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January 2019



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Rebellion/Civil War. Peter Ackroyd

US edition

Rebellion (US) or Civil War (UK), is the third title in Peter Ackroyd’s ambitious projected six volume history of England. This book takes us from the accession of James VI & I to the ‘Glorious Revolution’. With his usual astonishing industry and ability to master a wide range of sources quickly, Ackroyd has written a very readable book. Yet I question where the market is for such a book, written by someone who is not a professional historian. It is a straightforward narrative which tells a story rather than explains events; still quite hard going for a reader with no prior knowledge of seventeenth century history. For those already familiar with the subject there is nothing new here and Ackroyd seems to have relied more upon older secondary sources than on new ones for his conclusions.

I’m a great admirer of Ackroyd’s writing on the whole. What I look for from him is the quirky take, the unusual insight. Sadly, I found neither in this book. He is at his best when writing about his favourite subject, London, or about writers and thinkers of the period. I wish he had used this social history as the basis for his book and given us something original.

I read the book courtesy of NetGalley.

UK edition


I do love history but there are so many good accounts of it to choose from by, as you say, professional historians. I suppose there is a balance to be had to make it a good read for some people; I like some explanation of events but hate to be bogged down in minutiae. A bit more than 'History for Dummies' but definitely not too highbrow :)
You're exactly the type of reader I had in mind when I said the book fell between the two types of history: not quite a popular narrative and not quite what I call real history.