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A Roundhead and a Cavalier?

16 December 2020

New book gives a human face to the turbulent 17th century to reveal the personal politics of a Welsh player in the Civil Wars

Known by turns as a roundhead and a cavalier, John Poyer rose from a humble Pembroke glover to be a player in the bloody factional politics of the Civil Wars. Now a vivid new book on this prominent but misunderstood figure from Pembrokeshire is changing perceptions of a complex period in British history.

In his latest book, historian Dr Lloyd Bowen charts Poyer’s rise to becoming parliament’s most significant supporter in South Wales during the First Civil War (1642–6), and argues that he was a more complex and significant individual than most commentators have realised.

He examines Poyer’s involvement in the poisonous factional politics of the post-war period (1646–8), using newly discovered material to reveal how his career offers fresh insights into the relationship between national and local politics, the use of print and publicity by provincial interest groups, and the importance of local power struggles in understanding the civil war in south Wales. The volume also offers a substantial analysis of Poyer’s posthumous reputation after his execution by firing squad in April 1649.

Reader in Early Modern and Welsh History, Dr Lloyd Bowen is a Co-Investigator on the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project Welfare, Conflict and Memory 1642 – 1710. He explains what drew him to this subject:

“John Poyer provides a fascinating route into understanding better how the cataclysm of civil war engulfed communities across England and Wales. Poyer’s life was one of drama and incident but also one of political struggle and personal sacrifice; this study helps put a very human face to the wider forces of change which raged through mid-seventeenth century Britain”.

Described as an ‘exhilarating read offering a glimpse of the man on his own terms’ (Professor Hopper, Leicester). the book has received glowing reviews as ‘one of the most vivid, well-informed and sophisticated accounts ever written of the seventeenth-century civil wars’ (Professor Stoyle, Southampton).

John Poyer, the Civil Wars in Pembrokeshire and the British Revolutions is published by the University of Wales Press.

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