The English Civil War at First Hand, By Tristram Hunt

The same robust and vivid language of the King James Bible propelled the civil war that killed almost 250,000 people 30 years later. It was largely a religious dispute and these on-the-spot reports, linked by Hunt's lucid commentary, are reminiscent of the statements currently emerging from Libya.

Writing to a fellow soldier, Oliver Cromwell first touched on his recent victory. "Give all the glory to God. Sir, God had taken away your eldest son by a cannon-shot," before adding more gently, "He was a gallant young man, exceeding gracious."

This book brings us up close to momentous events like Charles I asking his executioner, "Does my hair trouble you?" As Hunt notes, "Nothing became him so much as his execution."

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