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God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England Hardcover – 6 Mar 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head; 1st Edition edition (6 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847921566
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847921567
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 4.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 286,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"A triumph of story-telling, backed by first-rate research" (Antonia Fraser)

"Absorbing, exciting and relevant" (Ben MacIntyre The Times Book of the Week)

"Richly packed, absorbing... A parade of extraordinary characters" (Simon Callow Guardian)

"Thrilling" (New Statesman)

"God’s Traitors, with its crisp prose and punctilious scholarship, brilliantly recreates a world of heroism and holiness in Tudor England... It is little short of a triumph" (Ian Thomson Financial Times)

"Beautifully written... Hollywood could not have made it up" (Professor JJ Scarisbrick)

"Brilliant " (Wall Street Journal)

"Truly excellent... God's Traitors crosses the divide between popular and academic history. It raises issues of some real historical importance" (Michael Questier Spectator)

"This vivid, minutely researched and brilliantly original history is a much-needed look at the dark side of the Elizabethan age" (Dan Jones Sunday Times)

"Excellent... An engaging history of English papists, filled with memorable episodes" (The Economist)

"In the quality of her research and sensitive handling of issues that remain raw to this day, Jessie Childs succeeds in evoking ‘the lived experience of anti-Catholicism’ as few have done before... Childs’s language is lively and inventive... By picturing Elizabethan recusants in all their complexity, Jessie Childs has enabled them to speak for themselves at last" (John Cooper Literary Review)

"Superb and groundbreaking... It isn’t possible in the space of a review to do justice to the breadth and depth of Childs’ research and insight; but they illuminate the entire landscape of English life...a superlative, flawlessly written book... Childs’ description of an exorcism at Lord Vaux’s house in Hackney...is one of the most extraordinary things I have ever read" (Matthew Lyons, author of The Favourite)

Book Description

A true story of plots, priest-holes and persecution and one family's battle to save Catholicism in Reformation England.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
This book follows the history of England’s Catholics between the accession of Elizabeth I and the Gunpowder Plot, through the lives of members of one staunchly Catholic noble family. The Vaux defied increasingly stringent laws to practice their faith, shelter its priests and advance its cause.

Using the Vaux family as her focus provides Childs with a strong narrative backbone and human interest: these are fascinating, complex, and above all, real people. It also keeps us conveniently close to the bigger picture: Henry was the English Mission’s treasurer in the earlier period, and Anne sheltered the leader of the Catholics in England for many years.

Occasionally, it can feel that Childs is too close to her subjects: for example, she appears keen to try to exonerate the Vaux from involvement in the ‘Babington Plot’ to assassinate Elizabeth. However, she does balance this by acknowledging the likelihood of Anne knowing about the Gunpowder Plot in advance.

Despite this, God’s Traitors is a fascinating, well-researched, and highly readable book. Childs has drawn vivid portraits of these stubborn, passionate believers, facing almost impossible dilemmas about faith and patriotism, in an era when to cleave to one was, almost inevitably, to defy the other.
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Format: Kindle Edition
There have been more than a few recent books which have explored the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for a non-academic audience: Child’s book plays in this space, but approaches her subject not via the spies and intelligencers but through the Vaux family of recusants.

At a time when religious belief could overlap with treason – and carry the ultimate penalty of death – English Catholics were forced to choose between their spiritual conscience and their political loyalty: but, too often, religious dissent was conceived of as political rebellion, even revolt.

The Vaux family were acquainted with many of the prominent Catholics of the time: Campion and his Jesuit mission, Babington who plotted to assassinate Elizabeth and replace her on the throne with Mary Queen of Scots, Tresham and Catesby who were prime movers in the Gunpowder Plot.

So this is a detailed yet personable look at the history of the period through a single family. There are a few points where the narrative feels a bit circular and out of chronological order, but overall this is a readable story which explores the underside of the ‘golden’ age of Elizabeth.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the best history book I’ve read in the last few months. I just can’t say enough good things about it. I’ve raved about it to friends, family and contacts, and read passages out to my husband and anyone who would listen. It is fantastic!

What makes it so fantastic? Well, I could say Jessie Childs’ first-rate research and the detailed information she gives about Catholics living in Elizabeth I’s reign, but what I really enjoyed about God’s Traitors was how Childs brought the subject to life by giving the information through people’s stories. It could have been a dry, academic book about Catholic recusants, but Childs chose to make it personal and that made it a gripping read. By concentrating on the Vaux family, Childs was able to explore what it was like for real people living at that time. The reader meets some strong characters, particularly women, who put their lives on the line to not only practise their faith but to help others practise theirs and to protect Catholic priests and evangelists.

The book also shows another side to Elizabeth I’s reign, a time which has become known as the Golden Age, without demonizing Elizabeth or her advisers – a tricky balance. While Mary I has become known as “Bloody Mary” because of her persecution of Protestants, Elizabeth has maintained more of a positive image, even though Catholics suffered at the hands of her government – for example, Margaret Clitherow who was pressed to death under “seven or eight hundred weight” in York for her faith and for refusing “to plead to the charge of priest-harbouring”. These were brutal times.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After buying and reading Jesie Childs' excellent first book at Christmas 2006, I looked forward hopefully to her next publication. Imagine my pleasure when reading the 'Times' on 1st March to find an article on 'God's Traitors', her latest work, the perfect gift for my 40th wedding anniversary.You may ask why acquire another book on a well-trodden path: the background and events leading to the Gunpwder Plot. Superficially I might have thought that myself for I already own no less than six detailed accounts of the Plot not to mention a wide range of material on the religious history of the period, collected over 50 years, from standard works to specialist volumes of local and Roman Catholic history. So why might I advocate Ms Childs' contribution to the story?
She has chosen to put centre stage one significant Northamptonshire family: the Vaux of Harrowden near Wellingborough( adding a thoughtful note on its pronunciation) and its personal connections. In an age when the State dominated all actions, this family was divied from many others by its religious beliefs as adherents of the forbidden Roman Catholic Church. In vain would members stress this did not make them traitors to Queen and country, but did it? We are asked to reflect on how they might have reacted if the Spanish Armada had successfully invaded our shores or the terrorist Gunpowdrer Plotters' scheme come to fruition.
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