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Henry VII (Routledge Historical Biographies) Paperback – 15 Feb 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; New Ed edition (15 Feb. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415266211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415266215
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 13 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 570,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'For this reviewer, the real highlights were the discussions of local politics in Kent, the North West and East Anglia, which are skilfully done and eminently persuasive: we know all too little about the rule of the localities under Henry VII, but it is a crucial area, and Cunningham's chapter, which rests on his own research, makes an excellent addition to what can be learned from the works of Christine Carpenter, Tony Pollard, Dominic Luckett, and others.'Reviews in History: Institute of Historical Research

'Sean Cunningham, who has been studying the reign for a decade and a half, is ideally placed to draw things together in a work shaped by his own extensive researchs. His eagerly-awaited book unquestionably moves things forward... this book has many strengths - it is learned, moderate, and respectful of the work of other historians... Cunningham has given us a superb narrative of Henry VII's reign; he has brought lots of fresh evidence to light; his book is full of thought-provoking insights and ideas; and he has particularly striking things to say about the localities, bonds and recognisances, and the politics of London. His Henry VII is a hefty achievement, and a goldmine for anyone interested in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.' – Reviews in History: Institute of Historical Research

'The publication of a new scholarly biography of Henry VII (the first for nearly twenty-five years) is something of a landmark for students of the period ... Cunningham has provided a new and most welcome synthesis, one from which to conduct further research. As such, it deserves to be read by everyone interested in the period.' – David Grummit, History of Parliament Tust, H-Net book review

About the Author

Sean Cunningham is an Assistant Keeper of Public Records at the National Archives. He is the author of Richard III: A Royal Enigma (2003).


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. J. Cunningham on 30 July 2007
Format: Paperback
I found that the early life of Henry was presented in a way which gave an insight into the motivation and ambition of the man. This is a 'flesh on the bones' biography which makes history interesting and very readable. The author has carried out a huge amount of painstaking research to illuminate how Henry ensured that his monarchy was safeguarded from threats of rebellion (Perkin Warbeck plot etc.) and protected for his heirs. This part of the book should be of great benefit to students of the Tudors who wish to understand how this great dynasty was founded.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Brigitte Hilgner on 1 May 2008
Format: Paperback
Yale University Press offers the impressive series "Yale English Monarchs" and anyone looking for a well-resarched, thorough biography of an English king or queen is well advised to check this series. S.B. Chrimes' biography of Henry VII was published in 1972, so it seems about time to take a fresh look at this monarch.
Judging by the chapter "Modern opinions on Henry VII" in Sean Cunningham's book this is being done but I did not get the impression that the author himself has many new worthwhile findings to report.
Like many recent books called "biography" this "Henry VII" does not offer a coherent narrative of the life of the monarch with all facets included; we are given a kind of "backbone" biography in chronological order with the main events in Henry's life which fills about half the book. Then individual aspects are taken out of context and presented as a kind of long essay without much attempt at linking them to the story of Henry's life which was presented at the beginning. We read about finance and taxation, Parliament, the courts, the power of the nobles, council and councillors, Henry VII and the church, to name but a few chapters, and are thus left with many pieces of a big puzzle; it is up to the reader to put all these pieces together in the attempt of making a whole.
Background knowledge of the Wars of the Roses and Henry's predecessors is recommended for a better understanding - otherwise one might for example wonder why Richard III got so little support from his nobles at the battle of Bosworth and why so many of them defected. The book offers only scarce information about Henry's wife and children; particularly his successor, Henry VIII, remains a shadowy figure.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amelrode VINE VOICE on 22 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
The Tudors are porperly England's most famous dynasty. Tudor monarchs were colourful appealing to people through centuries: Henry VIII, the splendid and autocratic king turning England up side down with his marriage history, the boy king Edward VI making England a prostetant kingdom, Lady Jane Grey the 7 day Queen, Mary I, England's first female monarch and known as Bloody Mary and finaly Glorianna, Elisabeth I, the Virgin Queen, a legendary figure. Here are monarchs with many human qualities and equally weaknesses, great politicians and unique personalities....

And then there is Henry VII, the first Tudor King...nearly forgotten, an administrator king with a reputation of been mean, no royal drama and spendour, no great personality, cold, no human feelings, quite boring. He is - at least compared to his son and grandchildren- a royal enigma. True???

First one has to note that all the Tudor splendour would not have been possible if he would not have made it to the throne and kept that throne. He ended the War of the Roses, made it to the throne from relative obscurity, spend his reign in ruthless search for dynastic security and achived it. He turned England around.

Jean Cunningham presents - as the Routledge Historical biographies promise - an engaging, readable and academic credible biography of Henry VII.In less than 300 pages he explores the reign and personality of this very first Tudor King. Very aspects of his kingship scrutinized and put into context. Jean Cunnnigham see his work as part and parcel of the ongoing work in academic circles to acquire a new understanding of Henry VII. So that is not the last word on Henry VII, but already a new understanding emerges.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Important, unbiased, outstanding 5 May 2010
By Victor A. Vyssotsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For various reasons, Henry VII and his place in history are hard to understand; historians debate about whether he was a conscious innovator, propelling England toward the modern age, or a traditional late medieval king. Much of what one would like to know about him will probably never be known, because many of his important actions were never recorded in writing, much that was has not survived, and some of the surviving sources have never been carefully examined.

This book is a treasure, deserving careful reading and rereading. It avoids propounding conjectures, and instead provides a careful, detailed account of what we do know about Henry VII, his reign, his policies and the situations he dealt with. What emerges from this gives me the following views. Henry governed for 24 years mostly by using the forms and laws and methods of his Plantagenet predecessors, but using them in ways his predecessors had not, so that he could usually rely upon even his enemies in England to carry out his desires, as he had to, given that more than half the nobility and gentry had cause at one time or another to resent him and wish him dead. By using unorthodox approaches within the existing framework he transformed the role of English royalty, although he quite likely had no conscious intention of doing anything more dramatic than keeping himself and his heirs alive and ensuring a peaceful succession. That was enough so that he and the next four monarchs died peacefully in their beds, which when he seized the throne would have seemed quite unlikely. By careful, detailed, diligent and often secretive oversight, he kept England relatively free of both foreign wars and domestic insurrections, and this enabled the gentry and the yeomen and merchants to become far more prosperous than they were when he took the throne. Evidently he created an excellent intelligence service to warn him of plots before they matured, and with the information from that he acted promptly and wisely against threats, using minimal force.

He has a reputation as a miser; this seems to me undeserved. He greatly increased government revenue, by various schemes, some of dubious legality, but he seems to me to have considered money primarily to be a crucial lever of power. By rewarding those who served him well, and by threatening to ruin potential opponents by fines and bail bonds, of which he actually collected very few, he got loyal service from many who had no cause to love him.

He also has a reputation as a tyrant, and he could be when he felt that to be necessary. But he avoided tyrannizing over the merchants and yeomen and most of the gentry; his tyranny, if it was such, was aimed at convincing the nobility that they must obey the king, rather than regarding the king as just first among equals, as the nobility had come to believe they could during the later part of the Plantagenet era. Among other things, this determination of Henry's was instrumental in greatly reducing the violent confrontations between members of the nobility which had been so common and so destructive for most of the 14th and 15th Centuries.

Not least among the virtues of this book is a thorough, extensive list of sources for further reading. Indeed, the only criticism I have of the book is that I wish it included among its illustrations, or as its cover illustration, the 1505 portrait painting from life that's now in the British National Portrait Gallery. All the other portraits of Henry VII that we have today were painted or drawn after his death, relying on his death mask and/or the effigy on his tomb; all of those give Henry a look of gloom that does not seem to have been characteristic of him, whereas the one portrait from life makes him look amiable and faintly amused.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
(3.5 stars) Has its merits, but a bit dry in the second half 20 May 2010
By Judith Loriente - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The earlier part of this book, dealing with Henry Tudor's family background and youth, was really interesting. It also maintained my interest as it dealt with Henry's life and work up until the deaths of his son Arthur and his wife, and as it studied his battles with Perkin Warbeck. But at some point in the chapter `Tudor government at work', it began to lose my interest; then, as it went on, it lost my interest more and more, until I found I had to skim some parts because I just couldn't focus on the dry details about the government of England.

A passage such as this is a good example of what's boring about the latter half:

"Henry also introduced a clear way of calculating the duty due on particular types of goods, by giving them a formal value in a book of rates. The book was in use in the port of London in 1502. When the values given to imported goods were realistic and accurate reflections of the market price, the crown was guaranteed a regular rate of customs duty. When prices began to differ from the formal valuation, merchants began either to pay too much duty on their goods or the crown's income fell as prices of goods increased. During the prosperous years of Henry VII's reign this did not become a problem, but later Tudor monarchs attempted to compensate for the static nature of the rates by reissuing them for various ports in line with inflation."

Bor-ing. Though it's still worth reading. The chapter `The rigours of kingship' ends with Henry's death and funeral, which is where the `biography' ends. After that, it gets drier and drier, so that only those seeking an endless succession of facts on the era will probably find that their attention is held.

Four stars for the biography contained in the first 119 pages vs. three stars for the dull-but-worthy history that follows = 3.5 stars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A thorough study of an oft-neglected Monarch 17 May 2010
By Claude Greenmount - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The amount of material on the 16th century Tudor Monarchs is vast-- especially with regard to King Henry VIII, his wives and Queen Elizabeth I. Queen "Bloody" Mary and King Edward VI have also been written about a good deal. But the founder of the Tudor dynasty, easily the most fascinating and embattled dynasty of the English Crown, has been relegated to a historical footnote. Recently I decided to search for a book about Henry VII and was surprised to find very little available, most of which had been published nearly 100 years ago. This study, published in 2007, is fortunately available through Amazon and is a thoroughly researched account of Henry VII's early life, claim and rise to the throne of England. The politics of any monarchy can be complicated, but the multiple claims to England's crown in the late Middle Ages make things downright murky. The author does his best to sort things out, although I did occasionally find myself re-reading paragraphs here and there to make sure I understood things.
Often portrayed as a cold fish, interested only in the accumulation of wealth and power, manipulating the Church to keep it on his side, Henry VII is shown to have his human side as well. A man of intelligence, skill, and incredible political instincts, he not only secured the throne on what appeared to be a very precarious claim, he maintained it to the end of his life, keeping England generally at peace and prospering. His court was certainly a Medieval one, lacking the flash and flair of the continental courts, but neither was it intellectually or artistically impoverished. Much has been made of his scheming to keep Catherine of Aragon in England for his second son, Henry, after Prince Arthur, to whome she was married in childhood, dies, causing Henry VII to seem interested only in maintaining the Tudor dynasty and not caring about anything or anyone else. Next-born son Henry (soon to become Henry VIII) is brought back to the court after a lifetime of being prepared for a church career and 'second son' status, and told he will marry his dead brother's widow, a young lady 5 years older than he. But what we learn here is that Henry VII is genuinely heart-broken on learning of eldest son's death, and immediately went to his wife's (the Queen-mother Elizabeth) chambers to comfort her as best he could. Neither would see anyone for two days and remained together in isolation. The Queen Mother's heartbreak was so great she died not long after her eldest son. So Henry at the end of his life does indeed become withdrawn, barely social, only working on the affairs of state and grooming his son Henry, Prince of York now Prince of Wales, to assume the reins of the kingdom. It is a reaction all too human in many men who suffered great personal tragedies in a short period of time after a lifetime of hard work.
The results of Henry VII's policies, and his influence on the Monarchy is also examined; King Henry VII, largely known as the father of the (in)famous Henry VIII, is shown to have more greatly shaped the future of English political beliefs and strategies than many would believe. He was often forgiving of his enemies, was judicious and rather sparing by the standards of the day with executions, never embarked on wholesale persecutions to show power, and expanded England's wealth and grew trade. He passed onto his son a stable, wealthy and prospering kingdom, but not, unfortunately, any of the traits that would keep it growing (Henry VIII often went back on his word, executed over 15,000 of his subjects, lost territories, and bankrupted the nation; it took the 5th and last Tudor, Elizabeth I, to restore and increase what the first Tudor created).
For research and thoroughness and detail, this books gets 5 stars, however, it must be admitted that it can be a difficult and dense read. Worthwhile though, for any student of this fascinating period of English history.
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