Customer Review

3.0 out of 5 stars Introduces the key elements of a reign that set the tone for the next century and a half, 14 April 2013
This review is from: Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England (Paperback)
Penn's telling of the story of Henry VII turns the focus on one of the lesser known Tudors. Surprising, given that as "Winter King" clearly shows, it was Henry VII who established law and order after decades of unruly noble wars and founded the dynasty that was to govern for over 100 years.

The Wars of the Roses had led to chaos and instability for much of the 15th century, Henry Tudor brought this to an end. He signifies the move from medieval monarchy to the age of new centralist government. Penn shows in great detail how this was achieved. The continual preoccupation with usurpers and the variety of ways (some surprising) used to neutralize them; the obsession with ensuring financial independence - so much so that by the end of his reign Henry was considered one of the wealthiest monarchs in Europe, a wealth his son Henry VIII would soon squander after his accession; and the way Henry combined the two using a system of fines and bonds to keep his potentially disruptive nobility in check.

Where "Winter King" excels is in the detail it provides about the individuals who surrounded Henry. The work of his councillors and officials, always tightly monitored by the King are shown in depth. Not just the best known such as Empson and Dudley but Bray, Fox and the many others who worked for him. Catherine of Aragon figures prominently in the narrative of diplomatic dealings. Wife first of the eldest son Arthur, then a pawn in (prolonged) negotiation to marry his second son Henry after Arthur's death. Henry VII though remains central. After the confusion that preceeded his accession, Henry micro manages policy and ministers to maintain tight control. In this Penn's portrait of Henry is in line with that presented by recent scholarship and the main thrust of his argument is that the king presided over a proto-Machiavellian polity, dominated by fear and suspicion, and one in which good government was too often subjugated to the demands of his own greed and paranoia.

Penn makes an intriguing point about Henry's accumulation of wealth in that he ascribes a significant part to England's growing role in the alum trade, used in the textile industry. Due to papal monopoly of alum England carved itself a role importing and re exporting to mainland Europe to circumvent the monopoly in a 15th century version of how multinationals today move capital about between nations to avoid national taxation in any particular one country.

Where I have concerns with "Winter King" is paradoxically due to its strengths. A focus on the work of those individuals around the monarch has been at the cost of policy overview. I longed at time to see how what I was reading fitted into the general policy development of Henry VII. It was like looking very closely at the workings of the wheels and springs of a particularly delicate clock, but never really looking at the time shown on the clockface. Neither is space devoted to showing how much the framework in which Henry VII and his officials operated was dependant on the administrative procedures introduced earlier by Edward IV. This is perhaps a consequence of Penn perhaps attempting to write a story allowing more popular access rather than an academic history. Nonetheless, Penn does the non-specialist a service in introducing the key elements of a reign that set the tone for the next century and a half.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in