This is a very, very, eclectic and short list. There are more books on the Wars of the Roses than flies on a pile of poo. But these are the few that I have found to be the most helpful. And by that I mean no disrespect to the other billion – I just haven’t read them all.
To these below, I acknowledge my debt. I don’t follow the practice of quoting my secondary sources all the time, because it would be tiresome and slow down the narrative. But I have used them freely.
‘Warwick the Kingmaker‘ Ladybird Adventures from History: I make this the king of all history books. I hate to be maudlin, but the pictures from ladybird books fired my imagination as a nipper, and many of them as as fresh in my minds as they ever were. Archers climbing over the wall in St Albans, for example.
‘Henry VI’ (Yale English Monarchs series) by Bertram Wolfe: Textbook stuff. so, not the most exciting of reads, but authoritative, detailed, well written and readable – but a textbook
‘The Hollow Crown’ by Dan Jones: An excellent, rigorous historian who, like Ian Mortimer and Marc Morris, realise that people learn and enjoy more when good quality history is also entertaining. A real joy, and my top recommendation if you want a history book but don’t have an essay to write.
‘Edward IV’ by Charles Ross: Ross has carved out a reputation as being one of the leading scholars of Edward IV. He takes a view that is sympathetic to Edward, without some of the more extravagant claim. But again, it’s a textbook.
‘Blood Sisters’ by Sarah Gristwood: I really enjoyed this; a breath of fresh air to have the story told from a different perspective, as far as is possible – i.e. from the perspective of some of the women involved. And in Margaret of Anjou, Margaret Beaufort, Cecily Neville we have some fascinating stories. Written to entertain, but authoritative to boot.
‘Warwick the Kingmaker’ by Paul Murray Kendall: I cannot help but look suspiciously at this book. It’s got a very florid and novelesque style, he was not I think a professional historian, I think he makes leaps sometimes that can’t really be substantiated about how Warwick thinks and feels at various points. And it does go way overboard on the foreign diplomacy, which gets tiresome. But it seems to stack up in terms of facts, and again it’s written to entertain. I like it.
‘The Pastons’ by Richard Barber: it’s one of many books written to help people like me access the Pastons without having to sit with the original letters for 3 years with a wet towel over our heads. I don’t claim it’s the best of them – but it worked for me.
‘The Wars of the Roses’ by A J Pollard: The best to last. I love Pollard – good historian, writes well without having to go to Mortimer/Jones/Kendall level. This is the wars of the Roses in 140 pages. If you need to get to the guts of it – this is the one. If you have an essay to write and unfortunately have to hand it in at 9 am, made a decision to spend the evening playing poker til 2am, this is the book to turn to.
‘Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’ (DNB): I love this. I also love Oxfordshire library service, who give me online access to this free. I love the entire lending library system, and weep every time I hear of more funding cutbacks. I admit that I am a nerd.
‘English Historical Documents Vol 4 1327-1485’: love, as per DNB above. Love. I weep. But of course costs an absolute FORTUNE to buy. But it has been worth every penny. If you want edited original sources this is just the best place to go. I would never be able to quote original sources without it.