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.