Friday, 27 April 2012

Some light reading...

Sorry, no painting tonight.

I thought I'd take a bit of time to talk about my driving passion in gaming and history, namely that of the Tudor armies.  The Tudor period in Britain is a funny one, mostly because everyone thinks of bluff king Hal and his cheeky six wives, maybe the dissolution of the monasteries, and doesn't bother to dig any further but there's so much more to it than that.  It's certainly a backwater as far as military history's concerned but even more so from a gaming point of view.  So, in an attempt to address the first part of this particular equation I thought I'd try and recommend some books that might get some others interested in what I consider to be a fascinating period.

First off there's the ever faithful Osprey.  I'm pretty sure that anyone looking at this blog (please look at this blog!) will have at least a passing idea of what the average Osprey book contains so I won't go into that but they do have a range of books that cover this period pretty well.  For starters there's Henry VIII's Army which covers the early part of the period in some depth.  To be honest there was only really two battles of note that took place during his reign, Flodden and The Spurs which both took place in 1513.  The Spurs wasn't even really a battle to my mind.  I liken it to the full England side turning up expecting to play France, finding out that they're actually playing the french Under-16s, scraping a 1-0 victory and then lording it up and banging on about how the beat the world champions from 1998.  Anyway, an aside, but the book has some good background and some fantastic plates.  There's a campaign book dedicated to Flodden which is infinitely more interesting to my mind.  Tudor Knight covers the whole period but, as the name should tell you, concentrates very much on the nobility and their increasingly elaborate armour.  Then we get to three books that deal with subjects slightly more off the beaten track: Scottish Renaissance Armies, The Border Reivers and The Irish Wars.  They all do what they say on the tin and I think it's probably likely that the casual reader will most likely have encountered the Reivers before out of all of them.  On the subject of border conflicts between England and Scotland then I'd also have to recommend The Steel Bonnets by George MacDonald Fraser (of Flashman fame) too, it's a very good read and not at all dry.  There are also two books available on the Armada campaign, one giving details of the campaign itself and the other on the two armies involved.  Osprey also recently, well not that recently really now I think about it, published a book all about the mighty Galloglass which covers a broad period of time but will sit very nicely within the chosen period.  I can't comment on the content of this one yet because I literally ordered it about an hour ago! :-) If anyone's interested then I can post a review once it arrives.

Next I'd have to say that there's a couple of great books C.G. Cruickshank.  The first, Army Royal, deals with Henry VIII's somewhat misguided and mismanaged invasion of France in 1513 and is an incredibly thorough account.  The other, Elizabeth's Army, does what it says on the tin and is an equally thorough breakdown of the various militias and volunteers that served Elizabeth I both on the continent and at home.  Honestly, I was truly surprised when I saw how well traveled some Elizabethan soldiers were!

The Pike and Shot Society have some superb booklets available for sale and all at pretty reasonable prices too.  Of particular interest is The Tudor Art of War by Jonathan Davies which covers the whole Tudor period from Henry VII right through to the end of Elizabeth's reign.  If you're at all interested in the period then I'd have to say that you could do a lot worse than signing up with them.  My membership is currently lapsed (yes, naughty I know) but I intend to rectify that pretty soon.  The society newsletter, Arquebusier, is a mine of information and almost worth the price of admission on it's own.  They also have a pretty active Yahoo group too.  Caliver Books is also a good source of booklets on the period.  I have Elizabeth's Army & The Armada by John Tincey and The Bluecoats, Clothing the Elizabethan Soldier by David Evan, both of which contain a wealth of primary sources and analysis but I have no idea what current availability is like so if you're interested then it might be best to drop them a line.  Caliver has a whole section of their website dedicated to the Tudor period and that's always well worth a browse.

But, if I had to recommend a single book on the period then it'd be Armies of the Sixteenth Century by Ian Heath, the volume on England, Scotland, Ireland, the United Provinces and the Spanish Netherlands.  Not only do you get an exhaustive breakdown of the make and chosen tactics of each army but there's also annotated line illustrations taken from primary sources.  This book is a serious, serious goldmine.  Unfortunately it's currently out of print and copies seem to be going for obscene prices on Amazon, like 97 quid obscene, but if you see a copy at reasonable cost then I'd say snap it up (not least because you can probably flog it at a profit if it's of no use!).  Mr. Heath did an absolutely superb job on this and it's just a shame that it's not in colour.

Well, there we go.  It wasn't meant to be an exhaustive list and I'm primarily a gamer rather than a historian so what I consider "in depth" is really just dipping my toes in but I hope there might be something there to tempt others in.  Also, if anyone has any other reading recommendations then I'll be glad to hear them!

Hmmm, second post and no mention of ale yet, I might have to rectify that this weekend...


  1. This is all very nice, and contains some nice info for us beginners, but how about beer? I was at a Hall & Woodhouse gaff at lunchtime, "on the badger". What can you tell me about their beers? What are the good ones?

    And then get back to painting!

  2. As if you're a beginner...

    There's nothing that Badger produce that couldn't be described as excellent. Also, there's nothing like going to the bar and asking for a pint of Badger :-) Seriously, them and Ringwood deserve to have pubs bowing down at the alter of beer to them all across the south. We've got Harvey's down here in East Sussex, Hepworth and Dark Star (amongst others) over in West Sussex and then Ringwood in Dorset. Pure class. If you see a Badger pump clip anywhere then you can rest assured of a quality pint.

    Of course, nothing quite compares to a pint of Jaipur IPA at the moment... :-0