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An under-estimated academic work
on 27 October 2012
Since its publication in 1989, "The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn" has often been dismissed as a joke by Tudor history enthusiasts. Like 2010's "Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions," "Rise and Fall" has been criticised for relying far too much on unreliable anecdotal evidence from the 1530s to substantiate its claims. However, "Rise and Fall" did rely on a wider range of sources, which suggests that, at the very least, it should be treated with the same seriousness as Professor Bernard's work. Thorough reviews deconstructing its arguments would be a good thing, rather than simply rushing to dismiss the entirety of the book as nonsense, because of the contents of its eighth chapter.
Whilst it is true that Warnicke's famous "deformed foetus" theory is largely unconvincing, it does not necessarily follow that all of her work is subsequently invalid. Certainly, some of her findings can be queried, but "The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn" remains an interesting and thought-provoking academic account of Boleyn's life and career. Refreshingly, Warnicke places far more emphasis on gender and aristocratic culture than other academics and anyone interested in studying Henry VIII's second wife should not rush to discount this book too quickly. With its dense, academic tone this is certainly not a book for beginners, but by focusing on the entirety of Anne's life from her early-century birth to her execution in 1536, Warnicke does enough to unsettle the firmly-entrenched narrative of Anne's life that was seemingly established by academics writing in the early 1980s. She suggests that, at the very least, there is still room for debate and that further research is required on some key areas of the period. It is not necessary to accept some of the more controversial elements of Professor Warnicke's theories in order to appreciate this book. Fascinating and thorough, even when unconvincing, it is an essential part of the modern debate over the sixteenth-century monarchy and upper-classes.