Let's start here then...
When I start a project practically the first thing I always do is look for something to latch my project on to.. usually a battle... but for this project I haven't yet decided - certainly the subject of this book is one as I have a track record of leaning towards the start of periods/campaigns (1940 France, Blenheim, 1942 North Africa, pre Kitchener Sudan, etc.). Then there's Lansdown (Sir Bevil Grenville and his Cornish troops..!), or my local battle, Cheriton (Waller versus his very good friend Hopton) - so decision not made on that yet..
All my projects do however rely on research... I don't think the researching ever stops (they keep bringing new books out), but what I tend to gravitate to (after having read the usual history for the campaign - why they were fighting etc) at the start is books explaining the fighting mans experience, and more importabtly how he fought, which is how we come to this book which I bought in the remaindered bookshop in Bath, oh, must be four or five years ago! Clearly even then I knew I'd be doing an English Civil war project.. I'll lay my cards on the table and say that I think this book is a cracker so this one is ideal
So leaving all the usual history stuff to one side (as wargamers I would say we all have a rough idea on why the English Civil War was fought) this book is about the first major engagement (yes there were some skirmishes and minor engagements before, but this was the first big battle) not only substantial research on the timetable of the actual battle (who was where and when and why), but the bigger benefit to me was the earlier chapters on each of the major arms - cavalry, infantry and artillery - their equipment, training and weapons at this stage of the war with some commentary on how these changed as the war progressed..
So we learn that at this stage of the war Parliament would have had better equipment (access to London),which in turn lead to a higher proportion of musket to pike (2:1 or better compared with 1:1 or 3:2 for the Royalists), and that Pike would have worn more armour at this stage of the war (it tended to be worn less as the war progressed, due to improved musketry, and the weight)
Both sides had armies that were pretty new to the game. Largely raw, and poorly trained, but leavened by experienced NCO's, officers and gentry that would have had had recent experience on the Continent either with Gustavus in Sweden, or the Thirty Years War, and some of them would have fought in the Bishops Wars [clicky] a few years before. The authors (Christopher L. Scott, Alan Turton, Eric Gruber von Arni) have a very good chapter on the two major deployment/tactical types - the Swedish and Dutch systems - and the differences between them.. a chapter I feel I'll be coming back to again to refresh my memory from time to time.
This site is very good [clicky] on the difference between the two (and on a huge number of other subjects to do with the English Civil War!) but basically the Dutch was older, more basic (deeper ranks and chequer board deployment) and more easy to learn (and was used by Essex and his Parliamentarian army at the battle), the Swedish system (fewer ranks, diamond pattern deployment, and more complex firing methodology) was newer and controversially was adopted by Charles on the advice of his battlefield commanders (Rupert).. possibly one of the deciding factors in his losing the battle given the paucity of training his infantry had?
All in all then I thought the book was a belter, and an excellent primer to the early armies of the English Civil War.. time will tell if subsequent research comes up with contradictions, but I thought it was very good.. Steve the Wargamer rates it 9/10..