The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family Hardcover – 8 Oct 2013
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About the Author
Susan Higginbotham is a novelist with a particular interest in medieval and Tudor history. Her novels include "Her Highness, the Traitor"; "The Stolen Crown"; "The Traitor's Wife"; and "The Queen of Last Hopes."
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It's a grating prose style; I gave up after a couple of days.
While it is certainly normal that an author who has spent so much time researching the Woodvilles feels a liking for them, this book abandons all attempts at impartiality. If everything this book postulates and claims is taken at face value, the Woodvilles were downright flawless. The main theory here seems to be that the Woodvilles are historically maligned and were no worse or greedier than other noble families at the time, such as the Nevilles. This is a theory that certainly has historical merit; if only it was presented in a less biased way. While the intention may have been to show the Woodvilles were no worse, in practise the text argues that when the Nevilles/Clarence/anyone but the Woodvilles made a grab for power, it was despicable and should be condemned; but when the Woodvilles did it it was not only perfectly fine but also praiseworthy. Several instances of the Woodvilles taking from others are also dismissed as having never happened, without going into details as to how the author comes to the conclusion.
The author spends a lot of time dismissing other authors, mostly of a Ricardian persuation, as unreliable and biased, and claiming that they cherrypick the sources. Again, there is nothing wrong with claiming this and disagreeing with others and their work; however, the author does not go into detail or provide any examples of such alleged deception on the part of those she disagrees with. What makes this worse is that this book then is filled with the same problems she claims others have; to make the Woodvilles look good and Richard III bad, the author cherrypicks sources, does not explain why primary sources she called reliable earlier are suddenly taken as completely unreliable when they disagree with her, downright invents things and omits facts so the historical events fit her narrative.
A proper book about history requires, in my opinion, objectivity or at least an attempt to maintain it (I am aware that it`s nearly an impossibility for a book to be completely objective), proper, well-structured arguments that hold up to scruntiny and fact-checks, a willingness to engage with viewpoints opposing to the one that is being presented and a devotion to the subject(s) as he/she/they actually were rather than a blackened or whitewashed version.
This book meets none of these requirements.
What a pity it is therefore that the author didn't bother to put in at least one fairly decent family tree. It really is a must when you are writing about a widespread family with complex relationships and sometimes second Marriages. I was lucky in having Arlene Okerlund's book on Elizabeth Woodville, which has several useful family trees to which I was constantly referring.
What a pity to spoil a good read with an elementary mistake like this.
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