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Henry VIII (Yale English Monarchs Series) [Paperback]

J.j Scarisbrick
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 April 1997 Yale English Monarchs Series
First published in 1968, Jack Scarisbrick's "Henry VIII" is a book which focuses on the personality of this flamboyant and forceful monarch, exploring an impulsive interventionist king whose impact on the government, society and religion of England is felt more than four centuries on.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 578 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (2 April 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300071582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300071580
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 265,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

J. J. Scarisbrick is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Bristol.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the best biography of Henry VIII 28 Nov 2005
There have been a lot of books, articles and TV programmes about Henry VIII in the 4 decades since this book was written and in my view not one of them can match this work.
This is a magnificent piece of scholarship and - at times - an enthralling read. It discusses all aspects of Henry's life with a fine sense of balance and perspective so lacking in other, more 'modern' works. It reveals Henry, man and monarch: a man with flaws, of course, but also a strong and important ruler in turbulent times.
As the 500th anniversary of his reign approaches (2009) you can safely bet that there will be a lot more ill-informed and arrogant rubbish written about Henry VIII. This book is hopefully more than just a vital corrective to those unhistorical views. It is an important introduction to Henry VIII for beginners and - hopefully - a starting point for a long overdue debate on the contribution of Henry VIII to the modern world.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Henry VIII - J J Scarisbrick 8 Sep 2007
It has been a while since I read this book, but this is by far the most authoritative and scholarly account of Henry VIII. It has been around a while but it remains the standard biography of the king. Scarisbrick knows his man, and while being scholarly, writes in a way which makes this work accessible to academia and layperson alike.

Scarisbrick takes the reader through a thorough exploration of the primary sources and gives us Henry's true role in the momentous events of his reign:- the divorce, break with Rome, establishment of the Church of England and the growing power of parliament (thanks to Henry's use of it to achieve his ends). Despite his break from the Pope, Scarisbrick shows Henry to be a typical ruler of the period, and basically a conservative Catholic at heart.

This current edition is a great benefit to the reader as in the foreword Scarisbrick has taken stock of new research and works on Henry VIII, and that, thanks to these new works, he has revised his opinions in some areas since originally writing this: especially in his assertion that Henry and Catherine of Aragon's marriage was invalid due to a technical flaw in the papal dispensation. The great strength of this book though is chapter 7, which is a superb study of the canonical technicalities of the divorce.

In short, this book is a must-read for anybody interested in Henry VIII, both the layperson and the scholar.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Henry VII JJ Scarisbrick 24 Mar 2004
This is a weighty tome but what the Hal, just buy it.If you buy one book on Henry VIII go for this one. It is very readable and entertaining whilst maintaining the highest academic standards. He is most interesting on the relationship between Henry and Wolsey and on the minute details of Tudor court life. To bring it up to date Scarisbrick has addressed some more recent scholarsip in his introduction to the new edition. To put it Starkey (should that be starkly?) if you choose some of the more modern trendier histories around at the moment then you have missed out.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars View from the Vatican 15 Dec 2009
The "Roman Catholic" spin on Henry VIII. Quite well-written but flawed, the central thesis of this book explaining Henry's break with Rome relies far too much on legalistic analysis of canon law and thereby misses the wood for the trees. As Cicero showed two thousand years ago and Hitler more recently, lawyers can find a "proof" for anything on demand depending on whatever power complex pays or prevails. The author's own bias is fairly obvious and is at odds with one's expectation of objectivity in an academic study. Piling up a dogmatic Pelion on Ossa does not explain the intricate social and political - not to mention psychological - forces at work in producing the Henrician reformation. Scarisbrick performs best when writing within the limited parameters demanded by diplomatic history or theological polemic, but imho misses the larger picture, both British and European, in his obsessive focus on explaining why what actually did happen should not have happened - surely the wrong approach for an academic historian. The cultural "appendix" was interesting but would have been better integrated into the main body of the work. As a biography it also shows little human or psychological insight into the characters or personalities of even the main players, especially considering the work in this area of more recent historians. Still useful in the narrow areas of its author's specialisms, the book is now obviously dated as an academic work and fails to attract as a readable popular biography. A plodding rather than stylish read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive and exhausting 22 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Prof. Scarisbrick has written the definitive biography of Henry VIII and his times, even though this book is about 30 years old. Scarisbrick brought an interesting view to the subject: as a Roman Catholic he was the first British author granted access to Vatican archives for his research on the subject. The result is a still cogent, absolutely exhaustive book on the subject. Entailing a practically week by week account of Henry VIII's reign is overwhelming but of the upmost help for students of the subject. If you are looking for a light introduction to Henry VIII, this is probably not the place. But if you want *all* the (mind-numbing) details on Henry VIII, look no further than Scarisbrick's brilliant work.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solidly researched and well-written 16 Feb 2003
By Schmerguls - Published on Amazon.com
I read this book right after reading Carolly Erickson's biography of Henry VIII, and on balance this book is better and easier to read. I love that Scarisbrick has modernized the spelling and punctuation of the original documents he quotes. I think the picture of Henry presented is well-balanced, and does not minimize the faults of the subject of the biography. The careful examination of the question of the validity of the marriage of Henry and Catherine of Aragon is the best I have ever read, and partisans on either side of that question will see that there is indeed another side to the view they favor. The examination of the religious views of Henry is detailed and enlightening. I have always had a negative view of Henry VIII and I still have after reading this book, but the book was instructive and enlightening. The footnotes are where they belong (at the bottom of each page) and the bibliography is detailed though of course a bit dated in the 1968 edition I read. After you read this book you will know that you have read a really good biography of this important figure in world history.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A uniquely valuable work 20 Aug 2008
By Elizabeth A. Root - Published on Amazon.com
Anyone wanting to seriously study Henry VIII will need to read this book. I think that it takes a number of books to get an idea of "Great Harry's" life, but this has unique information. I believe that Scarisbrick was the first historian permitted to use the Vatican archives to research Henry's annulment/divorce. Scarisbrick, for example, analyzes the divorce/annulment of Henry and Catharine of Aragon in careful details, and comes to a somewhat surprising conclusion. Also very carefully examined are the course of the Henrician church, and Henry's ever-shifting foreign policy.

I have one small comment. Scarisbrick expresses surprise that Henry persisted in using the somewhat eccentric argument from Leviticus. I think the reason is clear: Henry wanted something that could not be resolved by dispensation. As Retha Warnicke says in The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII (Canto): "[...] Cardinal [Wolsey] [...] could and did find better reasons than Henry's for ending his marriage, but his arguments (like those of other scholars) can all be characterized as legal technicalities that are by their nature subject to retroactive dispensation. In contrast, Henry's reasoning is straightforward: the pope could not dispense from Biblical law [...]." This cavil does not diminish Scarisbrick's achievement.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Core Reading for Understanding this Period of English History 19 Jun 2008
By GAB - Published on Amazon.com
Scarisbrick's book is a scholar's book and remains recognized after over three decades as the definitive work on the subject. It provides the background for other, equally valuable books, such as David Starkey's "Six Wives: The Wives of Henry VIII". This, though, is not to say that Scarisbrick can't be read for pleasure. It can, but you will not find it the brezzy read of a popular history; instead, you will find a wealth of information that will serve you well in future reading on the subject. And it is a very enjoyable read itself. If you are serious about your understanding of this period of English history then Scarisbrick is essential, and I can't imagine a personal library on Henry or Tudor England without a copy.

As another reviewer remarked, this is not the book for an extensive treatment of Henry's wives. For that, I recommend turning to Starkey, and it too is essential for an understanding of this period of the history of Tudor England. What I've said about Scarisbrick's book can also be said about Starkey; although, I don't think it has quite the stature of Scarisbrick's.
5.0 out of 5 stars THE Book on Henry VIII 5 April 2013
By Tuckerby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I understand why one history professor called this "the fullest and best scholarly biography." Scarisbrick covers in-depth the man and his time, offering detailed explorations of foreign ventures, the divorce case, the anticlericalism that motivated the Reformation Parliament, and the Pilgrimage of Grace, to name a few of the events covered. The wealth of information and analysis is formidable, if sometimes a little tedious, such as the entire chapter devoted to the Royal Supremacy, but one comes away with a solid understanding of these significant matters of Henry's reign. Scarisbrick mentions the wives, but does not focus on them to any great extent, so readers primarily interested in the women will need to look elsewhere. Scarisbrick writes in an engaging style, offers comment on the theories of other Tudor scholars, and presents his own views with credibility. As a professional historian, Scarisbrick critically evaluates his sources, considering context, custom, bias, and motives, so the information presented is reliable. Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page rather than at the end of each chapter or the back of the book, making reference convenient.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the Tudors.
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