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Crash! bang! wallop! what a picture

The english civil war: a living history, By Paul Lewis Isemonger, Pounds 9.99. 0 7509 0555 7, Educational Pack Pounds 39.99, Alan Sutton Publishers. Why blindfold a drummer? How were pikemen paid? And what - outside Blackadder - was a baldrick? If these questions have you stumped, then dip into this fascinating photo history of the English Civil War. Yes, photo history, for this is a collection of black and white photos of cavaliers and roundheads beating hell out of each other at re-enactments by the Sealed Knot and the English Civil War Society.

Given the meticulous care these re-enactment societies take to get the fine details right, it's a wonder no one has thought to put their expertise into resource form before. You know those woodcuts of musketeers with shoulder straps strung with what look like small pepper mills? They make a lot more sense when you can see a photo of a man emptying gunpowder from one of them into his musket.

The action photos are terrific, the stationary photos are clear enough to see the details, and the obviously staged photos (a stern puritan finger wags at a game of skittles to show that "The playing of any game was forbidden on the sabbath") are good for a giggle. The educational pack includes reproduction coins, posters, facsimile documents, cut-out soldiers (though you pay extra), and "one reproduction musket ball". But don't let the kids near the book or they'll know how to fire it.

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