The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of English Battlefields (Revealing History)

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9780752429786: The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of English Battlefields (Revealing History)
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England has been fought over for centuries, by invaders and in civil wars. The sites of these desperate struggles are as varied as the reasons they were fought over, be they fields, towns, or fortresses, by land, sea, or air. These haunted acres are places of commemoration, memory and, above all, history. Bylooking atthem like any other form of historical evidence, much can be learned about the events which took place there. In this ground-breaking volume covering over 500 battlefields, Michael Rayner unravels these various strands and weaves them back together to give clear, concise accounts of the battles which shaped England."

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Review:

"This painstaking survey of English battlefields not only makes good use of primary sources, but pays proper attention to the ground on which the fighting took place. In doing so it expunges myths, illuminates facts, and puts these haunted acres into their proper context. A first-rate book"

From the Author:

This volume is designed to be a reference work for all English battles and battlefields, explaining not only the events of these actions but also the ground upon which they were fought. To aid the reader the work is organised as an encyclopaedia or dictionary, alphabetically and with each entry appearing in a similar format. Here, an effort has been made to identify a key work of reference for further reading, for at least the major actions. The 43 registered battlefields as well as several others are provided with a map, while many have illustrations to accompany them.

In researching this work it has become clear just how poorly interpreted are many of our battlefields, both in print and more obviously on the ground. At the same time this volume can only hope to be an up-to-date survey of current knowledge and opinion, with both likely to change in the coming years. Indeed this would be welcomed as there is much further research to be undertaken to help locate many of the battlefields with certainty and to explain more clearly the actions which took place. To do this the terrain itself is a hugely important source of evidence and should be reason enough to preserve it. Although the landscape will have changed since the time of any given battle it is still a source which can be ‘read’ like any other, so long as these post-battle changes are taken into account and understood. By looking at and walking the landscape one becomes aware of a range of factors which otherwise would probably be missed. The folds in the ground, whether there were leaves on the trees, lines of sight are among these factors which can best be understood on the battlefield. Further work in association with archaeology and landscape studies would further add to the arsenal of the battlefield researcher. Although the written records are essential to understanding certain aspects of a battle, it is to these other branches of study that one must turn to gain a complete picture. Landscape study can help to interpret the evolution of the battlefield from the time of the battle, in particular to see how its land-use has changed. Here it is essential to know whether the ground at the time of the battle was open or enclosed, or to what extent the land was wooded. The work of archaeologists especially in regard to carefully recorded artefact recovery programmes is also essential to improving our knowledge and refining interpretations. Hopefully this combined approach will lead to a multi-disciplinary school of study, which will greatly improve our understanding of battlefields over the coming years.

Hopefully this work will encourage more to visit these important features of England’s historic environment and will help to promote their further study. There is no better way to study and enjoy these ‘haunted acres’ than to visit them oneself, preferably in good company and with the reward of a good pint at the conclusion, over which the merits of the various interpretations can be debated. I can only hope that my own musings, interpretations and conclusions will provoke and promote future debate and encourage more visits to these battlefields and go some small way towards further putting them on the map and thus aiding their preservation. The men who fought and often died at these sites at least deserve their endeavours, triumphs and suffering to be remembered and honoured.

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Michael Rayner, Richard Holmes (Foreword)
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