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review 2018-07-04 14:52
The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714
The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714 - Barry Coward

After the act of the Tudors, how would the Stuarts follow up in ruling England?  Barry Coward covers the history of England between 1603 and 1714 in The Stuart Age giving the reading a comprehensive look at the developments across religion, economy, politics, and government while trying to dispel old assumptions and highlight new research.


Coward begins and ends the book with looking a statistical view England, at first looking how England developed through the early Stuarts to 1650 and then through the Interregnum and late Stuarts until the Hanoverian ascension.  The vast majority of the book covers the narrative flow of history of the period from the ascension of James VI of Scotland as James I of England after the death of Elizabeth to the death of his great-granddaughter Anne with all the twists and turns that happened within the domestic political arena that saw numerous failed attempts at Scottish union to disagreements between monarchs and parliament and finally the dispossessions of monarchs from the throne through execution and invited invasion then dictating who can take the throne.  Plus add in the events in Scotland and Ireland that played important roles at critical times that shaped events in England that made the century what it was.


The book is first and foremost an overview of the era with Coward attempting to give the events that took place their proper context in the evolution of government or religion or anything else related to “modern” Britain.  In doing this he set aside many myths about the era especially in the context of their times, he also gave context between “court” and “country” political establishments especially in relation to developments on the continent, i.e. the rise of absolutism and centralized government.  However, one of the drawbacks is that Coward would bring up other historians and juxtapose their theories on events without just simply making his own mark on the interpretation of the events.  Another feature which was lacking was that the military campaigns of especially the English Civil War, but also the continental wars, weren’t highlighted much especially since the Civil War was only covered in one whole chapter yet as an overview book it wasn’t unexpected.  And finally, as this edition of the book—the 2nd published in 1994—is almost 25 years old further research and debate has been missed out on.


The Stuart Age does its job fantastically well by giving an overview of the entire Stuart era that like other parts of English history seemed to be overshadowed by the proceeding Tudors.  Barry Coward’s layout of the period gives the reader perspective of the statistical elements of history that will influence the later narrative of the political and military events that make of the majority of the book then the aftereffects of those events on the same statistics, though slow in the beginning pays off and make this book pop.  If you’re looking for an overview of this period in English history, then you should consider this book.

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review 2017-08-03 05:46
Podcast #62 is up!
The Draining of the Fens: Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology) - Eric H. Ash

My sixty-second podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Eric Ash about his history of the draining of The Fens in eastern England in the 17th century (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!

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review 2017-07-26 08:42
Reshaping the environment to suit our needs
The Draining of the Fens: Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology) - Eric H. Ash

Today The Fens is largely a misnomer, as the region of East Anglia is a flat, dry land studded with farms. Yet a few centuries ago it was a name that referred to the marshland environment of the area, one often inundated with water from the sea or from the rivers that fed into it. While these conditions was hardly conducive for growing crops, the grasses that flourished in the wetlands were ideal for animal husbandry, which was practiced as far back as the Roman occupation. During the 17th century, however, a number of parties began a decades-long project to drain The Fens that turned it into the environment which we know it as today.


Eric Ash's book describes how this occurred. He traces the beginnings of the project to the 1570s, when environmental changes that worsened the flooding convinced some in the royal government of the need to intervene. Until then flood management was the responsibility of sewer commissioners, prominent locals who sat on boards that were empowered to maintain flood control measures but whose resources and remit were limited to maintaining existing conditions. Now, however, the crown began to consider ambitious projects designed to drain The Fens and convert the pasture land to more desirable farmland.


The inhabitants of the Fens quickly objected to the government's proposal. Ash spends a good part of his book describing the various challenges to the projectors, which included political pressure, legal challenges, and even violence against the "projectors" and their employees. While efforts by the crown to secure a consensus proved elusive, it was not until first James I and then Charles I took the throne that the state grew more aggressive in its approach. Nevertheless, one of the virtues of the area of the first major drainage project, the Hatfield Level, was that the crown controlled most of the land in the area, thus forestalling much of the opposition encountered elsewhere. Work on the even larger Great Level drainage began soon afterward, and while it was disrupted by the civil war that broke out in 1641, the work continued intermittently until it was complete by the 1670s.


Synthesizing political, social, technological, and environmental history, Ash's book provides an excellent account of the efforts to drain The Fens in the 16th and 17th centuries. From it emerges an account of greed, environmental change, government power, and local resistance that has echoes in some of the debates over public projects and environmental regulation in our own time. Perhaps the most salient point to emerge from the book is how the efforts by people to utilize and shape their environment have long reflected their views of their relationship to it. This is true even today, for while the ongoing effort to restore The Fens embodies a very different set of assumptions and goals, they share with the drainage projects of the 17th century the idea that it is our goals which should determine its condition, even if our objectives today have brought us full circle to embracing the wetlands role The Fens had served for so long in the past.

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review 2015-11-06 13:22
Managing the lord's estates
Stewards, Lords and People: The Estate Steward and His World in Later Stuart England - D. R. Hainsworth

The power, wealth, and status of the English nobility historically has been tied to their control of the land. Yet by the seventeenth century, these nobles were less and less involved with the daily management of their lands, with many required by their offices or preferring for social reasons to spend their time in London. Filling this gap between ownership and management was the estate steward, a longstanding position that assumed a growing importance in a changing world. In this book, Roger Hainsworth provides an examination of the various roles that these stewards played during the late seventeenth- and early-eighteenth centuries, detailing the myriad and sometimes surprising range of responsibilities these men were called upon to undertake.

As Hainsworth, demonstrates, one of the things that distinguished the estate steward from the other servants in his employ was his status. Unlike the other members of his staff the seventeenth-century estate steward was someone from the upper classes, even a member of the lord's family. This reflected the status that estate stewards possessed, as their role in essence was to serve as the lord's proxy in managing his estate. The range of duties was diverse, extending from recruiting tenants to maintaining the churches in the local parish. Their main role, however, was to serve in essence as the lord's business manager, working to maximize the profits from the state and ensuring that the absentee owner was provided with the resources he needed while he was elsewhere. This was a position of extraordinary responsibility, and one that helps explain why the relationship between the estate steward and the lord was more familial than simply that of employer and employee.

Clearly written and well researched, Hainsworth's book is a superb study of the estate steward and his role in late Stuart England. Through his exploitation of several correspondence collections between stewards and their employers, he illuminates the multifaceted functions these people played in the era. This is history at its finest, one that can be read with interest by students of the era as well as those interested in the operation of the great estates that have so captivated the popular imagination.

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review 2010-03-03 00:00
A History of England from the Tudors to ... A History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts - Robert Bucholz G:bookieshistoryHistory of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts (Robert Buchol)Having loved A Short History of the Greatest City in the Western World to a 5*, I am now embarking on this with cheek-scrunching anticipation.The first 4 discs are generically laying down the basics - meh. Disc V tells us about Edward III and this starts to become interesting.
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