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.
Interview with Robert Hodkinson-Author of Cromwell’s BuffoonThe book Cromwell’s Buffoon -The Life and Career of the Regicide Thomas Pride, has just been released. Helion publishers kindly sent me a review copy. Before the report comes out, I am publishing a short interview with the Author Robert Hodkinson.
What drew you to the subject of Thomas Pride?
Some years ago I joined the English Civil War re-enactment group, The Sealed Knot. While researching Thomas Pride with a view to portraying his soldiers on the battlefield, I was interested to find that there was very little known about the man, despite the fact that references to ‘Pride’s Purge’ appear in practically every book on the Civil War ever written. I realised that I had found not only a gap in our knowledge of a famous seventeenth-century figure but an opportunity to undertake some exciting new research in the archives. The more my research revealed about Thomas Pride, the more interesting a figure he became, and I realised I had uncovered the story of the man whose life could draw together all the threads of Civil War historiography: social, political, religious and military.
Did Pride have any connection to the Leveller movement?
Thomas Pride had ties with London’s Baptist churches, which were at the forefront of the independent religious movements of the 1630s. Baptists shared the Levellers’ ideals of religious liberty and the abolition of tithes, both of which were espoused by Pride himself in the later 1640s. But while Pride and the Levellers may have had certain principles in common, and mutual enemies, the fact that by 1649 Pride was a wealthy and self-interested London businessman meant that any commonality he may have had with the Levellers stopped far short of their other political goals, such as the release of enclosed lands to common ownership.
Would you describe him as a Republican, and how much connection did he have to the Fifth Monarchists?
As the Fifth Monarchists emerged from among London’s Baptists, it is not surprising that Thomas Pride had connections to some Fifth Monarchist men, notably William Goffe, with whom Pride served alongside for the whole of the Civil Wars and whose signature appears next to Pride’s on Charles I’s death warrant. But although Thomas Pride was instrumental in bringing about the execution of Charles I he was not a Republican himself and was a supporter of the Cromwellian government during the 1650s. There were certainly Republican elements in the regiment he commanded, which emerged in the Overton Plot of 1654 and after Cromwell’s death in 1658. Pride was able to curb his soldiers’ republicanism for most of the 1650s. The fact they supported the Rump Parliament against Richard Cromwell following their colonel’s death is a testament to the force of Pride’s command and the strength of his personality.
Is there any other research possibilities to further our knowledge of Pride?
The length of time that this project has run, and the depth of the research undertaken, means that I feel confident that I have unearthed all the surviving information that we have on Thomas Pride. One thing that my research never revealed was the whereabouts of his final resting place, which appears to have been kept a secret to prevent his remains falling into the hands of the Royalists. If further research could reveal the site of Thomas Pride’s burial, both he and I would be very grateful.
What are you working on at the moment?
I don’t think my appetite for researching and discovering more about the English Civil War will ever be satisfied. At present, I am working on a new proposal for Helion military history publishers on Fairfax’s sieges and the New Model Army’s storming of Bristol in 1645.