Thursday, 12 October 2017

A Short Interview With Historian David Flintham

1. You have said that your interest in this particular field of history was inspired by the 1970 film, Cromwell. Could you expand on this?

As a small boy, my parents took me to see the film Cromwell (we were on holiday in Littlehampton) staring Alec Guinness  and Richard Harris.  Soon afterwards, I had to have the Ladybird book about Cromwell, and the Airfix 1/12 scale models of Charles I and Cromwell (my first 'grown up' book about the Civil Wars was Peter Young and Richard Holmes' 1974 book).  Yes, I know that the film is is historically inaccurate, but it inspired me.

On this point of 'Hollywood history', I couldn't miss the opportunity to mention the 'Braveheart effect'.  When Braveheart was released 2 decades ago, there were so many complaints about its lack of historical accuracy.  My counter to this is that a) it is entertainment and not history; and b) it created a wave of interest in the subject which enabled historians to write 'proper' histories which, without the interest generated by the film, may never have been published.

2. Why is there so little academic interest in London During the English Civil War?

The point I’m trying to get over here is that there is so little academic interest in London militarily during the English Civil Wars.  The political, religious, and economic aspects have been very well covered academically, but the military aspects far less so, and, Stephen Porter’s 1996 book aside, not in one place (e.g. the trained bands on their own, the fortifications on their own, arms production on its own, etc. etc.)

3. How does your participation in Civil war reenactment help your true understanding of a subject that interests you?

I’ve not re-enacted in more than 25 years, so feel am unable to comment here.

4. Could you elaborate on the historiography of your subject?

This is an interesting question. 

I supposed the 'foundation'  of my book would have to be Norman Brett-James's 'Growth of Stuart London'.  I've looked at every book about 17th century London since, but as I indicated earlier, in the main, these focus on the demography, politics, economics, religion and sociology of the capital. 

So I looked beyond London itself, and the following have been important:  London Trained Bands - the research by Alan Turton, Keith Roberts and Wilfred Emberton ; fortifications - the research by David Sturdy, Victor Smith, Peter Harrington (plus my own contribution); Arms industry - Peter Edwards (general), and Charles ffoulkes (cannon), Wayne Cocroft (gunpowder).  I would also add Stephen Porter's 1996 collection of essays, and Stephen Porter and Simon Marsh's 2010 book on the battles of Brentford and Turnham Green.  And finally, but by no means least, Peter Gaunt’s 1987 'The Cromwellian Gazetteer' .

5. What future projects are you involved in?

I am involved in a project that for a while has been attempting to set up a community-based archaeological project on an ECW siege-site.  I am currently searching for a suitable site.

One of the projects I have been working on (for a while) is a ‘register’ to list/identify all the sieges (of any type) from the Bishop’s Wars to the Restoration.  This is certainly a ‘work in progress’.

As for my next book project, I’m writing a comparison between the fortifications of London and those of Oxford, and after that, it’s the sieges of the 2nd and 3rd Civil Wars.