The Wars in History

  • A. J. Pollard
Part of the British History in Perspective book series (BHP)


The twentieth century, especially the last third, has witnessed a major revision of received ideas about the Wars of the Roses. The 30 years 1455–85, it has been argued, were neither years of constant civil strife nor years of uncontrolled anarchy. in terms of open warfare, it has often been repeated, there were no more than 12 or 13 weeks of actual fighting in the whole 30 years. And this fighting was restricted to the narrow world of the political élite, most of whose members were either indifferent to the outcome or shamelessly opportunistic. A handful of isolated battles, armed clashes, murders and executions, we are told, had little impact on the day-to-day life of the kingdom. These inconveniences were not caused by dynastic dispute: the question of the throne only arose as a consequence of political rivalry. There were no roses, red for Lancaster or white for York, deployed as badges by rival parties. Even the phrase ‘Wars of the Roses’, we are assured, was not thought of until invented by Sir Walter Scott.1 In short, the Wars of the Roses is a myth. In its extreme manifestation this was the argument advanced by the late S. B. Chrimes in a recorded discussion with Professor R. L. Storey. The roses, he stated, had nothing to do with it and there were not, ‘in any meaningful sense’, any wars. The only admissible use of the phrase, he conceded, was if it were restricted to the first three months of 1461.2


Fifteenth Century Political History Royal Family Receive Wisdom English History 
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© A. J. Pollard 2001

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