Martyn Bennett, In the Midst of the Kingdom (Helion, 2021)
Martyn Bennett follows the fortunes of the Royalist army in the five counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, and Staffordshire, collectively known as the North Midlands, where the effort to establish regional Royalist powerbases and systemic control began in the wake of the inconclusive battle at Edgehill in October 1642. The plan was remarkably successful in the North Midlands, but not decisive, until the crippling defeats in the North in 1644. Bennett examines how the Royalist system worked, and sometimes didn’t.
The main thread running through Bennett’s work is the command of Henry Hastings, but he casts his net much wider to include the personnel, officers, and commissioners of array who ran the system. He notes that the soldiers and administrators in the region rarely saw eye to eye on a number of issues. As with all academic discourses of this type, Bennett begins with a historiographical overview, including the main sources. He then takes us into the heart of the Royalist administration, comparing that to Parliament’s efforts to do the same. Bennett turns to the Royalist army, and it was a proper army not the bands of piratical raiders as some pro-parliament historians claim. Having laid the groundwork, Bennett puts it all into motion with two narrative chapters that could be labelled as the rise and fall of the Royalists in the North Midlands. His concluding chapter draws all this together so that Bennett can offer his thesis on how the Royalists ran their war and why they lost.
This is a book based on Bennett’s doctoral thesis first produced in 1986 and updated for publication in 2021. As you might expect then, it is a bit of a dry read with lots of analysis rather than storytelling. By the same token, Bennett’s book is well-written and packed with information and insight. This isn’t a book for ECW beginners, but for those who want to dive deeper, In the Midst of the Kingdom will certainly assist with that.