Book Reviews

The Restless Republic: Britain without a Crown by Anna Keay

What Da Cover Says: The Restless Republic tells the story of what life was like during the unprecedented and unrepeated decade when Britain was governed without a king. Who cut radical paths? And who suffered the monumental costs?

Acclaimed historian Anna Keay follows nine figures who made names for themselves during this time. Among them Anna Trapnel, the young prophet whose visions transfixed the nation. John Bradshaw, the Cheshire lawyer who found himself trying the king. Gerrard Winstanley, the man who saw a utopia where land was shared and no one went hungry. William Petty, the precocious academic whose audacious enterprise to map Ireland led to the dispossession of tens of thousands. The redoubtable Countess of Derby who defended fiercely the last Royalist stronghold on the Isle of Man. And Marchamont Nedham, the irrepressible newspaper man and puppet-master of propaganda.

The Restless Republic ranges from the corridors of Westminster to the common fields of England. Gathering her cast of trembling visionaries and banished royalists, dextrous mandarins and bewildered bystanders, Anna Keay brings to vivid life the most extraordinary and experimental decade in Britain’s history. It is the story of what happened when a conservative people tried revolution.

What I Says: I was the sort of kid at school it was impossible to get interested in learning, everything was so very dull with the teachers droning on and on…my history teacher actually taught PE and had no knowledge of the second subject he was forced to teach. So as soon as I got a chance I dropped history…now and then though a book comes along that makes me regret that decision big time, imagine how much I could have learnt if Anna Keay was my teacher. This book was a fascinating read, I always assumed that Oliver Cromwell was a psycho that killed many to fill his need to become King, what this book has done is bring him to life and explain his role in the ending of Charles I reign and the years that followed. I feel like I have a great understanding behind his motives and that he did believe he was following god’s will and not doing this all for himself.

The book isn’t just about Cromwell, I only mentioned him as he was one of the biggest players in this moment of history, it actually follows a small number of people, not all of them well known, and the book looks at how they played their part in events and how in their small ways they influenced things. The book follows these people in a chronological format starting with those that were involved with the King’s trial all the way up to those that helped get Charles II on the throne. The research has been impeccable, it must have taken a long time to find out all this info about those with smaller parts, in fact Keay has to admit defeat on the ending of one person as they just seemed to vanish. A lot of history books can be very dry and filled with quote after quote, this one is very different, the quotes are kept to a minimum and the rest is all Keay’s words, at times I got so caught up in the narrative that I forgot it wasn’t fiction. The book is over 400 pages and not once did I get bored and that is a huge accomplishment for this sort of subject.

For me the most interesting thing in this book was the part women played, they were so strong and without their influence over the men things could have been very different…and as is usually the case they get mostly forgotten over time. I loved how one Lady held a castle under siege against one of the toughest generals (A real Game of Thrones woman), another held her own in court against some manly lawyers and another was instrumental in putting a King back on the throne. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

I highly recommend this book, a small period of history that was very unique and these peoples stories have been told in a riveting way.

Thanks to Matt Clacher for sending me this copy, the book is out in March and you can get more information from HERE:

5 thoughts on “The Restless Republic: Britain without a Crown by Anna Keay

  1. Ah, I can related wit the school sentiment. I found history a total drag… And now, with the material presented in these passionate ways by means of books, I always wonder, WHY they can’t get students sparked like this when they’re actually learning about history. It’s a bit sad. But hey, for some, better late than never…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found most of school a waste of time, only thing I learnt was how to deal with bullies…creep them out and they keep away from you…it’s through books I’ve got my proper education.


      1. Yeah, school as an establishment is a sort of survival course. And then you hit adulthood and you wonder why you weren’t taught all those things you need to know in school… Like tax systems and constitution so you know your rights, list is endless… Weird.

        Liked by 1 person

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