Sunday, 14 February 2021

Bosworth 1485

"He said, ‘Give me my battle-axe in my hand,
Set the crown of England on my head so high!
For by Him that shope both sea and land,
King of England this day will I die!"

- from The Ballad of Bosworth Field

I own some half a dozen books about Bosworth, so obviously I was in need of another. As luck would have it Osprey have just published one. It is Bosworth 1485, number 360 in their Campaign series and is written by Christopher Gravett and illustrated by Graham Turner, and not to be confused with Campaign series number 66, entitled Bosworth 1485, written by Christopher Gravett and illustrated by Graham Turner. Of course, a lot has been uncovered since their first attempt was issued, not least the location both of the battlefield and of the loser.

Astonishingly, I don't own the original version so I can't be specific about the changes in either test or pictures, except to point out that the subtitle has changed from 'Last Charge of the Plantagenets' to 'The Downfall of Richard III'. I have been teasing away at that switch, all the time clutching my copy of 'L'écriture et la différence', and must conclude that I have no idea what we are meant to understand by it.

Jacques Derrida deconstructs the bowling

The book - the one on Bosworth not the one on structuralism - starts rather poorly. In the first paragraph following the introduction the author makes the bizarre claim that John of Gaunt was Edward III's eldest son. It might, I suppose, be interesting to speculate what difference it might have made to 14th and 15th century English history if he had have been. As Derrida used to say while opening the batting for the École normale supérieure: "Posed in these terms, the question would already be caught in the assurance of a certain fore-knowledge: can “what has always been conceived and signified under that name” be considered fundamentally homogeneous, univocal, or nonconflictual?"

Anyway, back to the book. It's fine. It adequately summarises all the newly available information alongside what was always known. The maps in particular are plentiful and clear. I don't think anyone reads such a work expecting to be enlightened as to the definitive version of what happened. It was all a long time ago and, in any event, the interesting question about the events of 1483 to 1485 will always be why, rather than what or where, and that is ultimately unknowable. So, a useful addition to the bookshelf, but it still leaves room for others.


  1. I don't want to spoil it for you, but Richard III dies in the end.

    1. But at least in the subtitle of the first book he went down fighting.