The best books on the Wars of the Roses

4 authors have picked their favorite books about the Wars of the Roses and why they recommend each book. Soon, you will be able to filter this list by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books.

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Book cover of The Wars of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses

By John Gillingham,

Why this book?

Prof Gillingham was my first PhD supervisor. (I got through a couple or more!) I have always tried to emulate not only the clarity of his writing but also his dry touches of humour and his eminent common sense; not for him the clever-silliness of many academics. All these virtues are on display here in this highly readable account of The Wars of the Roses, in which a complex conflict is rendered enjoyably accessible.
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Book cover of Edward IV (The English Monarchs Series)

Edward IV (The English Monarchs Series)

By Charles Ross,

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.

From the list:

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

Book cover of Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors

Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors

By Chris Skidmore,

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…

From the list:

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

Book cover of Blood and Roses: The Paston Family and the Wars of the Roses

Blood and Roses: The Paston Family and the Wars of the Roses

By Helen Castor,

Why this book?

When I started writing about Alice de Bryene, basing my initial research on a single year of household accounts, I found this book inspiring. I wanted to explore Dame Alice’s family, her relationships with the wider community, and get an idea of what motivated her, even though it’s considered impossible to write medieval biography – there are just too few primary sources to construct a life. However, Blood and Roses demonstrates it can be done. The Pastons were different from Dame Alice – they came from humbler origins, were determined to ascend the social ladder, maintained voluminous correspondence, which illuminated…
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Book cover of Kingmaker: Kingdom Come

Kingmaker: Kingdom Come

By Toby Clements,

Why this book?

Bit of a cheat: four books in one. Researching the Wars of the Roses can often mean separating fact from fiction. When it comes to historical fiction on the Wars, authors have a tendency to impose their own theories on the facts and to ladle on the violence. The Wars were horribly violent at times, without question, and Toby Clements’s dazzling novels, which follow the fortunes of two outcasts, Thomas and Katherine, do not shy away from that. But these novels also focus on the humanity caught up in great events, to unforgettable effect.

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Book cover of Henry - Book Three of the Tudor Trilogy

Henry - Book Three of the Tudor Trilogy

By Tony Riches,

Why this book?

Henry VII holds a special place in my heart, and I was hooked on Tony’s book immediately. It was so refreshing to read a historical novel on my favorite monarch. Tony truly brought Henry to life. Henry’s love not only for country but for his beloved wife was so beautifully described. I intend to read the rest of the trilogy!

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Book cover of Blood and Roses: One Family's Struggle and Triumph During the Tumultuous Wars of the Roses

Blood and Roses: One Family's Struggle and Triumph During the Tumultuous Wars of the Roses

By Helen Castor,

Why this book?

This book tells the story of the wars of the Roses through the lens of one family – the Pastons. This family left an extraordinary archive of letters, and it included many fascinating characters, especially women. The Paston women fought off sieges on their houses, wrote Valentine letters to their husbands, ran off with servants, and managed complicated household finances. As a family, the Pastons were social climbers, who tried to get on at court and to improve their position. Through them, we hear about high politics, but also about the domestic life and loves of the gentry in the…

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Book cover of The Rose Demon: A Terrifying Tale of Medieval England

The Rose Demon: A Terrifying Tale of Medieval England

By Paul Doherty,

Why this book?

This is a darker read than the others on my list, but it’s such an excellent book that it deserves a place here. The story follows Matthias through the trials of his life with a breathtaking plot across different cultures and times. We see a battle involved in the War of the Roses, James III's court in Edinburgh, Scotland, Isabella and Ferdinand recapturing Granada from the Moors, and even Christopher Columbus, all of whom are truly real characters we can relate to. The magic involved is that of the Rose Demon which, like natural magic, is caught in glimpses and…

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

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

By Susan Higginbotham,

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.

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

Book cover of Under the Hog: A Novel of Richard III

Under the Hog: A Novel of Richard III

By Patrick Carleton,

Why this book?

Academic books too dry? Primary sources too intimidating? Find a copy of Under the Hog, a historical novel set in the War of the Roses in 15th century England that is perhaps the best historical novel ever — certainly the best written by a pseudonymous author! It gives a variety of close-up views of medieval combat, politics, and culture, and is a favorite among folks who think that king Richard III of England (yes, the evil hunchback of Shakespeare’s depiction) got a reputational raw deal from the Bard. 

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