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The Age of Plunder: England of Henry VIII, 1500-47 (Social and Economic History of England) [Paperback]

W.G. Hoskins

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Book Description

25 Oct 1976 0582485444 978-0582485440 1
The first book to cover social and economic developments across the whole of Henry's reign -- a period of rapid change in which many of the social and economic inequalities of modern Britain were firmly laid down and cemented.

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" . . . The scholarship is as sound, the sympathy as warm and the judgements as pugnacious as ever."
New Statesman

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who knew economic history could be so interesting? 5 July 2010
By Judith Loriente - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I thought this book would be filled with technical detail about the reign of Henry VIII, most of it dry, but some of it interesting enough that it would provide new information for someone who's read the well-known facts again and again. Instead, Hoskins applies a chisel to the seemingly familiar Tudor Age, peeling back the surface to look at how this society functioned, how it was organised, who gained, who lost, how rich the rich were, how badly off the poor were, how the poor survived during times of food scarcity, and how the `New Men' plundered and gained during an era when there was plundering to be done on a scale undreamt of since the Norman Conquest.

I can't completely agree with Hoskins' theory that it was Henry VIII's squandering (eg on wars) alone that brought his people to ruin by the end of his reign, and also that he was pretty much the worst king that England ever had. What about the Peasants Revolt of 1381? The misgovernance of Henry VI's reign, in which his greedy supporters ran the government for their own personal gain, extracted large sums from it, pretty much bankrupted the country and sparked the Wars of the Roses, in which who knows how many tens of thousands of people died? It sounds as if the less privileged members of society had a pretty rough deal most of the time, and the Tudor dictatorship at least ensured that the nobility, and eventually the clergy too, could not behave as feudal magnates who were above the law (as evinced by the fates of the Duke of Buckingham and his grandson the Earl of Surrey, both of whom were executed when they appeared to act in a manner that threatened the government). But Hoskins agues his case with so much detail that others might concur with his scathing assessment of Henry VIII's reign.

Even if you don't agree, it's such a magisterial work of history that you'll probably enjoy it anyway. I certainly don't regret the purchase. It's one of those books I'll read again and again.
5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The title says it all, really... 4 Sep 2003
By F. P. Barbieri - Published on
That Henry VIII was, without exception, the worst king ever to rule England, is no longer a very daring proposition to make; the comparison of this bloated and suspicious tyrant with Stalin, made in the final paragraphs of this excellent study, is by now, if not exactly scholarly orthodoxy - writers will always be found to defend the indefensible, if the indefensible has something to do with English self-regard - at least a well-known and legitimate point of view. The importance of this textbook is that, before coming to its devastating conclusions, it gives an excellent, nuanced and expert account of the whole economic condition of England in the fat murderer's time, including all the many sides in which his execrable reign did not and could not make a great amount of difference to his subjects; so that, by the time the savage condemnation of Hoskins' final paragraphs falls like a guillotine, the reader not only has all the evidence necessary to appreciate it, but also has seen enough to know that the account, though hostile, is rigorously fair and comprehensive. The condemnation is therefore that much more significant and conclusive.
2 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hatchet job on a hero 21 Nov 2004
By Oscar Wilde - Published on
Henry VIII had the courage to stand up to the pope after centuries of papist domination of the English people. He may have commited atrocities in his own time, but his bold move guaranteed English freedom for the generations after.
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