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4.6 out of 5 stars
127
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 12 May 2013
A superb overview of the Tudor period, written with elegance, colour and verve. Ackroyd condenses a great deal of information into a relatively short space, and the narrative cracks along beautifully. Even if you already know a great deal about this famous family, I would wholeheartedly recommend this stylish book.
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on 12 May 2017
Great overview
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on 9 March 2017
love it
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on 20 December 2015
Short book but well researched and i enjoyed reading it.
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on 2 May 2017
All good. On time and as described. Happy.
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on 24 September 2017
I am really enjoying this volume of Akroyd’s History. Detailed, interesting and beautifully written.
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on 11 April 2015
5* What else to say?
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on 3 March 2013
The purpose of a historian is to take often conflicting and confusing events and turn them into an understandable and (hopefully) enjoyable narrative. In this case the author has succeeded.

The book takes us from the beginnings of the reign of Henry VIII through to the end of Elizabeth I. in other words, virtually the whole of the 16th century. Unlike others historians, like the book I read recently read about Caterina Sforza (Tigress of Forli: The Life of Caterina Sforza), the author is less concerned about character and more concerned about events. All the monarchs are mainly pegs around whom the many happenings of this period revolve, but that does not diminish the quality of the book. It's just another way to treat history.

I also like the fact that the chapters are fairly short; there are over forty (in just over 350 pages). This means that it is possible to put the book down easily or read it in short bursts without losing the plot, or getting overwhelmed by the details.

Although familiar with the Tudor period, I am no way an expert. In fact I read the book to remind myself of the events. The book is not overly academic. There are many quotes, but they are not referenced (one of the minor flaws) but this does did not hinder my enjoyment.

Perfect as a paperback, or as I read it, on an e-reader.
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on 6 July 2014
Ackroyd writes,"When we turn from the affairs of the great to the smaller lives of England we often find misery and discontent."
Yes, well , I am sure we do but you wouldn't know it from this book because he simply turns his back on any sort of social history whatsoever and gives us no idea of how even the middle classes might have lived let alone the humble.
And while he purports to be narrating a synthesis of the latest research and findings of this period there are many serious omissions as, for example,of the intimate life of Elizabeth which have been common knowledge since the late sixties and which go a long way to explain why she never married.
He writes well and is easy to read but in the end you leave his book with the feeling of being bashed about the head too many times such is the relentlessness of his account of executions and betrayals.
There's much more to history than this.
What about the other possible view of history as summed up so succinctly by Don DeLillo: "History is longing on a large scale."?
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on 20 February 2013
Ackroyd's second volume of his History of England slackens the pace of the narrative significantly. The first volume described more than a millennium from the Brythonic tribes through Roman occupation and the Middle Ages to the settlement of the Wars of the Roses in 1485. This volume, in contrast, covers less than a century; the Tudor period running from the accession of Henry VIII in 1509 to the death of Elizabeth I in 1603.

This closer inspection reflects both the fame (infamy?) of the major figures of this period as well as the wealth of surviving sources and exhaustive historical studies. This is both a strength and a weakness. The tendency to superficially skim across major events and figures that occasionally afflicted the first volume is less evident, however, the fact that this period is so well known makes it easier to pick fault with some of Ackroyd's conclusions.

The author's decision to end the first volume with the death of Henry VII rather than include the first Tudor in this volume is illuminating. Many would argue that the shape and success of Tudor policy was set by Henry VII with the ensuing `golden' reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth built on his stable foundations. Thus he belongs alongside them in the titular Tudor volume. Ackroyd, however, has a narrative agenda that precludes this.

Not only did Henry VII's reign mark the end of the chaos of the Wars of the Roses but it also served as a period of stability in which the constancy of English society in the face of political upheaval could be illustrated - a major theme of Volume I. The narrative theme of Volume II is religion, a consideration only brought to the fore by Henry VIII's infamous marital difficulties. Religious policy is the bedrock of this volume with almost every event seen through that prism, therefore, Henry VII's uncontroversial, pre-Reformation Catholicism has no place here.

There are many historians who would criticise the focus on religion as the core feature of Tudor polity, preferring a more pragmatic reading of the Tudor reigns. Ackroyd's focus, however, allows him to continue one of his favourite themes in another guise; the relative continuity of the populace's day-today experience (as illustrated in volume 1) whatever the violent fluctuations amongst the elite. The central hypothesis of Ackroyd's work is that the sluggish pace of English cultural and social development was super-charged by the Tudor religious settlement, which was driven by political rather than spiritual concerns, ultimately breaking links to the past and disassembling the many social norms. It seems likely that he will argue the Anglican impulse made England uniquely prepared for empire and industry.

Thus, despite the apparent focus on those at the top of society, Ackroyd constantly counterbalances this with forays into the common experience of those living in the 16th Century. The relative depth with which subjects like the Pilgrimage of Grace are covered attests to this. One departure from the first volume is the incorporation of observations on society within the overall narrative rather than including them in specific chapters. This is a shame as it does skew the balance back toward the great and powerful with titbits of social history less evident. Nevertheless, Ackroyd's buccaneering prose drives the book forward and makes the account compelling, if less ambiguous than more academic works would suggest.

Despite this volume being a general synthesis of Tudor history, Ackroyd gives it a coherent spin with which purists may find fault but even those most familiar with the subject will glean moments of real insight.
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