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The Life of Thomas More

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  641 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
Peter Ackroyd's The Life of Thomas More is a masterful reconstruction of the life and imagination of one of the most remarkable figures of history. Thomas More (1478-1535) was a renowned statesman; the author of a political fantasy thatgave a name to a literary genre and a worldview (Utopia); and, most famously, a Catholic martyr and saint.

Born into the professional classe
Paperback, 480 pages
Published November 9th 1999 by Anchor (first published December 12th 1991)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,719)
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May 28, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
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
Mar 08, 2009 Gregg rated it really liked it
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
Feb 11, 2009 Idyll rated it really liked it
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
Angus McKeogh
Nov 14, 2015 Angus McKeogh rated it really liked it
Really interesting biography of an historic figure. I knew he had been beheaded for refusing to take the oath of the Act of Succession by Henry VIII and was thereafter canonized by the Catholic Church. I didn't know that prior to these events he'd been the King's Chancellor and had had numerous burned at the stake for being "heretics" or not Catholic, and he had reveled in those very facts. I suppose you live as a religious murderer and you die as a religious murderer. Very prescient with the st ...more
Apr 09, 2008 Andrea rated it really liked it
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."
Jun 15, 2007 Julie rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 10, 2015 Charity rated it really liked it
The book is good. Bit verbose, and I was surprised at its abrupt ending -- with his execution, rather than discussing further the fall-out his death had on the family and their estates, as well as the rescue of his head by Margaret (More) Roper, but in general it's very well researched and gives an interesting portrait of the man who was born a sinner, and is now a saint.

If I could change one thing, it would be to update the spelling in the direct quotes from Erasmus and Thomas More's correspond
Jul 12, 2016 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ackroyd writes in such an enchanting style, and boy did he choose a fascinating topic! Since reading 'Wolf Hall', I have been intrigued by the polarised figure of More (a recent article of 'History Today' was entitled 'Thomas More: Saint or Sinner'. Ackroyd wisely avoids this dichotomy of interpretation, and instead recounts More's life from start to finish- a life which traverses European cities and the courts of Kings, but one which ultimately remains entrenched in the city of London. I partic ...more
Feb 16, 2013 Patrick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
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
Sep 23, 2015 Kara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tudor-fact

Very much a biography’s biography, we start with Thomas More’s birth, then childhood, schooling, and so on, solidly chronological from there, always trying to define the time and place More was part of, but sticking to his timeline rather than wandering about and getting lost in the medieval weeds.

Ackroyd makes a firm connection between More’s respect for the orderliness of the legal system and the order of the Catholic Church, arguing that to More, they were one and the same – to attack the Cat
Aug 07, 2009 Conor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rereading
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
Oct 26, 2015 Ira rated it liked it
The book seems well researched, but not exciting. It is a biography, it is to be expected that it concentrates on the man, the subject, but this one does so, one feels, at the expense of much that was occurring around him and influenced his behaviour, his stance and his decisions. Ackroyd gives us a flavour of the Humanists and who Erasmus was, but not what they stood for. He tells us that the heretics were put to death by More and that he wrote polemics and pamphlets against them, and what poli ...more
Jul 06, 2008 Siria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 28, 2011 Jonfaith rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
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.
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.
Jul 15, 2016 Fred rated it really liked it
Thoroughly readable and informative biography of the English Catholic layman Thomas More. More is a fascinating person: a layman who is also a saint, a humanist who put people to the fire as heretics, a loyal servant killed by the king as a rebel. As a protestant it was particularly interesting to see the origins of the reformation from viewpoint of a devout Catholic rather than from Luther. It is also the chronicle of life of a man with a familiar arc. As a young man he questions the establishe ...more
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.
Feb 15, 2012 Vincent rated it it was amazing
Excellent, three dimensional profile of the Saint and explanation of the political, religious, and cultural elements of the time. The authors misconceptions that the Sacramental System was exclusively a Medieval viewpoint does not take away from the quality of the work.
Jan 15, 2015 Gene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This historical account started out with much conjecture and little fact because not much was known of Thomas More's youth. As the book progressed, however, it gained in interest. The theme of the central role the ideas of law and order played in More's life was well supported. Of most interest was the chapter comparing and contrasting him with his theological opponent Martin Luther. By the time his arrest is introduced, the reader has a deep respect and admiration for him even if he doesn't sha ...more
Sep 11, 2014 David rated it liked it
I read this book mostly because it happened to be in the house, and I couldn't find anything else that I wanted to read before another trip to the library. Also, reading something that wouldn't have otherwise been on my radar and from which I could learn some history was sufficient reason to pick up said book. Ackroyd's scholarship is very solid, albeit a bit dry, and I learned quite a bit, not just about More but about the time period. Nevertheless, pious late medieval Catholics are decidedly n ...more
Aug 19, 2014 Patricia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I had been looking forward to this but I found it hard going. There was a lot of analysis of medieval thought. I'd have had a lot more of an engagement with More had he not sent others to the stake. There are some gems in his writing though such as 'to tourne a plum into a doggys torde in a boyes mouthe'. He introduced into English words and phrases such as fact, shuffle, anticipate, meeting, not to see the wood for the trees and to make the best of something. There was a lot of Chauceresque sca ...more
Daniela Major
Dec 29, 2015 Daniela Major rated it it was amazing
a good biography
Dec 29, 2015 Michael rated it liked it
When I was growing up my parents had a huge portrait of Thomas More (their favorite saint) hanging in our living room. One of my brothers was named for him and one of the first movies I saw was "A Man for All Seasons." I came to accept that More was a noble, God-like figure who became a martyr for the Catholic Church because his conscience would not allow him to go along with the plans of Henry VIII to displace the Pope as head of the Church.

Later, in reading "Wolf Hall," I encountered a differe
Czarny Pies
Mar 08, 2016 Czarny Pies rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: No one. There are better books available on More.
Shelves: european-history
I am appalled that this book won the James Tait prize. In my opinion the reading public could well have done without this inconsequential effort. There a number of other better biographies available at the time this one was published and fail to see what Ackroyd's effort adds to our knowledge of either the man or the era.

The reality is that in the last 400 years virtually new sources on the life of Thomas More have come to light. During that period, biographers have been going through the same a
L Greyfort
Jul 15, 2008 L Greyfort rated it really liked it
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
Aug 30, 2012 Bryan rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 20, 2013 Dorothy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
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
Aug 16, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mid 4. 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
A.k. Frailey
Apr 08, 2014 A.k. Frailey rated it it was amazing
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
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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
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