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Parliament's Generals (Hardback)

Supreme Command and Politics during the British Wars 1642-51

British History Military Biographies English Civil War Pre WWI Biographies Military

By Malcolm Wanklyn
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781473898363
Published: 13th March 2019

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Waller, Essex, Fairfax, Manchester and Cromwell are among the most famous military men who fought for Parliament during the English Civil War. While their performance as generals has been explored in numerous books on the campaigns, comparatively little has been written by military historians about the political aspects of high command, namely the ever-changing and often fractious relationship with the English Parliament and its executive committees. That is why Malcolm Wanklyn’s study of these men is of such value, for he sheds new light on the qualities they employed in their attempts to achieve their military and political aspirations.

In a series of insightful chapters he follows their careers through the course of the conflict, focusing on their successes and failures in battle and the consequences for their reputations and influence. Dissatisfaction with the leadership of Essex, Manchester and Waller in the inconclusive early campaigns is examined, as are the contrasting strengths of Fairfax and Cromwell. This reassessment sheds new light on how these commanders managed promotions, out-manoeuvred their fellow generals and controlled their subordinates.

The great strengths of this book are Wanklyn’s deeply impressive sense of the shape of the whole, of the national picture, how events across the whole of Britain and Ireland affect what is possible in particular places and at the times he is writing about. He has an equally impeccable grasp of the logistical challenges, how the struggle to secure and mobilise resources is central to decision-making, and his knowledge of all the regional commanders is also outstanding. There is a great chapter on why Fairfax, amongst all possible candidates, is the logical choice to command the New Model in 1645 and his chapter on Fairfax’s relationship with Cromwell, his willingness to let his subordinate share and then take over primary responsibility is full of challenging detail. In fact, the chapter on ‘Fairfax in Politics and War 1646–50’ is the best of an excellent crop.

Cromwell association

The great strengths of this book are Wanklyn’s deeply impressive sense of the shape of the whole, of the national picture, how events across the whole of Britain and Ireland affect what is possible in particular places and at the times he is writing about. He has an equally impeccable grasp of the logistical challenges, how the struggle to secure and mobilise resources is central to decision-making, and his knowledge of all the regional commanders is also outstanding. There is a great chapter on why Fairfax, amongst all possible candidates, is the logical choice to command the New Model in 1645 and his chapter on Fairfax’s relationship with Cromwell, his willingness to let his subordinate share and then take over primary responsibility is full of challenging detail. In fact, the chapter on ‘Fairfax in Politics and War 1646–50’ is the best of an excellent crop.

Cromwell association

For the non-specialist the book is accessible and an enjoyable read with much to learn. No doubt for the specialist within the 170 pages of script there will be fresh arguments and interpretations. The professor alludes to potential disagreements, which of course make such a book the more interesting and valuable in enhancing knowledge on what could be seen as well worn pathways.

Professor Wanklyn has made yet a further useful and erudite contribution to the history of this tumultuous period with this work of scholarship.

Robert Bartlett

It is a long time since I sat and devoured a non-fiction book cover-to-cover with barely a break, but I did with this one which says a lot about Wanklyn’s writing style.

Overall the book will prove absolutely invaluable for anyone interested in either the military campaigns of the English Civil Wars or the political management of the Wars from Parliament’s side.

I would heartedly and unreservedly recommend this book – a real groundbreaking study. Go and buy it before it goes out of print or you will regret it.

Pike & Shot Society

It is a long time since I sat and devoured a non-fiction book cover-to-cover with barely a break, but I did with this one which says a lot about Wanklyn’s writing style.

Overall the book will prove absolutely invaluable for anyone interested in either the military campaigns of the English Civil Wars or the political management of the Wars from Parliament’s side.

I would heartedly and unreservedly recommend this book – a real groundbreaking study. Go and buy it before it goes out of print or you will regret it.

Pike & Shot Society

Another superb book about the towering personalities who emerged to take control of the Parliamentary forces during the English Civil Wars.

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Books Monthly

This is a useful and timely book for several reasons... The book is illustrated with helpful maps and contemporary engravings of the Generals. There are excellent Notes, Bibliography and Index.

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Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Readers with a special interest in the military history of the English Civil War will find this an indispensable source of information and insight. It is also a very good point to start a study of the period.

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Firetrench

Article: 'Professor's new book on civil war generals' as featured by

Black Country Bugle, 3rd April 2019 – words by Dan Shaw

As featured in

The Bookseller Buyers Guide

This book offers an excellent insight into the characters of the Parliamentary Generals and brings a proper perspective to the often very constrained conditions under which they were required to operate. It reads well, and is supported by good maps. Recommended.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy
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