure has been finding and featuring real men whose names are now largely forgotten.


I wrote...

The Black Madonna

By Stella Riley,

Book cover of The Black Madonna

What is my book about?

The Black Madonna is the first in my five book series set against the English Civil Wars. It takes place between 1639 and 1645 and is told largely through the eyes of the Maxwell family; Richard, Member of Parliament, his son, Eden, a soldier in the Parliamentary army, and his daughter, Kate, from their home in Oxfordshire. But it is also told from the perspective of Luciano del Santi, an Italian goldsmith in love with Richard’s daughter whilst pursuing a revenge quest through a war-torn land.

The Black Madonna is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree.

A History of Pi

By Petr Beckmann,

Book cover of A History of Pi

The number Pi, of course, has no history; like any other number, it is what it is and exists outside of time and space. But the human understanding of Pi has a rich history indeed, beginning with the discovery that the circumference of a circle is more than three times, but less than four times, its radius. The centuries brought better estimates, better ways of discovering new estimates, the discovery that Pi is irrational, the recognition that it has a habit of popping up in areas of mathematics that appear to have nothing to do with circles, and a slew of curious and beautiful formulas like this one.

Of course, a lot of other things were happening during those centuries, not all of them mathematical. Beckmann has not failed to notice this. His fascination with pretty much everything comes alive as he uses the history of Pi as a…

A History of Pi

By Petr Beckmann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The history of pi, says the author, though a small part of the history of mathematics, is nevertheless a mirror of the history of man. Petr Beckmann holds up this mirror, giving the background of the times when pi made progress -- and also when it did not, because science was being stifled by militarism or religious fanaticism.


Who am I?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about things like why there is something instead of nothing, why we can remember the past but not the future, and how consciousness arises. Although I’m a professor of economics, I take such things seriously enough to have published some papers in philosophy journals, and even a whole book about philosophy called The Big Questions. These are some of the books that sharpened my thinking, inspired me to think more deeply, and convinced me that good writing can render deep ideas both accessible and fun.


I wrote...

Can You Outsmart an Economist?

By Steven E. Landsburg,

Book cover of Can You Outsmart an Economist?

What is my book about?

Can you outsmart an economist? Steven Landsburg, an acclaimed author and professor of economics, dares you to try. In this whip-smart, entertaining, and entirely unconventional economics primer, he brings together over one hundred puzzles and brain teasers that illustrate the subject’s key concepts and pitfalls. From warm-up exercises to get your brain working, to logic and probability problems, to puzzles covering more complex topics like inferences, strategy, and irrationality, Can You Outsmart an Economist? will show you how to do just that by expanding the way you think about decision-making and problem-solving. Let the games begin!

Witchfinder General

By Ronald Bassett,

Book cover of Witchfinder General

Matthew Hopkins, the self-appointed Witchfinder General, was one of the most venal and vicious Englishmen to ever live. This is a brutal novel, a veritable catalogue of horror, but a necessary lesson in man’s inhumanity and corruption. There is an authenticity here that will but ice in your marrow. 

Witchfinder General

By Ronald Bassett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

1643. England is at war with itself.

While bitter battles rage between King and Parliament, local magistrates have more power, and less accountability, than ever before.

Taking advantage of the tense atmosphere and lax prosecution procedures, Matthew Hopkins, an insignificant lawyer and self-appointed Witchfinder General, travels across East Anglia accusing the aged, the confused and the poor of satanic crimes against their neighbours.

With every innocent death, his purse grows heavier, as he satisfies his lust for power.

But his dealings with one particular young woman make him a powerful enemy in the form of Ralph Margery – a captain…


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by dark fiction since I discovered Edgar Allan Poe at the age of ten. I don’t know why I like to immerse myself in such troubling worlds, perhaps, by experiencing the worst of human nature vicariously, these texts give us the opportunity to really get to grips with who we are as people and what we are capable of. I’ve written eight works of fiction. Wuthering Heights has captivated me, and I've always been fascinated by the two mysterious holes in the narrative: where is Heathcliff from? And where does he go when he is missing for three years? I wrote a book, Ill Will, that attempts to answer these questions.


I wrote...

Ill Will

By Michael Stewart,

Book cover of Ill Will

What is my book about?

I am William Lee: brute; liar, and graveside thief. But you will know me by another name. 

Heathcliff has left Wuthering Heights, and is travelling across the moors to Liverpool in search of his past. Along the way, he saves Emily, the foul-mouthed daughter of a Highwayman, from a whipping, and the pair journey on together. Roaming from graveyard to graveyard, making a living from Emily’s apparent ability to commune with the dead, the pair lie, cheat and scheme their way across the North of England. And towards the terrible misdeeds – and untold riches – that will one day send Heathcliff home to Wuthering Heights.

The Stranger Prince

By Margaret Irwin,

Book cover of The Stranger Prince: The Story of Rupert of the Rhine

I first read this in my teens and was utterly blown away. It tells the story of the young Prince Rupert of the Rhine, most famous for fighting for his uncle, King Charles the First in the English Civil Wars. I knew little about “Roundheads and Cavaliers” at the time but had the vague idea that cavaliers were silly dandies with long hair who deserved to lose, and that Rupert was a mere mercenary desperate to make money out of someone else’s war. The Rupert of this beautifully written and impeccably researched novel is so much moredashing, yes, and fascinated by war, but also skilled, thoughtful, honourable, loyal, and unexpectedly vulnerable to those he loves. I believed in Ms. Irwin’s Rupert utterly. After my own studies, I still do.

The Stranger Prince

By Margaret Irwin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Story of Rupert of the Rhine

Who am I?

I’m a Scottish writer of historical fiction and historical romance. I’m also a history graduate with imagination, by which I mean I’m as interested in what might have happened as what definitely did! So much of history is open to interpretation, taking account of who wrote what for whom, and why, and that is a large part of what fascinates me. And of course, I love a good historical novel that combines compelling writing with excellent research—especially when a controversial hero is shown in a new or captivating light.


I wrote...

A Prince to be Feared: The Love Story of Vlad Dracula

By Mary Lancaster,

Book cover of A Prince to be Feared: The Love Story of Vlad Dracula

What is my book about?

Europe’s most fearsome prisoner, Vlad Dracula, gifted military commander and one time Prince of Wallachia, the notorious Lord Impaler himself, is about to be released after twelve long years, in order to hold back the tide of Ottoman aggression. The price of his new alliance with his Hungarian captors is the king’s cousin Ilona. Ilona does not wish to be married. In particular, she doesn’t wish to marry Vlad. Gentle, faded and impossibly vague, Ilona is hardly fit for court life, let alone for dealing with so difficult a husband. But Ilona’s wishes have nothing to do with Vlad’s reputation and everything to do with a lifelong love affair that finally broke her. 

The Manningtree Witches

By A. K. Blakemore,

Book cover of The Manningtree Witches

Based on the Essex witch hunts during the English Civil War in 1644, this is so much more than a historical novel. The writing is poetic and fierce, the emotions riveting and unexpectedly moving. And our heroine, clever Rebecca West faces the danger of simply being a low-born, impoverished woman when ‘The Witchfinder General’ (a real historical figure) launches a patriarchal inquisition to ‘clean up’ society. How will Rebecca learn to protect both herself and her cantankerous mother in a cruel world hungry to claim marginalized women as scapegoats? Betrayal and heartbreak, solidarity, and mercy are all brought to vivid, unforgettable life in this literary gem.  

The Manningtree Witches

By A. K. Blakemore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Wolf Hall meets The Favourite in this beguiling debut novel that brilliantly brings to life the residents of a small English town in the grip of the seventeenth-century witch trials and the young woman tasked with saving them all from themselves.
 
"This is an intimate portrait of a clever if unworldly heroine who slides from amused observation of the 'moribund carnival atmosphere' in the household of a 'possessed' child to nervous uncertainty about the part in the proceedings played by her adored tutor to utter despair as a wagon carts her off to prison." —Alida Becker, The New York Times…

Who am I?

As an author and activist, I use fiction as a way of exploring social issues which mean a lot to me. As a woman of color, that means writing protagonists who encounter sexism, racism, class, and geographic inequality—but who combat those injustices in inventive and heroic ways. For me, the story is always about being human: trying to understand why a character acts a certain way in a certain situation. After all, aren’t we all trying to pursue our own desires against a backdrop of societal expectations? A good storywhether fiction or non-fictionbrings these conflicts to emotional, vivid life, and roots them in a reality we can all relate to. 


I wrote...

Complicit

By Winnie M. Li,

Book cover of Complicit

What is my book about?

After a long-buried incident, a woman whose promising film career was derailed has an opportunity for revenge in this visceral and timely thriller about power, privilege, and justice.

A mystery set in the world of filmmaking, Complicit owes much to the stories that emerged in the #MeToo movement. But I also wanted to channel my own experiences working in the film industry as a young woman—and as a sexual violence survivor, who has done a lot of thinking and consulting on how we tell these kinds of stories in the media. Complicit captures the magic of moviemaking, the supposed fun and glamour of Hollywood, while questioning how our moral compass becomes warped by ambition, when our workplaces are already such an unequal playing field.

Britain in Revolution

By Austin Woolrych,

Book cover of Britain in Revolution: 1625-1660

This is an integrated and detailed account of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms across Britain and Ireland, the English Republic and the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. It is written in an engaging and lively style and concisely integrates the large body of scholarship that emerged with the new British histories in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Britain in Revolution

By Austin Woolrych,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the definitive history of the English Civil War, set in its full historical context from the accession of Charles I to the Restoration of Charles II. These were the most turbulent years of British history and their reverberations have been felt down the centuries. Throughout the middle decades of the seventeenth century England, Scotland, and Ireland were convulsed by political upheaval and wracked by rebellion and civil war. The Stuart monarchy was in
abeyance for twenty years in all three kingdoms, and Charles I famously met his death on the scaffold.

Austin Woolrych breathes life back into the…

Who am I?

I am an academic historian who has had a passion for the wars of the three kingdoms for over three decades. I have been reading books about the civil wars in Britain and Ireland since I was ten years old. I have been a member of the re-enactment society The Sealed Knot and the Cromwell Association. I published my first monograph on the wars of the three kingdoms in 2018. The monograph views the conflict from a three kingdoms perspective through the eyes of the Scottish Covenanters and their English allies. I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


I wrote...

The Solemn League and Covenant of the Three Kingdoms and the Cromwellian Union, 1643-1663

By Kirsteen MacKenzie,

Book cover of The Solemn League and Covenant of the Three Kingdoms and the Cromwellian Union, 1643-1663

What is my book about?

This book provides the first major analysis of the covenanted interest from an integrated three kingdoms perspective. It examines the reaction of the covenanted interest to the actions and policies of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, drawing particular attention to links, similarities, and differences in and between the covenanted interest in all three kingdoms. It also follows the fortunes of the covenanted interest and Presbyterian Church government as it built and changed in response to the Royalists and the Independents during the 1650s.

They Were Defeated

By Rose Macaulay,

Book cover of They Were Defeated: The Classic Novel Set in the Reign of King Charles I

I first read They Were Defeated over thirty years ago, and recently reread to see if it had the power to move me still today. It does. Set in 1641, in Devonshire and Cambridge at the very brink of the Civil War, it reads like a love letter to a lost world, where the poets and Platonists are illuminated in already fading light, beautifully and tenderly observed. Rose Macaulay wrote that she had done her best "to make no person in this work use in conversation any word, phrase or idiom" not used at the time. "Ghosts of words," she calls them, after Thomas Browne. An astonishing feat in the pre-digital age. Yet the language of her ghosts is clear and true and natural. And the still moment, at the very heart of her heart-breaking story, transcends the factions that surround it and stays fixed for all time. This is…

They Were Defeated

By Rose Macaulay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THEY WERE DEFEATED begins in 1640 at a harvest festival - but religious persecution is in the air, and the idyllic rural scene is soon darkened by the threat of a witch hunt...Rose Macaulay interweaves the lives of Robert Herrick and other contemporary poets with those of a small group of fictional characters. Their lives, and in particular the life of her heroine Julian, are set vividly before us against a period which was one of the most dramatic and unsetttled in English history. Skilfully intertwining tragedy, comedy and beauty, THEY WERE DEFEATED was Rose Macaulay's only historical novel, and…

Who am I?

The Hew Cullan stories are historical crime fiction set at the university of St Andrews, Scotland, in the late sixteenth century. I was a student at St Andrews in the 1980s and now live nearby in the East Neuk of Fife, where the imprint of the town and its surrounding landscapes have remained unchanged since medieval times. What interests me most in writing of the past is how people thought and felt, lived and died and dreamt, and I have chosen books which capture that sense of the inner life, of a moment that belongs to a single time and place, and make it true and permanent.


I wrote...

Queen & Country: A Hew Cullan Mystery

By Shirley McKay,

Book cover of Queen & Country: A Hew Cullan Mystery

What is my book about?

1587. Three years after his enforced departure to London, Hew is reconciled with King James VI and recalled to Scotland. He elopes to St Andrews with a young Englishwoman. The death of Mary, Queen of Scots has unleashed a wave of anti-English sentiment among the Scottish people, and fear and confusion in the king himself. James will grant his blessing to their controversial marriage on the condition that Hew discovers what lies behind a painting cunningly contrived to prick the young king's conscience. Meanwhile in St Andrews, the death of a painter is troubling to Giles Locke, and the English Frances, struggling to adapt to a foreign town and culture, helps Hew find the link among the artists and intriguers of opposing courts, a quest for love—and life.

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