Mike Ingram and Graham Evans, The Battles and Battlefields of Northamptonshire (Northamptonshire Battlefields Society, 2020)
When thinking of English battlefields, does Northamptonshire spring to mind? Me neither. Yet Boudicca fought here, as did Saxons, Vikings, Lancastrians and Yorkists, Cavaliers and Roundheads, and there is a curious historical footnote to do with the Battle of Waterloo. It turns out that this somewhat nondescript English county lays claim to being something of a crossroads in English military history. Mike Ingram and Graham Evans bring us all the action in The Battles and Battlefields of Northamptonshire, complete with lots of maps and photographs.
The authors begin with a potted history of the county, which was a strategic, political, religious, and economic centre; in short, an area worth fighting over. The location of Boudicca’s climactic fight with the Romans is uncertain, but why not Northamptonshire? Ingram and Evans posit two possible sites. A trip through Saxon Northampton follows, but if they fought the Vikings, as they surely did, then we do not know where. We are on familiar ground in the mediaeval period surrounding the Baron’s Wars, but no battles just sieges. Then comes the Battle of Northampton in 1460, during the Wars of the Roses. This battle put Northampton firmly on the military history map and the battlefield is mostly still intact. It is also the subject of a separate, and accurate, book by Mike Ingram. The other Wars of the Roses battle, Edgcote in 1469 was not really a WoR battle at all, argue the authors, but an internal struggle among the ruling factions in England. You can visit this one too. We leap forward to the 17th Century and the Midland Rebellion of 1607, which was more of a massacre of protestors rather than a battle. Northamptonshire was a proper battleground during the English Civil War. Some minor fighting is narrated as well as the vitally important Battle of Naseby in June 1645. The authors describe this campaign and battle in some detail. Even the Jacobite Rebellions of the 18th Century saw some action in Northamptonshire, sort of, with the Black Watch Mutineers being run to ground in 1743 as they marched back home from London. The last ‘combat’ seen in the county was actually a movie reconstruction of the Battle of Waterloo that took place in 1913; there were two casualties, though nothing serious. A generous and welcome plug for the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society concludes Northampton’s military story.
The Battles and Battlefields of Northamptonshire is a tidy little volume that does a little more than what you might expect on first viewing, especially with a very boring cover – never judge a book by it, they say. The text is clean, nimbly skipping across an often complex historical background to some of the battles being described; the sprinkling of photographs and maps help illustrate those. Ingram and Evans have therefore succeeded in putting Northamptonshire on the military history map with this collection of informative and entertaining stories. They have written a very useful guide for battlefield visitors, and hopefully those interested in protecting Northamptonshire’s important historical record. 8/10