2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A great read about a story which should be better known,
This review is from: Merchant Adventurers: The Voyage of Discovery that Transformed Tudor England (Hardcover)
This is an excellent work of popular history. It tells a story which should be far better known (I can't believe I had never heard it before) which is gripping enough in itself. It features a cast of fascinating and remarkable characters in extraordinary situations: from ships lost at sea in terrible conditions to Englishmen desperately trying to stay vaguely sober during what seems to have been a fairly average dinner night at the court of Ivan the Terrible to two baffled (and angry) Tartars being given the third degree about strange lands by London merchants.
But the most impressive aspect of the book for me is the way in which James Evans uses the narrative to show and expound on many different aspects of the world around the story. There are fascinating vignettes which illustrate some of the major developments of the time: the early days of exploration, modern science, merchant capitalism,the impact of years of Protestantism on the way Englishmen saw the world - all of which would play a very major role in the next few hundred years of English history. There are fine sections which expound on the high politics and diplomacy of Tudor England. The chapters on the sea voyages give a real feel for how naval voyages were organised and what life was like on board ships of the time (I imagine anyone with an interest in British maritime history will find those fascinating; I certainly did - particularly the rules governing life on board drawn up by men who knew what they were talking about). And the (rather unexpected) adventures at the court of Ivan the Terrible have an almost Flashman-like quality of Englishmen abroad and trying to cope with an exotic - and rather dangerous and unstable - location.
All in all, a terrific read and highly recommended.