History makes it very clear that women often held a diminished (or even non-existent) role in politics, leadership, and even the marital sphere. The fHistory makes it very clear that women often held a diminished (or even non-existent) role in politics, leadership, and even the marital sphere. The female gender, however, had more of an influence and control than one perceives especially during that of Medieval/Renaissance Europe. Sarah Gristwood brings to the forefront examples of these lionesses in, “Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe”.
In “Games of Queens”, Gristwood attempts to highlight the roles and interactions of several females of interest who impacted European political affairs such as: Isabella of Castile, Margaret of Austria, Mary of Burgundy, Mary of Hungary, Louise of Savoy, Catherine de Medici, Margaret Tudor, Mary Stuart, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, and Anne of Brittany; to name a few. This is a lofty goal by Gristwood as the web of these women is thick and heavily intertwined. Yet, whether Gristwood is successful or not, is laid aside momentarily for the mere fact of the attempt at this fresh and unique look at history which is often glossed over. Although shelves are rife with individual biographies; Gristwood stands out presenting the macro-view of all these women.
That being said, “Game of Queens” certainly suffers from a bombardment of content that can feel disorganized, repetitive, and sometimes aimless. This isn’t necessarily a fault of Gristwood’s as she has clearly conducted her research and isn’t short of material; however, her writing seems to be a bit overwhelmed which decidedly makes “Games of Queens” overwhelming, in turn. Thus, readers may have a difficult time retaining all of the information offered on the pages.
On the other hand, even though fact-retention is an issue; the overall thesis of proving how important these women were to European history is very clear, solidified, and will impress the reader. In this manner, “Games of Queens” is a compelling piece of writing.
At times, Gristwood is slightly too casual with her tone and language which is inconsistent with other efforts to be on the academic spectrum. This, fortunately, isn’t overly abused with “Game of Queens”; but it is noticeable (Gristwood, for example, seems to be obsessed with the term, ‘party’).
Gristwood peppers “Games of Queens” with some speculative statements yet she also excels with presenting some new information or that which is not generally discussed in the foreground adding to the reader value of the text.
The second half of “Game of Queens” is notable smoother in terms of Gristwood’s choppiness with the content having much more of an appeal and strength. Gristwood debunks some myths and presents some convincing information raising the echelon of the text. “Games of Queens” is much more entertaining at this point and helps to make the weaker former portion more forgivable.
Much of the latter chapters focuses on the Tudor and English connections versus the other women discussed earlier in “Game of Queens”. This is a bit constrained for those familiar with the Tudors. Yet, Griswood continues to uncover some lesser-known areas and “Game of Queens” is therefore better suited to be read with some breaks in order to grasp all of the material. Consequentially, “Game of Queens” proceeds to lose the grip on dissection the roles of the women and missing the thesis instead becoming a standard history-recall piece. At this point, the pace slacks a bit.
A highlight in the concluding chapters is Gristwood’s explanation of the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre which she presents in a riveting and raw voice. The material is easy-to-understand for those new to the topic but is also entertaining for those well-read on the subject.
Gristwood sums up “Games of Queens” with a strong postscript traversing the after-effects and state of Europe post-the discussed women in power. This is followed by a light ‘Notes’ section which also offers some sources for further reading (but, sadly, this is not as in-depth as some fact-checking readers would prefer). “Games of Queens” also includes a section of color plate photos.
Gristwood generally strives to pen pieces focusing on unique subjects or angles of history and “Games of Queens” is no exception. Although “Game of Queens” suffers from some execution issues and some consistency errors; it is a ‘solid’ choice for imbibing on the subject and gaining some insight. “Game of Queens” is recommended for those interested in powerful women of the sixteenth century....more
The Great Fire of London in 1666 was devastating to the city and people of London even by today’s standards nevertheless during a time when modern recThe Great Fire of London in 1666 was devastating to the city and people of London even by today’s standards nevertheless during a time when modern recovery and logistical efforts were nonexistent. How were ‘everyday’ citizens and their businesses/economies affected by the flames? Hazel Forsyth explores the answer in, “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker: Surviving the Great Fire of London”.
Forsyth’s “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” is a glossy-paged, coffee table book divided into two main sections with the first meandering on the actions taken (emergency efforts, evacuations, loss inventory) by the Great Fire (versus an actual history of the fire); while the second provides an A-Z trade list depicting personal losses of everyday citizens and merchants. The entire text is backed by an extensive amount of primary, legal, and administrative sources. Forsyth’s thesis therefore attempts to showcase the individualistic effects to everyday life. Sadly, this goal of “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” is, although unique, lost.
The first half of “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” provides readers with some insight into the magnitude of the fire and the remarkable efforts by the city of London to recover and recuperate. Some of the reactions to the catastrophe are quite noteworthy based on the time period and this heightens Forsyth’s impact.
Forsyth uncovers some never-before mentioned facts (including many court proceedings/fines against London citizens post-fire which were clearly unjustified) making for compelling reading. Unfortunately, this section is somewhat rushed and would have done better being more fleshed out.
The second section, highlighting the individual trades, are not at all what one would hope for or expect in “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker”. Forsyth’s portraits of the trades are inconsistent with some mostly describing pre-fire economies while others mostly comprise of inventories in paragraph form. Nothing is truly illuminated and one almost reacts with, “What is the point, here?” as the text does nothing other than show what jobs existed during the period. The relation to the fire is predominately lost.
Although Forsyth’s writing is scholarly (and her research is solid); perhaps “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” is too academic as it has no zest and little reader appeal. Basically said, “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” is quite slow and boring.
Graphically, “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” has redemption value in that it features photos of actual pieces and archives from the collection of the Museum of London making the reader feel as though one is walking through a museum exhibit (the text would –and probably is—a great museum supplement). The colorful photos are detailed and striking accompanied by descriptive captions.
Forsyth provides the final pages of “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” with some (lightly) annotated ‘Notes’ and a few listed sources for further reading.
Even though “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” has a unique thesis; it lacks in presentation and execution. The text isn’t memorable and the reader will not be emotionally moved in any way. “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” is quite dry and only recommended for those who must read everything concerning the Great Fire. ...more
Jane Grey will forever be immortalized as the “Nine Days Queen” (it was actually 13) having ‘usurped’ the crown from Mary Tudor before Mary decided shJane Grey will forever be immortalized as the “Nine Days Queen” (it was actually 13) having ‘usurped’ the crown from Mary Tudor before Mary decided she had enough of that and snatched it off Jane’s head (figuratively). This tragic young lady, beheaded for her role at age 17, was more than just a martyr: she had poise, intelligence, decorum, and religious fortitude. Nicola Tallis, the resident historian of the Alison Weir Tours (which should hint at Tallis’s writing style); brings Jane’s life to the limelight in, “Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Jane Grey”.
Tallis kicks off “Crown of Blood” by exploring the Tudor blood lines and environment surrounding the birth and childhood of Jane Grey. This is an introspective start that is great for those not familiar with the topic but it does seem that Jane is instantly bypassed when she is supposed to be the star of the text. This is also solidified by Tallis venturing off on tangents not truly discussing Jane until several chapters in.
Despite this initial “Where is Jane?”- moment; Tallis immediately intrigues the reader with both her clear abundance of information (which, again, is great for those new to the topic) and her writing style which is lovely and descriptive but professional. Tallis has strong writing skills that stick out with “Crown of Blood” being her first foray into the publishing world but also among some of the history books from her peers, in general. There are some speculative statements rife with “could have” and “should have” jargon but these are not overwhelmingly so and therefore, do not weaken the text as a whole.
The major issue with “Crown of Blood” is that there is no new information. The pages consist of everything about Jane and her life that readers will already be familiar with many times over and thus, “Crown of Blood” simply recaps the information. To remedy this, there are occasional moments when Tallis attempts to debunk myths or rumors and break down facts with strong research and sleuth work. Tallis infuses “Crown of Blood” with primary sourced-document block quotes and direct quotes from figures in the text. This strengthens the credibility of “Crown of Blood” and gives a revealing look into the historical matter.
As expected, the pace heightens when Jane gains the crown…and loses it. Tallis tells the events with bravado both informing the reader of the history while also providing entertainment. Although new facts are STILL not uncovered; “Crown of Blood” explores the incident well with a strong voice and firm research. On the other (negative) hand, at this point, Tallis puts too much of an emphasis on what Jane felt and thought without any source material backing these statements. It can be said that “Crown of Blood” is too much like a HF novel, in some ways.
Despite Tallis’s speculative tone; she also reveals Grey as formidable, bold, courageous, and mature for her age shedding new light on Jane for those who merely viewed her as a pawn-victim. In fact, “Crown of Blood” makes her too saintly and it is obvious where Tallis’s biases lay.
The concluding chapters of “Crown of Blood” have a strong impact with a detailed retelling of Wyatt’s Rebellion and an emotional rehashing of Jane’s death. This is followed by a look into the social/pop history impact of Jane Grey plus the aftermath on her close family bring the text together in a homogeneous and memorable way.
“Crown of Blood” includes compelling appendices discussing portraits (or lack there) of Jane, her final theological debate before execution, and a list of places to visit in England to walk in her footsteps. These are not only unique but useful to the reader. This is also supplemented by a well-annotated notes section and a bibliography. These are gold mines for the readers and not to be skipped over!
Tallis’s first history writing is quite remarkable as it stands on firms legs with its approach, writing style, and credibility. Yes, there isn’t any new information surrounding Jane (and tangents ensue); but, even despite this, the text is strong and perfect for a new reader to the topic and is a great refresher for those already well-versed. “Crown of Blood” isn’t perfect and is certainly similar to Alison Weir’s works (so, not suggested for those anti-Weir readers) but it is certainly recommended for those interested in Jane Grey and the Tudor period. Basically: it is good for what it is and meets its purpose. ...more
The Tudors were a far cry from ‘shy’ and left a multitude of artifacts for posterity: documents, books, paintings, toys, instruments, jewelry, and eveThe Tudors were a far cry from ‘shy’ and left a multitude of artifacts for posterity: documents, books, paintings, toys, instruments, jewelry, and even buildings. Therefore, we know much about this historical ‘celebrity’ family. How much do we know about their personal lives, though? A lot played out center stage; but what about the Tudor world behind closed doors? Tracy Borman attempts to answer this in, “The Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secrets of Britain’s Greatest Dynasty”.
You may be wondering, “Does Borman answer these questions and uncover the secret world of the Tudors?” The answer is a big fat: NO. “The Private Lives of the Tudors” begins with highlighting the gaining of the crown by Henry VII (from Richard III) which begins the Tudor Dynasty as we know it. Borman’s writing is sharp, articulate, and well-written in terms of language skills adding an excellence and professionalism to the piece. Unfortunately though, “The Private Lives of the Tudors” is more in the vein of pop history than scholarly and rarely traverses any new information. All of the material is covered hundreds of times over elsewhere and the thesis is not answered. Readers will be bored unless brand new to the subject. Basically, “The Private Lives of the Tudors” is not an investigative piece and is barely ‘private’ at all.
Further affecting the lack of compelling substance is the usual Borman tendency of missing the mark with cohesiveness. “The Private Lives of the Tudors” is up-and-down in pace and Borman often loses direction which results in lots of repetition. Many of the chapters are disjointed from others seeming like they weren’t written in succession and Borman repeats facts and entire areas of study. Not to mention, the chapters drag and don’t break at the expected times which effects readability.
Despite the fact that “The Private Lives of the Tudors” is not what it claims to be (and is merely a brief overview of the dynasty with some focus on the social sides); Borman did clearly do her research on the topic presenting a stretched out time period. However, this is where the biggest issue with “The Private Lives of the Tudors” comes into play: Quite often, Borman offers a fact in direct opposition to the other historians and books on the topic. It is suitable to disagree with the masses and offer a fresh view if this is substantiated and sourced. Yet, Borman states these as flat, solid facts and as though they are 100% true. This causes “The Private Lives of the Tudors” to lose credibility and again depreciate for those readers well-versed on the material.
Related to this, Borman also makes many speculative “would have”, “must have”, and “could have” statements hypothesizing on mental or emotional mind frames without backing material. Sometimes “The Private Lives of the Tudors” simply has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Once “The Private Lives of the Tudors” portraits Elizabeth I; then it strikes gold and much more accurately addresses the thesis and thereby presents solid, unknown factoids about Elizabeth’s private and social life that is new even to Tudor obsessees. If only the entire book was this strong then Borman would have more appealing piece on her hands.
Borman concludes “The Private Lives of the Tudors” with a quick look at the state of court affairs after Elizabeth’s death. This is a memorable ending and emphasizes the Tudor way of life and how grandiose it was.
“The Private Lives of the Tudors” includes a section of color plates which are notably one of the best among contemporary works of the same nature. Generally, all books on the subject feature the same photos or variations thereof. Borman is the first to include exclusive/rare photos that don’t grace the pages of other works; making her standout in the crowd.
Borman supplements “The Private Lives of the Tudors” with a bibliography giving credit to her work as it includes a heavy proportion of primary sources along with secondary; plus a list of (not-so-annotated) notes.
“The Private Lives of the Tudors” sadly does not live up to its title and doesn’t expose any new material Tudor devotees don’t already know (except for some in the sections on Elizabeth). Borman’s writing chops are worthy as is her research but “The Private Lives of the Tudors” is simply an overview of the dynasty and is best for those new to the topic. The writing strays and doesn’t feel well-organized, but, that being said: it isn’t horrible. Borman’s work is suggested as a filler read on the Tudors or for those seeking an introduction on the subject. ...more
King Charles (Stuart) II fathered several illegitimate children via his numerous mistresses and amours. Not one to shun parental responsibility (moderKing Charles (Stuart) II fathered several illegitimate children via his numerous mistresses and amours. Not one to shun parental responsibility (modern-day parents not paying child support should take note); one child, his first, stood out the most in the political and personal arenas: James, the Duke of Monmouth (son of Lucy Walter). Anna Keay looks at the life of this royal offspring in, “The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James, Duke of Monmouth”.
Although one would naturally expect “The Last Royal Rebel” to read like a biography and unpeel James on all levels; Keay’s work sadly does not. “The Last Royal Rebel” is immediately heavy on the historical detail bringing to light the Stuart period of the reign of Charles II but this is all it seemingly does. Instead of truly focusing on James, Keay observes the political environment and merely ‘tells’ what events occurred which thereby effected James or he personally partook in. This only gives a tiny insight into his character and therefore James doesn’t come alive at all resulting in a weak manuscript.
Keay’s prose is somewhat academic but also dapples into the world of speculative statements with assumptions made regarding feelings and thoughts without any credible proof. These phrases compound the already meager information provided on James. “The Last Royal Rebel” isn’t terrible; it just doesn’t highlight James as it aims and provides a more macro view of the setting.
There are moments when Monmouth is more of a focus and Keay’s writing is much more compelling throughout these parts. Unfortunately, these are few and far between so they don’t carry “The Last Royal Rebel”. Plus, Keay continues to ‘tell’ versus ‘show’ the history which slows the pace and doesn’t leave an impact.
The progression of “The Last Royal Rebel” doesn’t guarantee to open up James more and still tends to stray on tangents. If all of the information was removed that simply explains James’s environment; “The Last Royal Rebel” would be about quarter of its current length.
Keay’s writing style also flows into a style that is too flowery for NF history and is better suited for a fictional narrative. Such lines as, “…his handsome face was swollen and his cheeks stained with tears” and “… his heart ached with loss and his mood turned black and bitter” are reflective of Keay’s writing but have no place in a supposed scholarly piece and should be firmly kept in the fictional realm.
The ‘climax’ of “The Last Royal Rebel” is certainly Keay’s discussion of Monmouth’s alleged rebellion against his father, the King. Keay’s writing is the first time that this has been questioned and explained versus simply condemning James. This opens a new viewpoint and allows the reader to truly think about and consider the possibilities of events. This is definitely where the strength in “The Last Royal Rebel” lays.
Unfortunately, this highlight is fleeting in the sense that the next topic (uprising against King James II) is choppy and Keay doesn’t thoroughly explain why Monmouth decided to get involved. This leads to a rushed ending that doesn’t fully encompass “The Last Royal Rebel”. However, the ‘Epilogue’ is better-toned and leaves memorable notes.
Keay provides the reader with notes (although not that annotated) and a bibliography with the inclusion of various styles of sources. “The Last Royal Rebel” also includes two sections of color plates.
“The Last Royal Rebel” sadly is not what one expects. Keay attempted a momentous feat by presenting a full biography on James, the Duke of Monmouth. Unfortunately, there is a reason these don’t already exist in a large number (lack of information?). Keay’s writing is more about the surrounding environment than on James and much of the text is speculation written in a narrative form.
“The Last Royal Rebel” doesn’t debunk myths nor does it leave the reader with new information and thus, many questions are unanswered. On the other hand, though, it is a good introductory course to those not as familiar with James or the reign of Charles II. “The Last Royal Rebel” is suggested for these aforementioned readers or those who must read all books on Stuart England. Otherwise, “The Last Royal Rebel” isn’t that crucial to experience. ...more
King Charles II didn’t have much of a private life, as most of his interactions played out in front the public eye. One can compare him to a celebrityKing Charles II didn’t have much of a private life, as most of his interactions played out in front the public eye. One can compare him to a celebrity in this sense. Like most of today’s celebrities, Charles didn’t mind this constant attention and in fact: enjoyed it. Don Jordan and Michael Walsh take a look at the social side of King Charles II and how it affected him in, “The King’s Bed: Sex and Power in the Court of Charles II”.
Co-authors Don Jordan and Michael Walsh are not new to the topic of Charles II (having penned another book on the famous Stuart King); and aimed to feature the social and intimate relationships in the king’s life and how these may have affected the King’s political decisions. At least, that is assumed to be the point of “The King’s Bed” but this is very much lost in translation. To begin, Jordan and Walsh’s introduction includes twelve spelling/printing errors which certainly creates an ‘uh-oh’- reaction and is quite appalling. How did this make it onto book shelves? This elementary start leads into a piece which lacks direction and doesn’t quite fit the synopsis, instead being a summary of Charles’s life bouncing back-and-forth between private and political. For those familiar with Charles II; there is no new information here and thus “The King’s Bed” is not compelling.
Also failing to add to the work is Jordan and Walsh’s writing style. First of all, it is quite clear that chapters are alternated between the authors and were attempted to be meshed together, but, sadly are not. The voices in the text are noticeably different and the pages are rife with repetition making “The King’s Bed” clunky, tedious, and not cohesive. It is admittedly difficult to have two authors pen a work and Jordan and Walsh don’t particularly do it well. However, this may be the fault of a poor editor not bringing the manuscript together smoothly.
“The King’s Bed” also features too many speculative statements or sweeping generalizations along with some historical errors/inaccuracies which blatantly stand out to the eyes of those who regularly read about the topic, making “The King’s Bed” weak and best to be taken with a grain of salt. This absence of strong scholarly prose does, on the contrary, result in an easy-to-read piece which is great for readers new to the topic seeking an underwhelming introduction. If that was the aim of Jordan and Walsh; then they succeeded.
The concluding chapters focus more on what Jordan and Walsh set out to discuss in the first place: the private life and relationship of the King. Repetition and summarizations still run rampant but the text is more streamlined at this point.
The final chapter is quite strong in the sense that it explores Charles’s death and the theories surrounding its cause (the authors even consult a modern-day physician who examined post-mortem notes). This is the first time that Jordan and Walsh are captivating and follow an academic vein. The authors also finally wax poetic on the possible psychological effects of Charles’s relationships and even discuss this with a psychiatrist. Too bad it is too little, too late.
Jordan and Walsh wrap-up “The King’s Bed” with a post-script which interestingly links Charles II to some descendents of today, an appendix about the sexual state of life in the Seventeenth Century, a ‘cast’ of characters, notes (not annotated), and a selective bibliography. “The King’s Bed” also features a section of color plates.
Jordan and Walsh’s “The King’s Bed” is sadly a thin, choppy, repetitive, non-academic piece that doesn’t take the reader on a thrill ride nor does it educate. The work is simply an introduction for those new to the subject and even they will find that the authors miss their thesis mark. I would read from the authors again but only because I try to read everything available regarding Charles II but “The King’s Bed” can otherwise be skipped. ...more
We definitely aren’t troubled with the lack of information available surrounding Queen Elizabeth I as the material is abundant and bountiful. Yet, mucWe definitely aren’t troubled with the lack of information available surrounding Queen Elizabeth I as the material is abundant and bountiful. Yet, much of what has been said of her persona is pure propaganda especially of her later years, starting with the Spanish Armada. John Guy, a popular historian and author, attempts to show Elizabeth as she truly was in the latter part of her reign in, “Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years”.
As in most of Guy’s other history works; “Elizabeth” is not a straight-forward chronological biography. Rather, Guy portraits this monarch on a subject-by-subject chapter break, attempting to deconstruct Elizabeth’s actions and thereby show who she “really was”. Unfortunately, Guy isn’t as successful in this as one would hope. The text and dates of events jump back-and-forth which makes it difficult both to retain the facts and to see the big picture juxtaposition. This also results in Guy presenting too much information and going off on various tangents instead of streamlining the material.
It is very evident; however, that Guy underwent a hefty investigation and research project. Guy procured some hidden documents which have not been previously discussed, thereby, helping to debunk myths or offer new angles to well-known Elizabethan events. Yet, Guy isn’t overly biased and is quite objective in his presentation.
The noticeable flaw in “Elizabeth” is the lack of genuinely showing a new view of Elizabeth which is Guy’s aim. The pages ‘tell’ events but they don’t really ‘show’ Elizabeth so the reader will not get to know her better or in a new way. Guy falls short of the main point to penning “Elizabeth”.
“Elizabeth” increases in reader value at the halfway point as Guy cuts down the intricacies of Elizabeth’s politic reactions and includes document excerpts which allow the reader to dive deeper than the usual propaganda. Overall, the pages are still more in the vein of Elizabethan government versus displaying Elizabeth herself; but it is stronger than the earlier pages perhaps meaning that Guy finds his groove.
With that being said, Guy still falls victim to weaknesses such as scrambling to fill space (which ends up being repetitive). For example, in between discussions when Guy is a loss for information or for a proper transition; he repeatedly returns to the argument that Elizabeth tried to fight the physical aging process and hide it from the public. Although this is maybe true, the constant empty and superficial (no pun intended) mentioning of it becomes tedious and doesn’t add to the text. We got it, Guy. No reason to revisit it constantly merely because you don’t know what to say.
The conclusion of “Elizabeth” focuses on Elizabeth’s last days both in political and personal terms. Guy does well with closing the circle of Elizabeth’s aftermath and allowing the reader to see Elizabeth’s impact. This is followed by an Epilogue which is more in the realm of an essay arguing why Elizabeth was the way she was and how this bled into the reign of James I. Guy’s basics are well-explained and backed by evidence even though he lets personal opinions flow into this section. Therefore, the Epilogue is compelling and interesting but some readers may take it with a grain of salt.
“Elizabeth” includes three sections of photo color plates plus notes although these are not thoroughly annotated. It should be noted that there is an editing flaw (misspelled word) on page 368.
Guy’s “Elizabeth” is a well-detailed look at the later years of Elizabeth’s reign pointedly discussing political maneuvers while exposing some rare documents and debunking some myths. However, Guy’s aim to reveal a new or lesser-discussed version of Elizabeth falls short and thus “Elizabeth” isn’t what Guy set it up to be. “Elizabeth” is a decent read and is recommended for Tudor and Elizabeth fans but it doesn’t really reveal any new information and is not a life-changing piece. ...more
There are hundreds (probably more like thousands) of books/texts/writings available focusing on the lives of major Tudor-era figures. However, these ‘There are hundreds (probably more like thousands) of books/texts/writings available focusing on the lives of major Tudor-era figures. However, these ‘celebrities’ were a minority in the population so what about the common, everyday folk? What were their lives like? Ruth Goodman visits (and lives!) the lives of people just like you and me during the Tudor period in, “How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life”.
Ruth Goodman is n expert when it comes to historical accuracy and reenactment and has a personal interest in the Tudor period. Goodman thereby crafts “How to Be a Tudor” into a unique piece combining elements of an academic text, memoir, how-to guide, and a “day in the life of...” personalization literally focusing on the full day of civilian life in Tudor England (although royalty and peerage is still occasionally addressed). Initially, all of this meshing of styles feels clunky and ill-conceived and therefore isn’t smooth. “How to Be a Tudor” can be somewhat difficult to follow at this stage as Goodman doesn’t seem to know the best ways to transition her writing.
As “How to Be a Tudor” progresses, either the reader gets used to Goodman’s style or she becomes more confident (probably a mixture of both); resulting in a stronger and more compelling read. Although “How to Be a Tudor” is still ‘different’, it becomes so in a good way and the reader is intrigued to continue on. Goodman clearly encompasses a wealth of information which also includes first-hand experience of her having tried Tudor ways of life which debunks myths, clarifies facts, and teaches the reader; therefore bringing many new lights to the topic.
Goodman infuses the text with light humor here and there which keeps the pace moving and fresh while also highlighting examples and case studies of the lives of “nobodies” (wonder what these individuals were to think if they knew that they just received their 15 minutes of fame?). However, there is an issue with some light repetition with Goodman revisiting some facts from one section to another.
Even though Goodman makes “How to Be a Tudor” accessible and easy-to-understand; there is a lot of material and details which can become overwhelming. It is suggested to take some reader “breather” breaks in order to retain and grasp all of the information. Goodman’s success lies in not running off on tangents with all of the material and keeping on path with her thesis.
Although informative, the conclusion of “How to Be a Tudor” feels open-ended and somewhat anti-climatic. A summary would have done well to make the book more memorable and rounded.
Sadly, Goodman doesn’t include notes or citations which can question credibility but several pages of sources are available. “How to Be a Tudor” also includes three sections of photo plates.
“How to Be a Tudor” has a rocky start but this smoothes out into an informative and unique book which definitely opens up the Tudor times in a way which isn’t always evident in historical texts, teaching the reader a bountiful of information. Although not necessarily the best “flowing” text; “How to Be a Tudor” is an excellent reference piece and engages the reader in its own way. “How to Be a Tudor” is recommended for all readers interested in the Tudor period. ...more
Those active in the Tudor online community are probably familiar with Barb Alexander’s “The Tudor Tutor” in which she presents Tudor history lessons iThose active in the Tudor online community are probably familiar with Barb Alexander’s “The Tudor Tutor” in which she presents Tudor history lessons in a sassy and witty way making it ‘fun’ and accessible. Alexander offers her knowledge for the first time in print-form in, “The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Dynasty”.
“The Tudor Tutor” is a slim volume offering a quick overview of the main topics in Tudor history. Imagine Alexander’s angle as bullet points or a play off her blog/site but written in a more narrative way. The pace flows easily and quickly, resulting in a fast read. “The Tudor Tutor” can be described as a “history-beach read”.
Alexander infuses “The Tudor Tutor” with humor and charm which is the reason behind her internet fame resulting in a few chuckles from the reader. There are some evident moments, however, where it is obvious that Alexander tries too hard to be funny which can be tiresome. Certainly do not expect an in-depth scholarly read with “The Tudor Tutor”. It teaches history but not in a credible, academic way.
Elaborating on this lack of depth, “The Tutor Tudor” is a ‘fun’ read but it doesn’t present any new information or offer any new angles to those familiar with the topic. Alexander’s work is best suited for those seeing a quick doctor’s office book inducing a few smiles. “The Tutor Tudor” is very much a blog in print form. Don’t misunderstand – it is not bad- it simply is very light so one has to merely take it for what it is.
Illustrator Lisa Graves adds some entertainment to “The Tudor Tutor” with colorful, hand-drawn illustrations. Although these are accurately based on historical paintings; even these have a hint of humor/snark (an occasional side glance or smirk on a figure’s face) which supplements Alexander’s text appropriately plus solidifies the information discussed with the reader.
Alexander does have the flaw of sometimes “crossing the line” with her descriptions, meaning that during her attempts to be comedic, Alexander can be offensive to those historical figures discussed or is biased in nature (against them). This isn’t overly harsh but still appears slightly childish. On the other hand, Alexander often ends paragraphs with questions which encourage readers to interpret the reading and encourages after -thoughts and personal research.
Despite my complaints, “The Tudor Tutor” is certainly entertaining and is a “cute” way to learn history. Plus, Alexander never claims to be an expert, doesn’t act elitist, and isn’t called a professional. Some other authors in the same realm (I’m talking about you, Susan Bordo) whom pen humorous history takes claim to be experts when they are FAR from it. Alexander doesn’t go down that path, keeping humility and not displaying any attitude or airs. Well done, Alexander!
“The Tudor Tutor” ends strongly with a somewhat lesser-discussed factoid (Stuart vs. Stewart spelling) which leaves on a memorable note. Alexander also offers a timeline of Tudor dynasty events and a light list of sources for further reading.
“The Tudor Tutor” is a humorous and indeed ‘cheeky’ look at the Tudor reign. Although light and not academic; it is a good introduction to those new to the topic or would fit well as a supplement to an exhibit. However, it is not necessarily suggested for those well-versed on the topic unless one is searching for a laugh. Again, don’t misunderstand my complaints: “The Tudor Tutor” is a fun ‘guide’. I am merely saying that is all it is so don’t expect anything more. ...more
Although letter writing may seem like a thing of the past (I still write letters!); the practice was just emerging in the fifteenth century. Letters wAlthough letter writing may seem like a thing of the past (I still write letters!); the practice was just emerging in the fifteenth century. Letters written during this period give us an intricate look into the way of life as these words dictated local, political, and even international affairs versus just the nuances of personal life. The Pastons, a family living in England during the ‘Wars of the Roses’; wrote and kept a plethora of letters which are still extant today giving us an open window into both the family’s and England’s affairs. Editor Richard Barber gathers and presents these writings in, “The Pastons: A Family in the Wars of the Roses”.
“The Pastons” focuses on the content of the family’s letters presented in a pseudo-narrative strain whereby some letters are offered in full, others are quoted, and meanwhile they are explained or set into context. Therefore, Barber doesn’t simply offer a string of letters but instead provides illuminating reading which actually has a lively flow and pace.
The letters chosen by Barber initially highlight familiar and estate affairs versus that of political events but these are not boring and bring a vivid picture of the way of life. The reader will almost feel as though conversing with the Pastons, themselves. This then flows into more eventful letters describing quarrels, battles, law suits, and civil unrest in England. Not only did the Paston family lead eventful lives but they were also involved first-hand with the turmoil taking place in England.
“The Pastons” is perfect for both history lovers and HF fans of the period as the letters are accurate and factual primary sources which are ideal for fact checking but Barber also implores a narrative arc which makes “The Pastons” feel almost like a novel. The work is thus very accessible and easy-to-read versus being overly heady.
Adding some meat to the skeleton “The Pastons” is Barber’s inclination towards detective work and thereby meticulously debunking some hearsay reports. This truly adds to the essence of the work and results in an even heartier read.
The concluding focus of “The Pastons” is well-rounded with letters on various topics from love letters (so romantic!) to disease and politics. The actual ending, however, is quite abrupt. Fortunately, this is met with a pleasing Epilogue explaining the future of the family during subsequent reigns and a brief discussion of the discovery of the letters.
“The Pastons” is not an exhaustive look at the family or letters but it serves as an excellent introduction as well as a resource for the period. “The Pastons” is much recommended for history or even HF fans with an interest in the Wars of the Roses or of the Paston family (for they are often mentioned in texts on the period). ...more
There are many key notes occurring during the Tudor Dynasty: from the Battle of Bosworth to Henry VIII’s wives to the Spanish Armada. Although on a smThere are many key notes occurring during the Tudor Dynasty: from the Battle of Bosworth to Henry VIII’s wives to the Spanish Armada. Although on a smaller scale; there were also some other notable events such as rebellions and uprisings amongst the citizens of England (does the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’ ring a bell?). Anthony Fletcher and Diarmaid MacCulloch take a look at these in, “Tudor Rebellions” (revised 5th Edition).
“Tudor Rebellions” begins with a chronology of events, a “Who’s Who” of key figures, and maps of the paths of the rebellions. These maps are definitely noteworthy as I have read hundreds of Tudor history books and don’t particularly recall such maps of the rebellions elsewhere. This flows into a psychological and sociological look into the setup of Tudor societies, what motivated them, and how/why the social classes were managed. Although a little bit dry for those not interested in such topics; Fletcher and MacCulloch’s writing is still accessible.
Following is a chronological description of the rebellions which took place. Each of these is assessed in strong detail per the events, people involved, where they occurred, doctrines produced, any legal complexities, etc. It is clear that the authors conducted abundant research and again, I have not seen such a presentation focusing solely on the rebellions elsewhere. Not to mention, “Tudor Rebellions” differs by focusing more on the side of the citizens and protestors versus that of the government illuminating a whole new perspective and outlook.
Each rebellion is followed by an analysis exploring various theories of the causes of these uprisings. The problem with this is that “Tudor Rebellions” reads like a college case study at this point. Fletcher and MacCulloch too often quote others and simply paraphrase previous studies versus offering their own input. This breaks up the work and slows the pace.
“Tudor Rebellions” provides a vast amount of information and detail in a small space. Although that is a good thing for those seeking facts about the period; it can also be overwhelming and requires small breaks in order to take it all in and absorb the material. It isn’t that “Tudor Rebellions” isn’t easy-to-read per se; but it isn’t super fast, either. It is somewhat deceiving based purely on length.
The third part of “Tudor Rebellions” attempts to explain why rebellions occurred logistically and economically in terms of high and low politics. Sadly, the thesis is lost, the argument is weak and the section is seemingly pointless in the text as it would make absolutely no difference on impact if it was absent.
Luckily, “Tudor Rebellions” is then refueled by part four which features 24 primary documents ranging from articles to letters written by both key figures and rebels which provide a delightful insight into these historical events. The only issue with these supplements are the spelling (kept in its original) which makes reading slightly difficult. Fletcher and MacCulloch then provide some notes and a list of sources, as well.
“Tudor Rebellions” is a great piece for an isolated look at the rebellions which took place during the Tudor dynasty. The coverage is informative and provides more depth than other books which merely mention these events. The text is somewhat slow; but it is certainly recommended for all readers who are interested in the Tudor times (but more so for those with some preexisting knowledge on the topic versus novice readers). ...more