Ghosts, Revenants and Historic Memory

Ghosts, Revenants and Historic Memory

The English Civil War and the Supernatural

By Charles Esdaile

Anthem Studies in British History

Ghosts, Revenants and Historic Memory is an investigation of how the popular memory of the English Civil War is deeply embedded in England’s rich tradition of ghost stories.

Hardback, 250 Pages


June 2023

£80.00, $125.00

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About This Book

Open any anthology of English ghost stories, and it will be discovered that the period of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell is replete with tales of all sorts pertaining to that era, so much so, indeed, that the only spectres that come up more frequently than Cavaliers are monks and the host of white, grey, blue, green and scarlet white ladies.

As a source for the mid-Stuart period, for reasons that are obvious enough, these stories, of which there are at least 100, have gone unnoticed: after all, it can be assumed that many are extremely garbled, if not fabricated altogether, while even those that possess a degree of plausibility can rarely be tested against the reality. As Ghosts, Revenants and Historic Memory demonstrates, however, this lack of interest represents a missed opportunity of considerable dimensions. If by no means as terrible as their contemporary, the Thirty Years’ War, the fighting that tore England apart between 1642 and 1651, has left an indelible imprint on her history. This has chiefly been remembered in terms of part of the long march to democracy and social and religious freedom, but for the bulk of the population at the time the reality was one that was very different, namely long periods of disease, privation and want interspersed with more-or-less brief episodes of terror and, indeed, horror. Not surprisingly, then, what stuck in the popular mind was not, say, the ideas of the Levellers, but, rather mutilated bodies, burning buildings and the bullying behaviour of much of the soldiery, not to mention a sense that society was literally falling apart. So traumatic was the experience that over the years it became ever more deeply embedded in England’s rich tradition of ghost stories. It is the aim of this book to analyse how this process came about and at the same time to examine what such tales reveal about the workings of historic memory. In approaching this task, the book adopts a ‘case-study’ approach whereby the ghost stories emanating from different regions of the country will be mapped onto the military chronology, thereby affording them the crucial historic context in which they have hitherto so often been lacking.


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Author Information

Charles J. Esdaile is a Professor Emeritus of the University of Liverpool.


Anthem Studies in British History

Table of Contents

Preface; Chapter 1: Of History, Horror and Hauntings; Chapter 2: War in England, 1642–1651; Chapter 3: Cheshire and Lancashire; Chapter 4: Yorkshire and the North-East; Chapter 5: The Midlands; Chapter 6: The South and West; Gazetteer; Bibliography; Index.


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