"The Causes of the English Civil War"
Reading the Baroque Cycle made me want to know more about the real history of 17th Century England, so I asked for recommendations on the English Civil War and a couple of trusted folks told me I should get Conrad Russell’s The Causes of the English Civil War. This is a pretty fantastic work of scholarly argumentation that really makes you feel like you understand the issue it’s addressing. Did they really fight a civil war over whether you should kneel when you pray and what kind of windows churches should have? Well, they sort of did, and that is a weird thing to happen, and Russell helps you understand how and why something like that could come to pass.
This is, however, not much of an introductory work. It’s clearly an argument pitched at people who are already familiar with the basic timeline of the period, the names of the key figures and groups, etc. I didn’t really fit the bill personally. But it turns out to be the case that Wikipedia is a wonderful force multiplier in terms of which books one is able to understand. I needed to repeatedly look up proper names and consult a timeline, but that was actually really easy to do.