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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome addition to Ackroyd's series but perhaps a fraction weaker than the first volume
Ackroyd's second volume of his History of England slackens the pace of the narrative significantly. The first volume described more than a millennium from the Brythonic tribes through Roman occupation and the Middle Ages to the settlement of the Wars of the Roses in 1485. This volume, in contrast, covers less than a century; the Tudor period running from the accession of...
Published 18 months ago by Amazon Customer

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as 'Foundation'
I do like Ackroyd's casual style; he's easy to read without being patronising.

Nevertheless this book did focus on the big issues affecting the monarchy with hardly any thought given to social culture and everyday life.

I was particularly surprised that there was nothing about the flourishing of art at the time for instance.
Published 14 months ago by Ad Cameron


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome addition to Ackroyd's series but perhaps a fraction weaker than the first volume, 20 Feb 2013
By 
Amazon Customer (Leamington Spa, Warwickshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tudors: A History of England Volume II (History of England Vol 2) (Hardcover)
Ackroyd's second volume of his History of England slackens the pace of the narrative significantly. The first volume described more than a millennium from the Brythonic tribes through Roman occupation and the Middle Ages to the settlement of the Wars of the Roses in 1485. This volume, in contrast, covers less than a century; the Tudor period running from the accession of Henry VIII in 1509 to the death of Elizabeth I in 1603.

This closer inspection reflects both the fame (infamy?) of the major figures of this period as well as the wealth of surviving sources and exhaustive historical studies. This is both a strength and a weakness. The tendency to superficially skim across major events and figures that occasionally afflicted the first volume is less evident, however, the fact that this period is so well known makes it easier to pick fault with some of Ackroyd's conclusions.

The author's decision to end the first volume with the death of Henry VII rather than include the first Tudor in this volume is illuminating. Many would argue that the shape and success of Tudor policy was set by Henry VII with the ensuing `golden' reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth built on his stable foundations. Thus he belongs alongside them in the titular Tudor volume. Ackroyd, however, has a narrative agenda that precludes this.

Not only did Henry VII's reign mark the end of the chaos of the Wars of the Roses but it also served as a period of stability in which the constancy of English society in the face of political upheaval could be illustrated - a major theme of Volume I. The narrative theme of Volume II is religion, a consideration only brought to the fore by Henry VIII's infamous marital difficulties. Religious policy is the bedrock of this volume with almost every event seen through that prism, therefore, Henry VII's uncontroversial, pre-Reformation Catholicism has no place here.

There are many historians who would criticise the focus on religion as the core feature of Tudor polity, preferring a more pragmatic reading of the Tudor reigns. Ackroyd's focus, however, allows him to continue one of his favourite themes in another guise; the relative continuity of the populace's day-today experience (as illustrated in volume 1) whatever the violent fluctuations amongst the elite. The central hypothesis of Ackroyd's work is that the sluggish pace of English cultural and social development was super-charged by the Tudor religious settlement, which was driven by political rather than spiritual concerns, ultimately breaking links to the past and disassembling the many social norms. It seems likely that he will argue the Anglican impulse made England uniquely prepared for empire and industry.

Thus, despite the apparent focus on those at the top of society, Ackroyd constantly counterbalances this with forays into the common experience of those living in the 16th Century. The relative depth with which subjects like the Pilgrimage of Grace are covered attests to this. One departure from the first volume is the incorporation of observations on society within the overall narrative rather than including them in specific chapters. This is a shame as it does skew the balance back toward the great and powerful with titbits of social history less evident. Nevertheless, Ackroyd's buccaneering prose drives the book forward and makes the account compelling, if less ambiguous than more academic works would suggest.

Despite this volume being a general synthesis of Tudor history, Ackroyd gives it a coherent spin with which purists may find fault but even those most familiar with the subject will glean moments of real insight.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, clear interpretation of our history - as always, 11 Mar 2013
By 
EleanorB - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tudors: A History of England Volume II (History of England Vol 2) (Hardcover)
I tend to alternate my historical reading evenly between fact and fiction. Right now, it's the turn of fact and this is a good choice. Peter Ackroyd is nothing if not consistent. His work is methodical, well researched, and well presented with a good narrative pace along with a placing of events clearly in their timeline. He deals less with the people per se, and more with the events in which they were the key players. His last volume ended with the death of Henry the Seventh and I find that quite logical even though this book is concerned with The Tudors. The death of the first Tudor king marked the end of the Wars of the Roses (as we call them in retrospect) and to an extent the beginning of the end of medieval England. Henry the Eighth clearly represented the future and that included tentative (albeit very tentative) moves to a more technocratic society. So, Ackroyd is correct in defining his work this way.

This is serious history. The book is erudite, well informed, well illustrated (although many of the images have been used before)and covers a century of religious upheaval, dynastic problems, and much bloodshed, culminating in the reign of Elizabeth the First and her idiosyncratic use of her own image to represent not just herself, but her country as well - effectively the birth of PR. Ackroyd does not spare us the litany of casualties along the way and the sheer brutality of religious suppression, on both sides of the debate, is breathtaking. The cruellest of executions were meted out to people who merely expressed opinions which differed from the prevailing orthodoxy, in a way that makes you seriously question contemporary understanding of the concept of a "God of Love". It almost tipped into the realms of human sacrifice and is one of the least appealing episodes of our island's long history. Following Henry's break with Rome and papal authority, religion and politics became inextricably linked, and Elizabeth the First faced lifelong threats of war from the Catholic powers overseas, such as Spain, and more domestically from Mary Queen of Scots, a blood relative, whose claim to be the Virgin Queen's rightful heir was highly plausible. The author presents all this in a logical and informed way, which demonstrates his forensic understanding of the power struggles of the times.

Thoroughly good work, and I will continue on this journey through our history in Ackroyd's excellent company.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy Reader, 3 Mar 2013
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The purpose of a historian is to take often conflicting and confusing events and turn them into an understandable and (hopefully) enjoyable narrative. In this case the author has succeeded.

The book takes us from the beginnings of the reign of Henry VIII through to the end of Elizabeth I. in other words, virtually the whole of the 16th century. Unlike others historians, like the book I read recently read about Caterina Sforza (Tigress of Forli: The Life of Caterina Sforza), the author is less concerned about character and more concerned about events. All the monarchs are mainly pegs around whom the many happenings of this period revolve, but that does not diminish the quality of the book. It's just another way to treat history.

I also like the fact that the chapters are fairly short; there are over forty (in just over 350 pages). This means that it is possible to put the book down easily or read it in short bursts without losing the plot, or getting overwhelmed by the details.

Although familiar with the Tudor period, I am no way an expert. In fact I read the book to remind myself of the events. The book is not overly academic. There are many quotes, but they are not referenced (one of the minor flaws) but this does did not hinder my enjoyment.

Perfect as a paperback, or as I read it, on an e-reader.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mighty Dramos, 5 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Tudors: A History of England Volume II (History of England Vol 2) (Hardcover)
Ackroyd continues to startle and sparkle with his erudition and wit. I bought this almost as a penance, inspired by a sense of needing to improve my understanding of this critical period in the history of England. But, as ever with Ackroyd, you quickly get caught up in the energy of his storytelling - and with a plot that would defy belief were it not true (never did Carlyle's epigram better apply:'History is a mighty dramos, enacted upon the theatre of times, with suns for lamps and eternity for a background'.
Compelling, insightful, and not without humour.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood, guts, plotting and people - what more do you want!, 16 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Tudors: A History of England Volume II (History of England Vol 2) (Hardcover)
A superb read. Informative but not daunting, I couldn't put it down! The paintings and other art work give another interesting dimension.
This book really shows the iron grip of religion over the people during the reformation and beyond and how it was used to increase power at home and abroad.
A fascinating read and I am no historian!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History, 5 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Tudors: A History of England Volume II (History of England Vol 2) (Hardcover)
A very good read - accurate and detailed. I shall definitely be buying subsequent volumes! There are five in all,
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - as we have come to expect, 12 Dec 2012
This review is from: Tudors: A History of England Volume II (History of England Vol 2) (Hardcover)
Time and again Ackroyd delivers. He has an uncanny ability to bring his subjects alive, both educate and entertain his readers 'in spades' and publish at a prodigious rate. Roll on the next text.......
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 8 Dec 2012
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As with all of Mr Ackroyd's books - brilliant and informative history. Would recommend this book to all those interested in the Tudor period.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable history, 30 Nov 2012
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As I person who likes reading history books because I Like History . I think this kindle version is great value for money.
Well written and very enjoyable
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection, 21 Jun 2013
By 
M. Ronald Jewell "Sugah" ( Gay Paree) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tudors: A History of England Volume II (History of England Vol 2) (Hardcover)
I have read hundreds of books on this part of history and finally Mr Ackroyd has information that does not exist in other ooks, details that I never read elsewhere, great read after the first chapter, which tends to be this writers demise is openings that make one want to use the books to light bonfires and burn witches, small children and politicians...but once that opening drudgery is over he is one of the best writers on the planet today!!!!!
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