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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Scenes and Traces of the English Civil War

The English Civil War has become a frequent point of reference in contemporary British political debate. A bitter and bloody series of conflicts, it shook the very foundations of seventeenth-century Britain. This book is the first attempt to portray the visual legacy of this period, as passed down, revisited, and periodically reworked over two and a half centuries of subsequent English history. Highly regarded art historian Stephen Bann deftly interprets the mass of visual evidence accessible today, from ornate tombs and statues to surviving sites of vandalism and iconoclasm, public signage, and historical paintings of human subjects, events, and places. Through these important scenes and sometimes barely perceptible traces, Bann shows how the British view of the War has been influenced and transformed by visual imagery.

288 pages | 63 halftones, 48 color plates | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4

Art: British Art

History: Military History

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“Bann's history tracks visual evidence of the Civil War's lingering presence from the Restoration to the end of the nineteenth century. His focus is both on what he calls ‘traces’ of the conflict—the visible marks and pointers of memorial inscriptions, monuments, vandalized tombs—and ‘scenes,’ images produced in retrospect as part of an ongoing reinterpretation of the war's meaning. . . . The latter half of the book, focusing on reconstructed ‘scenes’ of the war as imagined by nineteenth-century history painters, offers a fascinating account of the growth of interiority in the depiction of Charles and Cromwell.”

Apollo Magazine

"In the din of traffic around Trafalgar Square, it is easy to miss the statue in the middle of the road that flanks it. Tiny in comparison with Nelson’s Column, and often obscured by passing buses, the brass sculpture of a king on horseback is in fact one of the most divisive works of public art in British history. Though America still wrestles with the artistic (and political) legacy of its civil war, the arguments that once raged in Britain about the 'Equestrian Statue of Charles I' have quieted. In Scenes and Traces of the English Civil War, Bann, an art historian, dredges up those old discordances and, in so doing, expects to shed a little light on the country’s 'contemporary political divisions.'"


"Bann explicates a wide array of visual responses to the English Civil War (1642–1651). He considers how various 'scenes and traces' were identified, commemorated, represented, and reconceived over a 250-year period, from the installation of Hubert le Sueur’s equestrian statue of King Charles I in the late seventeenth century to the stage-crafted history paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy in the nineteenth century. . . . Marshaling an extraordinary array of sources, Bann expertly guides readers through the visual means by which seventeenth-century power was transformed into politics and then history—even as power and politics, of course, never left the field. Recommended."


"Scenes and Traces of the English Civil War is a timely exploration of the visual and material legacies of Britain’s domestic conflicts and the ways in which these objects have been co-opted and contested across two and a half centuries. Spanning the period from the Restoration to the late nineteenth century, the book draws on a wide range of artifacts, from monuments and statues to prints and political cartoons. . . . Bann offers a compelling account of the ways successive generations have responded to a period of significant national upheaval, while simultaneously illuminating new avenues of research that might be pursued by scholars interested in Britain’s Civil Wars, their memory, and the visual representation of difficult pasts more broadly."

History Journal

“This book is the product of subtle reasoning and considerable scholarship, dealing not with great art but with a rich seam of visual culture. What emerges from this study is how deeply an awareness of the violent reversals of fortune, caused by this war, entered the English psyche, and how continuing operations of memory have ensured its role within the making of an historical national identity.”

Frances Spalding, CBE, FRSL

“This is the mature work of a master scholar, superbly researched and written and pioneering a new field.”

Ronald E. Hutton, FBA, Professor of History at the University of Bristol

Table of Contents


1 Speaking Stones: Inscriptions of Identity from Civil War Monuments
2 A Kentish Family in Wartime: The Bargraves of Bifrons
3 Kings on Horseback: Charles I’s Statue at Charing Cross and its Afterlife
4 Whig Views of the Past: Horace Walpole and Co.
5 Illustrating History: Visual Narratives from the Restoration to Hume’s History of England
6 Boots and All: Cromwell Evoked by James Ward and Paul Delaroche
7 French Genre for English Patrons: Paul Delaroche’s Charles I Insulted by the Soldiers of Cromwell
8 A Sense of an Ending: Problems of English History Painting in the Nineteenth Century

List of Illustrations

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