This forty page colour book serves as a useful introduction to the Wars of the Roses. As can be expected of an Osprey book, it has a military and partly political focus rather than a social one. It begins by examining whether this was truly a civil war or actually a dynastic struggle between the Yorkist and Lancastrian houses. It then moves on to look at the ruling families and includes a useful lineage table that is both clear and easy to understand (which is no mean feat considering the complexity of the dynasties in this era.)
It then moves onto the second phase, 1469-1471. This mainly involves Warwick’s rebellion against Edward, and includes the battles of Barnet (at which Warwick died) and Tewkesbury. Barnet holds a special fascination for me. It was fought in thick fog, and where the right wing of each army overlapped the left wing of the other, over the course of the battle the two armies swung around. Because of the fog, the Lancastrian right ended up connecting with the rear of the centre section of its own army, leading to accusations of treason. Edward’s cavalry charge caused a Lancastrian rout, and Warwick and his brother were cut down and killed.
The following illustrations aren't from the book, but they show the swing of formations to almost right angles from their original positions.
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The rest of the book looks at the armies of the day, with photos of plate armour, styles of helmets and coloured plates of various types of soldiers and standards. As I have an interest in heraldry, I appreciated these plates—it made an interesting addition to pictures of weaponry. Wise also looks at liveries and badges, and concludes with a discussion of the scenes in the coloured plates accompanied by a few photographs of weapons used at the time.
Although it’s a somewhat thin book, it certainly doesn’t claim to be an all-encompassing study of the period, and it's a really good introduction for anyone who's interested in beginning an investigation into the era. As I also have an interest in archaeology, I wouldn’t have minded a few photos of any surviving archaeological evidence from the battles sites. But it’s a concise summary of the events leading up to the civil war, and I adore the maps of the battlefields. I spent many happy hours as a teenager drawing these onto cards and detailing the movements of the armies.