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Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  337 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
A dazzling history of the Tower of London, one of the world's busiest tourist attractions, and the people who populated it

Castle, royal palace, prison, torture chamber, execution site, zoo, mint, home to the crown jewels, armory, record office, observatory, and the most visited tourist attraction in the UK: The Tower of London has been all these things and more. No buildin
Hardcover, 456 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,275)
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I had high hopes for this book ever since I first saw it on the shelves of our local Barnes and Noble for $35. This being out of my price range, I frequently checked for it at Better World Books hoping to score a cheap used copy. Failing that, it went onto my most recent Christmas wish list, and this is where I found success.

Unfortunately, this book was not what I had built it up to be. I was envisioning a detailed description from beginning to end of the Tower of London with each renovation and
Dec 13, 2012 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You all know that I am a history buff, particularly when it comes to ancient and medieval cultures. As a result, it probably wouldn't be surprised to find out that I read and enjoyed this one. Built by William the Conqueror after becoming King of England and establishing his control over the country, the Tower of London has played a major role in the governing elite in Britain since its creation.

What is amazing is the varying roles it has played. Most people know about it being a prison and plac
Jan 13, 2012 Mandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2012
I really enjoyed this book, so much that I knew before I got half way through I would reread it very soon.

Written in an easy, straight forward, consistent style, with an amazing amount of information, it would be an ideal read for anyone who intends to visit the Tower, as well as anyone who loves history. I have visited the Tower and if I get the chance again I would get a lot more out of a second visit because of this book.

Clearly a lot of research has been invested in this book, 400 pages of s

I enjoyed portions of this book (especially the history of the Tower menagerie and the chapter about great escapes from the Tower), but too much of it was given over to a chronological march through British history giving detailed general descriptions about each king or queen's reign but very little information actually directly related to the Tower. As a history buff, I'm already acquainted with the basic narrative of British history, and was frustrated to have to wade through basic history les
Feb 01, 2013 Edie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to order this book and started it the minute I pulled it from the packaging. And then bit by bit I began finding things that just bothered me. Mr. Jones tends to relate how a person of the time felt and how they said things. It annoyed me at first until I hit the chapter "The Princes, The PRotector and The Prentenders" and he goes far into more detail about Richard III then needed to be related in order to drive home what a bloodthirsty "little" king he was. And of course the sneak ...more
Mar 09, 2013 Bobmillichamp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-reading
I've recently finished reading Tower and was completely blown away. Mr Jones made history come alive as he told a history of post Norman England through the eyes of the Tower itself. The descriptions of the various occupants of the Tower were so vivid that the reader was almost transported back in time where we could almost be an eye witness to the events as they happened.

Mr Jones created a page turner which I had trouble putting down at night and actually cost me many hours of sleep. As I have
Lauren Albert
I thought Jones rather lost the Tower quite frequently during detours through British history. Now, I realize that excursions through British history are necessary to understand events related directly to the Tower, but I did sometimes forget that the book was about the Tower at all. Now, I think it would be a good general introduction to British history only the book's format (thematic) and its consequent jumps back and forth in time would make it confusing for someone looking for an introducti ...more
An enjoyable read, at times heavy on details and other times light. The language style is very sensational, but that is not unusual for history books these days. While I was familiar with many of the stories (much of it centered in the medieval time period), there was plenty I had not heard before. I wasn't a fan of the way the chapters were split up, with there being a lot of seemingly needless jumping around. Overall, a ton of information written in an engaging fashion.
Sarah Lawrence
Nov 25, 2015 Sarah Lawrence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a fiction snob, I was honestly and very pleasantly amazed by how much I enjoyed this book. So often I feel as though reading nonfiction is a chore, something I make myself do to so that I can say I'm well-rounded, but this book swept me up and along. I loved reading all the little stories of different people who'd lived in and around the tower--Jones definitely tells a good story, and the Tower of London has more than its fair share of them. Definitely changed my whole outlook on the place th ...more
Jun 15, 2014 Jagad5 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I was very disappointed. The title suggests that this book is about the Tower of London when it is actually about events that occurred in and around the Tower of London. As the Tower was at the center of English government for seven or eight centuries, that makes this just another book skimming over English history.

I have been to the Tower of London three times and the next time I am in London, I plan to go again. As someone with an idea of what the building looks like, there were portions of th
Rose Joyce
Jan 29, 2015 Rose Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable book. Full of entertaining stories about the bloody history of the Tower of London, which was used as a fortress, garrison, royal residence ,menagerie,mint prison.and now a world famous tourist attraction.The author has an amusing and colorful way of storytelling which held my interest.He does at times have a gossipy tone which I found amusing .He definitely has strong opinions about the former rulers of England which he freely shares. He likens Henry VIII to Stalin and described Richa ...more
Mike Shoop
Oct 18, 2014 Mike Shoop rated it liked it
Good, solid history of what is likely London's most famous landmark. Used at various times (sometimes concurrently) as a palace, prison, fortress, gunpowder storage, zoo, mint, and execution site, the Tower is usually thought of as a dark and nasty place where people were tortured in dungeons and often killed. This is a history not only of the Tower, but in part of England as well, since it covers the centuries from 1078 to modern times. The very readable narrative covers all the famous and infa ...more
Rose Ann
Jan 22, 2013 Rose Ann rated it it was ok
Shelves: england
Well, he does tell the story of the Tower of London vividly, but I stopped when he got to Richard III. He has evidently swallowed the Kool-Aid of the Richard-haters. He didn't even try to be subtle about it. So I quit reading.
Edward Sullivan
A thoroughly engaging, vividly detailed and richly layered epic history that is as much a history of England as it as about the infamous Tower of London.
Some parts were good--others not so much. A ton of British history...
Jun 24, 2014 Argum rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Epic History of the Tower of London is a bit of a misnomer. It is really more The Epic History of England as it minimally overlaps with the Tower of London. This does not discount the interesting tidbits to be found in this book, but it does mean that it not exactly what one expects when picking the book up.

The other problem I had with the book was its organization. Some chapters are thematic like escapes but intermingled are some largely chronological sections. This makes it difficult to fol
Daniel Kukwa
Mar 16, 2014 Daniel Kukwa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An exhausting, near perfect work of historical scholarship, marred by two faults. The first is minor -- the two chapters that eschew chronological presentation for thematic discussion sit awkwardly in their chosen locations. However, the larger fault is the sudden, abrupt conclusion. No discussion about the status of the Tower of London today, its condition, its place in the national consciousness...there is nothing of the sort. This is a book that simply stops...and it's a strange blight on an ...more
Janice Salmon
Oct 12, 2015 Janice Salmon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nigel Jones that was a very thorough book. I was curious when I spotted this on another friends goodreads list. So I went out and picked it up and I was immensely pleased with the time I spent exploring the tower. I enjoyed the history, the way it was written and the whole nasty story of the tower, from the build to the end of World Wear II. I am curious though has any one ever calculated the number of square feet and the number of deaths related to this site. The tower is now on my bucket list.
Caught between a 3 and a 4. The topic was fascinating, but the coverage uneven. The Norman through Restoration times were quite thorough, then rest covered in less than a chapter. Including the holding of German spies, and prisoners as late as the 1950s. Also nothing about its current state, even if tourist attraction is not as interesting as prison and palace, it does warrant disscussion. Noted elsewhere are the woeful lack of illustrations. A basic diagram, some establishing shots; I had a tou ...more
Dec 13, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
TOWER: An Epic History of the Tower of London. (2011). Nigel Jones. ****.
The Tower of London is the primary tourist attraction in London, but as the crowds move through it they are rarely aware of its significance in English history. This work provides the history of the Tower from its initial construction on the site of a former Roman fort, Arx Palatina, designed by master architect Gundulf (known as the wailing monk) in 1078, to the present day. Be wary, though, as a central site of English h
Dec 18, 2012 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Tower of London is, in essence, a history of London itself. This was an excellent book, focusing on different aspects of the Tower, such as its role as a zoo, royal mint, royal palace, prison, etc. The chapters that focused on the famous prisoners of the Tower were particularly gruesome and gripping; I found myself flipping the pages eagerly, wanting to find out what happened next.

The only drawback to this book is as it tries to cover almost a thousand years of history, Jones tends to skate
Apr 02, 2014 Jimmie rated it it was ok
Apparently, the only way to be a "good" king in the Middle Ages was to be ruthless, cruel, and to kill all your enemies. And then kill your enemies families. Did Richard the third kill his 2 nephews in the tower? If he did, he was hardly alone in killing innocents to take England's throne. The Tower has a bloody and gruesome history. Perhaps that is why it remains one of England's top tourist destination. How can you say history is boring?
Aug 25, 2013 Doug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I want to rate Tower as a four+. I have really lucked out and read a lot of very readable history of late, and this book is an excellent example. I would describe it as a kind of a down and dirty history of England from the Norman Conquest through the Restoration, using the tower of London as a backdrop. Although it is rather bare-boned, I don't know how you could have done it much better in only 430 pages. I completely lost track of the number of folks who lost their heads on Tower Hill - and t ...more
Jan 12, 2014 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Truly an epic read, in terms of scope and length (400+ pages). Jones regales readers with stories of the Tower of London from its construction by William the Conqueror to the executions of spies during the World Wars. The unavoidable reality that Anglophiles like myself must accept is the brutal history that lies beneath the sophisticated veneer of British culture. Those who think that savagery and barbarism are unique to tribal headhunters living in isolated jungles should consider the often re ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Andrew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book with lots of stories about the 1000 history of the Tower of London - as expected it is filled with tales of executions, torture, treason and intrigue. I felt that the continuity left a lot to be desired as each chapter explored a different facet of the Tower and progressed through the centuries ie the zoo or the mint, before moving onto another facet - which basically means that some stories were told twice - ie the fall of the Duke of Monmouth after his botched rebellion and ...more
David R.
Jan 05, 2015 David R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england
This one is a largely political narrative of the Tower of London from its construction after the Norman Conquest to the present day. Jones mostly concerns himself with the incarceration and execution of political figures in the complex's long history. Based on the effusion of blood (often unjustly) I could easily vote to dismantle this horrific monument -- as a gesture to a generations of victims of early English despots.
David Eppenstein
Dec 14, 2014 David Eppenstein rated it really liked it
Does any country have a more colorful, bloody, corrupt, and amoral history than England? This book was a delightful history of one Western "civilizations" centers of activity, the Tower of London. This history was not only a detailed history of the Tower but also a tour through the highlight and low lifes of English history and nobility. After reading this book you will wonder how a society whose most exalted members had no trouble betraying each other. Parents sending children to the block, chi ...more
Christine Parker
Ponderous! I can appreciate the amount of research done here but Part One is a heavy going history. Far too much compacted detail to be absorbed and barely a mention of The Tower. Part Two much better in its anecdotal form.
And why oh why no pictures or plans of The Tower!
May 10, 2014 Emma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read, but the organization works well as a concept, but not always practically. Needing to turn back to clarify is annoying, but is well balanced by the story-telling.
There are also moments of repetitiveness as the organization winds up with so much crossover.
Jul 06, 2014 John rated it really liked it
This is an epic. Very interesting. Lots of names, titles, and dates. While these things go with the territory of history books they don't get in the way. The English Monarchy and Revolutionarys were a blood thirsty group trying to protect what they viewed as their rightful place in the world. Lots of paranoia; some perceived, some real. Hard to believe the Tower is almost 1000 yrs old. What struck me was the ineptitude of some headsmen. Sometimes it took 5-6 strokes to roll a head. Parallel this ...more
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