The Western Rising of 1549
Imprint: Yale University Press
The Western Rising of 1549 was the most catastrophic event to occur in Devon and Cornwall between the Black Death and the Civil War. Beginning as an argument between two men and their vicar, the rebellion led to a siege of Exeter, savage battles with Crown forces, and the deaths of 4,000 local men and women. It represents the most determined attempt by ordinary English people to halt the religious reformation of the Tudor period.
Mark Stoyle tells the story of the so-called “Prayer Book Rebellion” in full. Correcting the accepted narrative in a number of places, Stoyle shows that the government in London saw the rebels as a real threat. He demonstrates the importance of regional identity and emphasizes that religion was at the heart of the uprising. This definitive account brings to life the stories of the thousands of men and women who acted to defend their faith almost five hundred years ago.
“Stoyle, a professor of history at Southampton University, has pieced together the story of the Western Rising with skill and verve. Richly detailed, authoritative and compelling. A Murderous Midsummer is sure to become the definitive account.”—Mathew Lyons, The Times
“Stoyle skilfully provides a connected account. . . . A sympathetic portrayal of communities fighting for all they held dear, and a country torn apart by rival perceptions of the truth.”—Lucy Wooding, Times Literary Supplement
“What caused a quarrel between the vicar of a small Devon parish and two local residents to escalate into a rebellion that engulfed two counties and left thousands dead? . . . Mark Stoyle offers an accessible take on the causes, as well as the casualties and consequences—which reached the heart of the political elite.”—BBC History Revealed
“[An] authoritative new book. . . . Stoyle's arguments are always well evidenced and carefully weighed and, ultimately, nuance and enrich familiar narratives of the Western Rising.”—Marcus Nevitt, Spectator
"Mark Stoyle's compelling new narrative of the Western Rising isn't just academic history at its finest. It is also a gripping and superbly written account that is part-social history, part-political thriller, and part-detective story."—Debbie Kilroy, Get History
“Stoyle’s narrative is both magnificent in scope and precise in its detail. Most refreshingly is the empathy with which he treats the rebels, a word he only uses to denote rather than denounce. . . . It is to his infinite credit that the book tackles faith with compassion. . . . Stoyle’s book is an emboldening, if sobering, reminder that from the very beginnings of oppression, ordinary Catholics fought and died for the right to practise freely.”—Fred Kelly, The Tablet
“An impressive work combining impressive historical research with an accessible account of a significant event in English history. . . . It will be of interest to everyone trying to understand the dynamics of the English Reformation.”—Martin Empson, Agricultural History Review
“Even to someone fairly familiar with the story of the 1549 rebellion in the West, [Stoyle] has opened up new facets of that ‘murderous midsummer.’ This is a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in the mid-Tudor rebellions.”—Local Historian
“Stoyle’s re-interpretation of the rising is likely to be the authoritative work on its subject for many years to come.”—Stuart A Raymond, FACHRS
Winner of Class 5a and of the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies Holyer an Gof Cup.
The annual Gorsedh Kernow Holyer an Gof Awards were established in 1996 for books published in 1995 and are so named in memory of Redruth publisher and Cornish Bard Leonard Truran, whose Bardic name was Holyer an Gof – Follower of The Smith. The scheme was established and is organised by Bards of Gorsedh Kernow to promote books about Cornwall, set in Cornwall or in Cornish (Kernewek).
Each year about 60 – 80 books are submitted by publishers from Cornwall and beyond and these are read and evaluated by members of a panel of Readers. The winning entries are announced at a presentation evening held in July. There are 12 categories, each nominated book receiving a Gorsedh Kernow Certificate. There is a winning book in each class/sub-class, which receives a Gorsedh Kernow Winner’s Certificate.
“Tells the gripping story of the ill-fated rising in 1549 of the people of Devon and Cornwall against the English government of Edward VI. Full of new insights, the book is beautifully written with great clarity and sensitivity and an unrivalled grasp of the source material. Carrying the reader along with consummate scholarship, terrific storytelling, and an unerring feel for the lives of the people of the past, this book is a real triumph.”—Michael Wood, author of The Story of England
“It almost happened. In the summer of 1549, as this book’s gripping and authoritative account proves, a spontaneous rising in Devon and Cornwall came much closer than we have imagined to bringing the whole English Reformation to an abrupt end—and 4000 of them paid for the effort with their lives. Now at last, in Mark Stoyle’s book, they have a fitting scholarly memorial.”—Alec Ryrie, author of Protestants: The Radicals Who Made the Modern World
“A fresh and detailed retelling of the Western Rising of 1549, when the people of Cornwall—the little land beyond England—joined forces with the religious traditionalists of neighbouring Devon to resist the newly imposed Prayer Book. Over many years, Professor Mark Stoyle has made the history of early modern Cornwall and Devon his own, and this book, with its sparkling prose and telling insights, adds further to his brilliant repertoire.”—Philip Payton, University of Exeter and Flinders University
“Comprehensive in its command of the evidence, judicious in interpretation and salted with a controlled sympathy for place and people, A Murderous Midsummer offers a compelling re-interpretation of the Western Rising of 1549. A rising in defence of traditional religion, its bloody repression, whose ferocity Stoyle skilfully recovers, registered the serious threat it posed to mid-Tudor church and government.”—John Walter, University of Essex
“A riveting new account of the Western Rising of 1549. Combining empirical rigour and high narrative powers, Mark Stoyle stylishly recasts our understanding of an episode that has too often been written off as doomed to failure from the start. On the contrary, he shows how close the Cornish and Devonshire rebels came to subverting the Reformation and turning the Tudor world upside down.”—Alexandra Walsham, author of The Reformation of the Landscape