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Henry Plantagenet: A Biography of Henry II of England Hardcover – 1 Mar 2001


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Richard  Barber  began his career as a writer in 1961 with the publication of Arthur of Albion, a general introduction to the Arthurian legends. He followed this with Henry Plantagenet, a biography of Henry II, and then the first survey of medieval chivalry for many years, The Knight and Chivalry, for which he was given a Somerset Maugham award in 1971. Medieval history and literature have remained his speciality, although he has also written guidebooks (Companion Guide to Gascony and the Dordogne) and has edited John Aubrey's Brief Lives and other seventeenth century authors. He has also translated and edited medieval sources such as the Bestiary , The Pastons and Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince. He wrote a full scale biography of the latter in 1978, Edward Prince of Wales and Aquitaine. The Penguin Guide to Medieval Europe appeared eight years later. In 1989 he collaborated with Juliet Barker on the first comprehensive history of medieval jousting, Tournaments: Jousts, Chivalry and Pageants in the Middle Ages. This was followed by a series of anthologies, of the myths and legends of the British Isles and of the Arthurian legends, which he edited for the Folio Society. In 2004, his book on The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief was widely praised: Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times wrote: 'Fascinating ... Barber demonstrates a gift for lucid, lively prose and an ability to make highly complex development both immediate and accessible'. His most recent book is Edward III and the Triumph of England, an attempt to get as close to the extraordinary events surrounding the English victory at Crécy and the foundation of the Company of the Garter.
Since 1963, he has also worked as a publisher, first at Macmillan and at George Bell & Sons, where he oversaw the publication of the first volumes of Robert Latham's great edition of The Diary of Samuel Pepys. In 1969 he and a group of friends founded The Boydell Press, and in 1972 helped Professor Derek Brewer to start D.S.Brewer Ltd, in order to publish books in medieval studies which were beig neglected by the university presses. The two firms merged later to become Boydell & Brewer Ltd, and over the years a number of imprints, all founded by academics for similar reasons in the 1970s, were added to the list: Tamesis Books in Spanish studies, Camden House in German studies, and most recently James Currey in African Studies. In 1993 a music list was started in association with the Britten-Pears Library at Aldeburgh.
In 1989, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, in association with the University of Rochester, started the University of Rochester Press in upstate New York. This has specialised in music studies from the Eastman School as well as historical series; the combined Boydell and Rochester lists in music are probably the most important in the English speaking world.
Richard Barber is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society, and an Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association. He is currently Honorary Visiting Professor in the department of history at the University of York.
He lives in Suffolk, between the river Deben and the sea. He and his wife Helen sailed there for many years, and also cruised extensively in the Baltic and Mediterranean, until her death in 2013. Helen, whom he met at Macmillan, played a major part in the development of the publishing business, while bringing up their two children.


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At once objective and readable, it can be thoroughly recommended... An admirable portrait of a great king and his times. CATHOLIC HERALD An able and sympathetic view of Henry, both as man and king. IRISH TIMES

Irish Times

"An able and sympathetic view of Henry, both as man and king." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Amazon.com: 7 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Engrossing, lively account of Henry II's life.......... 3 April 2001
By nto62 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In Henry Plantagenet, Richard Barber has produced a short, lively, commendably readable account of Henry Plantagenet's life and reign. The book never drags and is related in a novel-like narrative that keeps one's interest through every page. Henry II was one of Englands most intriguing rulers at battle with France and family. The husband of Eleanor of Aquitane, the father of Richard the Lion Heart and John Lackland, his story is one to behold and Barber's effort is a top notch resource with which to do so.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A great take on a great king in the devil's own times 29 Dec. 2007
By Robert Fripp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Richard Barber published his first book at the age of 20, followed by this title in 1964 when he was 23. That may be why "Henry Plantagenet" reads and moves well, as if narrated rather than written, with the youthful enthusiasm of a young scholar not yet burdened by the need to justify every fact to academics. Barber released his current edition in 2003.

He does a fine job of breathing life into Henry II's 34-year reign, which needs his touch because Henry II may be the most under-appreciated king in English history. This formidable, life-long warrior is eclipsed by his son Richard Lionheart's military feats. A decisive man with extraordinary energy, Henry is upstaged for glamor and charisma by his consort through 36 years of love and hate, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Even as a villain - women by the score, anger-management problems to rival Zeus, a tirade that may have ended Thomas Becket's life and a rampage that exiled Eleanor to England for fifteen years - even as a villain, Henry II is upstaged by his youngest, King John.

What did Henry do well? Apart from winning wars and battling prelates, he made major, enduring changes to English law and jurisprudence, including property and contract law, moves that stimulated commerce. But that makes poor press. Barber captures the moods and actions of the young king and his maturing reign of constancy amidst constant strife and domestic chaos. He integrates Henry and a large supporting cast into their turbulent times very well.

In addition to writing about Arthurian legend and medieval history, Barber has been a publisher of medieval studies for almost four decades. His breadth of knowledge shows. "Henry Plantagenet" makes subtle links across time and dynasties that might escape a lesser historian's art.

Robert Fripp, author of
"Power of a Woman. Memoirs of a turbulent life: Eleanor of Aquitaine"
The Lion in Winter 15 April 2014
By Sir Butternut Longsword - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I adore and look for as much as I can regarding Henry FitzEmpress[Plantagenet was a name given later to descendents of Henrys father, Geoffrey].
If you are new to Henry, son of the Empress Matilde, daughter of Henry I, then this is a good starting point. The next stop on your voyage will be Warrens Monarch Series account, which is so thorough and is regarded by many as the definitive expert on this great king. He ruled a territory of vast scale.
He instilled justice, a sense of common law, and a sense of regal authority, crushing[until the end] all those who opposed him. His only fault seemed to be his inability to see the truth of his sons. I still find myself unable to contain my anger and disbelief at his sons[the supposedly great Richard the Lionheart, the bad King John, and Geoffrey, and Henry the Youngers deceit and betrayal of their father because of their own desires.
Richard, supposedly the icon and model of the later chivalry, becomes irredeemable in my eyes. John, is john. But it is difficult not to feel for the great king on his horse before his son, the king of france, yielding all he has worked his life to and for. His death came as he learned of Johns[the one son he truly loved] desertion and betrayal.
If you are new to english history and have an interest in the Plantagenets but dont feel the need to learn about every minute detail, I whole heartedly recommend Thomas Costains 4 book series on the Plantagenets. It is written almost like a novel, fluid, adventurous, and addicting. It would be my first choice if I were about to embark on this great voyage.
Great Portrait 7 Jan. 2014
By D. Harrington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
of one of the most powerful kings of medieval England. A look at his person and reign in quite some detail. He was king of England for 35 years, 1154-1189. You'll find his quarrel with Thomas Becket very interesting. Henry II is one of my favorite historical figures.
Excellent service 27 Sept. 2013
By Donald E. McCracken - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Volume arrived well within specified dates, in excellent condition. (I'm informed I need eleven more words in this review - there.)
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