The Life of Thomas More
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The Life of Thomas More

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  406 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Peter Ackroyd's "The Life of Thomas More" is a magnificent reconstruction of the life and imagination of one of the most remarkable figures of history. Thomas More was a renowned statesman, the author of a political fantasy that gave a name to a genre and a worldview "(Utopia)," and, most famously, a Catholic martyr, who paid with his life when he refused to follow his sov...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published October 20th 1998 by Nan A. Talese (first published 1998)
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Chris
I've never really like Thomas More. He always seemed a bit hard headed, stubborn, bordering on cruel. At least, in what I've read about him and seen in the movies. It is to Ackroyd's credit that he makes More human. I don't like him, but I respect him.

Ackroyd goes a long way into taking a closer look at More's marriage. He makes Alice More into more than a shrew. Ackroyd also place More in time and place. He looks at the influence of society and religion. He is careful too keep away from the ide...more
Gregg
Informative and easy to read. Ackroyd keeps the original spelling of Renaissance times, which is a little irritating, but that aside, I totally got wrapped up in his recounting of More's rise in the court of the English government, and subsequent fall from grace through King Henry's split with the church. Plenty of nuggets of which I was unaware (among the many words More introduced into the vernacular: paradox, and fact), and plenty of lines culled from More's correspondence used in various dra...more
Idyll
Akroyd writes with an irresistible scholarly starchiness. It's hard for me to like More, though I love reading about his times. He was a medieval, hierarchically inclined stick-in-the-mud at the time that this world view was about to be shattered. It's hard for us in modern times to even imagine a world that had the kind of (oppressive) cohesion of his youthful years. He stuck with the mothership of the 1000-year-old franchise. Unfortunately, his boss had left the building. He was obviously kill...more
Andrea
Long and tedious in some ways but very interesting. Adult reading. I liked how he was so opposed to materialism that he gave his daughter a necklace of peas rather than pearls to teach her a lesson. Watch the movie "A Man for All Seasons."
Julie
Jun 15, 2007 Julie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: biography
This is one of the best biographies I have come across full of detail, it sheds a great deal of light on this man who was known best of all as Chancellor of England to Henry VIII. suitable for students and general readers alike.
Patrick
I thought on first reading this biography some years ago that it was less gripping that it could have been, given the stature of the man that it is about, but I find on re-reading the book that my first assessment was wrong. What I had found tedious then is what I would now call atmospheric and impressively detailed. Peter Ackroyd knows sixteenth-century London inside and out. One of the virtues of this biography is that it places Thomas More in his proper context, as a man who all his adult lif...more
Daniela Major
A great byography for those who are in the beginning of trying to understand this immense and complex character. Ackroyd makes no personal judgements even though one can see some flicks here or there. This is, however, easily supressed by his sound suppositions and opinions. The book is not exactly a character study but rather a way of really trying to understand the life of Thomas More and in what way some events of his life led to his own way of thinking. Ackroyd doesn´t look at More from a 21...more
Conor
One of the best biographies and simply put best books I have ever read. Ackroyd makes More's England come to life. One smells the smells, hears the sounds, and tastes the tastes of More's London. Ackroyd has an incredible sympathy for his subject and writes a gripping book. It reads like a novel. My one complaint, and it is minor, is that Ackroyd does not translate the Olde English into the contemporary English and this can make some of the quotations quite difficult to understand. On my second...more
Emma
As Teigan said to me many years ago when I was reading this "hmm ... Thomas More: fun guy". Ackroyd brings the time and place absolutely alive. His detail about London life at that time makes you feel you're there at such an important juncture in English history. Very very good.
L Greyfort
This is a very careful, detailed, scholarly portrayal of More's life. This is probably appropriate, because of the nature of More's life.

But, no, this ain't an easy, light, quick read.

I appreciated the detailed description of More's early education, and training for his career as a lawyer. It helped me understand the idea of rhetoric and it's application to his work.

The discussion of his writing and connection with Erasmus helped me understand the early 16th century ideas of "humanism" and "re...more
Bryan
Aug 30, 2012 Bryan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians, historians, and anyone who believes in Truth
Powerful, hopeful, and enlightening: the story of Sir Thomas More is one that everyone should hear.

Thomas More was a remarkable sixteenth-century lawyer who, out of his faith to the Catholic church, refused to swear an oath of spiritual obedience to King Henry the Eighth after the later took it upon himself to seize power from the Catholic Church and form The Church of England.

What was most interesting is that More brilliantly refused to give the reason 'why' he would not take the oath of spiri...more
Dorothy
Exceptional biography. Ackroyd brilliantly places More at the nexus of Humanism and Renaissance thinking as it struggled from the cloak of Medieval beliefs and argument. We see More as the. "Man for all Seasons" in an historical and socio-cultural milieu roiled by the cracks in monolithic Catholicism and the rise of the imperial king. A sublime rhetorician, deeply and eventually zealously religious he was a man who did not suffer fools, was marvelously ironic and imbued with great conscience and...more
Steve
Ackroyd has produced the definitive account of this great thinker and man of principle, born in 1478. The author reveals, amazingly that More and Beckett, both martyred and canonised, were born twenty yards from each other. Son of a lawyer serving the capital's guilds of merchants, it should be no surprise that More followed in his father's steps studying law, under the patronage of John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor. Morton would be a great role-model for the young More,...more
A.k. Frailey
Peter Ackroyd's book, The Life of Thomas More, was one of the best biographies I have ever read. It was clear, detailed, unbiased, and full of information I never knew about the saint, the times, and the major players in that epoch in history. I was very impressed with Mr. Ackroyd's grasp of the specific skills in which Thomas More was fluent. I learned a lot from this book, but I never felt talked down to - rather spoken to as someone who could slip into the country and century as easily as Tho...more
James Clark
A little pandantic. Still easily readable due to Peter Ackroyd's style and manner. I found myself hung up at times and had to take a breather from the book, making it a slightly difficult read. I think less detail would have been better because I kept coming up with a "let's get on with it" feeling. A considerable amount of detail and time was taken on More's education and training. I would like to have seen less detail and a swifter delivery into the Tudor context. I probably will have to go ba...more
Caitlin
A good biography if you know something about Thomas More already. I think a reader might miss some of the traditional climaxes about his imprisonment, trial, and death because the author just reproduces the transcript of his treason trial. There's not much about Richard Rich at all in the book, and I assume that this is because the focus is on More himself and his personality and less upon Reformation and his death. Nonetheless, it would be nice to hear this author discuss More's relationship wi...more
Lisa
When I was younger and first into Tudor-era history, I remember finding Thomas More very sympathetic and principled. After reading this book, I come away feeling like while there was a matter of principle involved (Henry VIII not having the right to set himself above the Catholic Church), it was more More's lawyerly reliance on law and legal principle that did him in. I also find less sympathy for More this time around- a man willing to send others to burn can't expect much sympathy when the mac...more
Frosh
I suppose it is the biography of More to read, although I've never really looked around to see what else is out there. The two things that really stuck out for me were Ackroyd's depiction of England and how devoutly Catholic it was at the time (stupidly, very stupidly, the thought hadn't really occurred to me before), and also how far ahead More was in how he raised his daughter. The more I look at this period in Europe, and particularly at women, Margaret was almost totally one of a kind. There...more
Fr. Kyle
I love reading about the lives of saints. Usually, they are written by believers and are more like hagiographies. Ackroyd is an historian. He showed the world of Thomas More. He would make his own editorial comments, but on the whole, it was a fascinating, although, at times, slow read. He prose, which for most of the book has a historical quality to it, changes once More enters prison and everything comes alive. I must say I wish he had wirtten the whole book in the style, because I would have...more
Frank Kelly
One of the best biographies of Thomas More I have yet to read. Ackroyd paints a colorful and richly detailed historical panorama of More and his times, revealing the man who was to become a great saint and martyr -- and I particularly was delighted to learn just how enormous More's sense of humor was. I guess it goes to show most of the greatest saints understood the inanity of life and simply laughed it and sought to make the most of life while serving others. But ot be clear, this is not a rel...more
April Hochstrasser
I respect Thomas More immensely because he stood up for what he believed in and had integrity to the end. He is the only Londoner ever given England's highest honors and awarded sainthood, (posthumously). This book helped me to discover the reasons for what he did. He would not sanction the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boelyn and was put to death because of it. All others around him were renouncing the Catholic position but he stood up for his until the end. Kind of a boring style as biographi...more
Jenny
Peter Ackroyd bringing the Life of Thomas More to life through his extensive knowledge of the era. By providing in minute detail the geography, architecture, education of young Thomas' life, the substance of Thomas More is beginning to seep into my consciousness. Ackroyd provides a fine description of the deep-seated values and principles which led More to his fate. An amazing journey through this turbulent period of history. How the twin powers of Church and State vied for the hearts and minds...more
Jackie
This is a scholarly, well-written biography of Thomas More, saint, lawyer, and Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII. The book contains excerpts from many of More’s writings and correspondence, which lends credibility to Ackroyd’s interpretations without having to move back and forth between the text and the footnotes. Ackroyd explains all aspects of Thomas More’s life, revealing him to be a complicated man living in constant contradiction and so much more than simply a man who died for the sake of his...more
Siria
A meticulously researched and well-written portrait of Thomas More. Ackroyd has a gift for making his subject come alive, and teasing out the nuances of the primary source material in a subtle and insightful way. There's nothing in here that's really new or startling—unsurprising, perhaps, given how well-studied More has been in the centuries since his death—but Ackroyd presents it in such a way as to give one of the most lucid and complete biographies of the man that we possess.
David
I read a biography of William Tyndale last year, the translator of the Bible into English who was hounded to the stake by Thomas More, who came across as a monster quite the opposite of his Man For All Seasons saintly persona. I thought at the time it seemed a little skewed to demonising him, so maybe this book will redress the balance. Also, I'm fascinated by the European Reformation, the backdrop to all this.
Jonfaith
Aside from Ackroy claiming to a fidelity to the milieu of More by quoting him in the obscure spellings of the sixteenth century, there are vast praries of emotional space between the author and his subject. I am left a bit puzzled. Ackroyd goes to sufficient lengths to remove the aura of hagiography from More, but doesn't construct a viable counter-thesis either. There is simply the written record. Odd.
Jennifer
I've seen Thomas More (the Man of All Seasons) portrayed several times as a defender of liberty of conscience, which he certainly was not. This book sorts out who he was, and explains a lot of the apparent contradictions. It's well written, and of course the topic is fascinating. Ackroyd does assume quite a lot of familiarity with the period, though, and it can be a bit dense.
Lorenz
This book is not a slow read as some reviews have claimed. It is very engaging book for anyone interested in both the man and the world that he live in. I just wish that the author put more emphasis on More's legal career. Nevertheless, this book definitely made me want to read more about Tudor England and the English Reformation. An excellent biography of a brilliant man...
Lauren Albert
It is still difficult to place oneself in the frame of mind that would lead a man like More to condemn himself to death--figuratively, that is. Ackroyd does an excellent job of trying to help you see the man and the times but perhaps, in this age of Jihadists, it is still difficult for most people to understand what would lead someone to die for their religion.
Stash
A very dry academic read that could have used a little more imagination. The gaps (and there were many due to a relative lack of personal documentation) were not filled in by the author. This could have been a wonderful boon showing a window onto a period of changing eras but instead read like a dry exercise in academic historical research.
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age...more
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