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Thursday, January 9, 2014

“The Military Campaigns of The Wars of the Roses”, by Philip A. Haigh

206 pages, Da Capo Press, ISBN-13: 978-0938289906

The Military Campaigns of The Wars of the Roses provides a detailed study of every battle of the Wars of the Roses, from the first Battle of St. Albans in 1455 to the Battle of Stoke in 1487, fifteen battles in all. For each battle, the author provides an explanation placing the engagement in the context of its campaign, followed by the description of the encounter (with at least one or two maps), and its epilogue. Some historians consider that the Wars of the Roses actually started with the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403), because this was the first attempt to remove a Lancastrian king by force of arms. A description of this battle is included as an appendix.

Haigh divides his book into four sections: The first opens with a brief introduction to the background of the war, describing the struggle for power between Richard Duke of York and Edmund Beaufort, the Earl of Somerset. It then covers the first phase of the conflict up to the Yorkist victory at Towton in 1461 (the largest and bloodiest battle of the war). The second part is very brief and records Edward IV's campaigns to wipe out what was left of Lancastrian resistance in Northumberland during 1464. The third part looks at the revolt and downfall of Warwick the "Kingmaker", and the final defeat of the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury. The final section examines the rise of the Tudor dynasty, Henry VII's victory at Bosworth Field, and the consolidation of his realm.

Haigh’s work is the finest military history of the Wars of the Roses I have come across. His battle descriptions are first-rate, and his illustrations help the reader to mentally envisage how things occurred. The political analysis he conducts of this complex period is simple and lucid. Moreover, his survey is well referenced and meticulously researched. It leaves you with the impression of having learnt something worthwhile.

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