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Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I

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Rich in detail and atmosphere and told in vivid prose, Tudors recounts the transformation of England from a settled Catholic country to a Protestant superpower. It is the story of Henry VIII's cataclysmic break with Rome, and his relentless pursuit of both the perfect wife and the perfect heir; of how the brief reign of the teenage king, Edward VI, gave way to the violent Rich in detail and atmosphere and told in vivid prose, Tudors recounts the transformation of England from a settled Catholic country to a Protestant superpower. It is the story of Henry VIII's cataclysmic break with Rome, and his relentless pursuit of both the perfect wife and the perfect heir; of how the brief reign of the teenage king, Edward VI, gave way to the violent reimposition of Catholicism and the stench of bonfires under 'Bloody Mary'. It tells, too, of the long reign of Elizabeth I, which, though marked by civil strife, plots against the queen and even an invasion force, finally brought stability. Above all, however, it is the story of the English Reformation and the making of the Anglican Church. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, England was still largely feudal and looked to Rome for direction; at its end, it was a country where good governance was the duty of the state, not the church, and where men and women began to look to themselves for answers rather than to those who ruled them.


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Rich in detail and atmosphere and told in vivid prose, Tudors recounts the transformation of England from a settled Catholic country to a Protestant superpower. It is the story of Henry VIII's cataclysmic break with Rome, and his relentless pursuit of both the perfect wife and the perfect heir; of how the brief reign of the teenage king, Edward VI, gave way to the violent Rich in detail and atmosphere and told in vivid prose, Tudors recounts the transformation of England from a settled Catholic country to a Protestant superpower. It is the story of Henry VIII's cataclysmic break with Rome, and his relentless pursuit of both the perfect wife and the perfect heir; of how the brief reign of the teenage king, Edward VI, gave way to the violent reimposition of Catholicism and the stench of bonfires under 'Bloody Mary'. It tells, too, of the long reign of Elizabeth I, which, though marked by civil strife, plots against the queen and even an invasion force, finally brought stability. Above all, however, it is the story of the English Reformation and the making of the Anglican Church. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, England was still largely feudal and looked to Rome for direction; at its end, it was a country where good governance was the duty of the state, not the church, and where men and women began to look to themselves for answers rather than to those who ruled them.

30 review for Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jayson

    (A-) 81% | Very Good Notes: Views the period through bifocals of religion and succession, which limits its subject matter but focuses its narrative.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: Read via Netgalley. I am also an Ackroyd fan girl. Why do we need another book about the big gun Tudors? You might as well ask why we need another book about Shakespeare for the answer to both questions is the same. Because Peter Ackroyd wrote it. Okay that’s a bit flippant, even if it is true. This book is Ackroyd’s second volume in his history of England. Despite its seemingly heft, it flows very quickly. While Ackroyd focuses on the big events – Henry’s love life, Elizabeth and Ma Disclaimer: Read via Netgalley. I am also an Ackroyd fan girl. Why do we need another book about the big gun Tudors? You might as well ask why we need another book about Shakespeare for the answer to both questions is the same. Because Peter Ackroyd wrote it. Okay that’s a bit flippant, even if it is true. This book is Ackroyd’s second volume in his history of England. Despite its seemingly heft, it flows very quickly. While Ackroyd focuses on the big events – Henry’s love life, Elizabeth and Mary – he uses them to highlight the heavier and perhaps more important issue that circulates though England during the time of the Tudors. The English Reformation. In many ways when talking about the Tudors, writers tend to fall into patterns. Elizabeth I is the great one, Henry is the great scary ogre one, Edward is the one who dies young so we really don’t want to say anything either way, and Mary is Bloody, but we might feel a little sorry for her (maybe, just a little). Ackroyd doesn’t use these board strokes. He seems to understand Henry VIII without the slightly weird quasi hero worship that David Starkey shows for the monarch. He isn’t fearful to show a slight pity for Mary and then points out, correctly, that the historian should be careful about judgments using today’s standards, that is impossible to fully understand the time period no matter how much the historian reads and studies. Of course, he doesn’t gloss over the numbers either, but he does place them in the time by comparing Mary to both her sister and her father. He even makes Edward into something more than an insufferable brat. If you blink, you miss Jane Grey. Of course, Ackroyd worships at the altar of Elizabeth, but it isn’t a blind hero worship. He also has one of the better sequences on the whole Catholic questions in Elizabeth’s reign. Then he points out the fact that Catholics wouldn’t be the only ones examined. Ackroyd isn’t a partisan of Mary Queen of Scots whom his description makes the reader think of a black widow in the center of web, even if Ackroyd doesn’t use those exact words. He doesn’t sink to the question of did she know about Dudley debate. Considering the purpose of the book this would be impossible. It also highlights one of the strong points of this book – a novice or a long time reader/student of the time period can enjoy it. You don’t need to have any background knowledge to read the book, but having the background knowledge doesn’t make the book feel redundant. The second reason to read this book is Ackroyd’s writing. There is the subtle Ackroyd remark when it comes to the birth of James I and VI, and the rumors of his parentage. But more importantly there are those absolutely stunning sentences of his that really make you think, such as his description of Elizabeth and her councilors, “It was the central dilemma of her reign, with the strength and solitariness of one woman pitched against a phalanx of men” (350-351). There are also the little touches – a passage about a carriage that mirrors a marriage, a wristwatch. The book is simply a pleasure to read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of mistrusts and hatreds between Catholic and Protestants in England, this is a good place to start. The 'great theme' of this book is the Reformation of the church in England. At the beginning of Henry VIII's reign (1509-1547) the Church in England was entirely Catholic, its forms of organisation and worship essentially medieval. The Pope in Rome held supreme authority, the Church lords and institutions held great lands and treasures, thousands of men an If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of mistrusts and hatreds between Catholic and Protestants in England, this is a good place to start. The 'great theme' of this book is the Reformation of the church in England. At the beginning of Henry VIII's reign (1509-1547) the Church in England was entirely Catholic, its forms of organisation and worship essentially medieval. The Pope in Rome held supreme authority, the Church lords and institutions held great lands and treasures, thousands of men and women lived religious lives as monks and nuns, and the monasteries and convents provided what we would now call social services like relief for the poor and medical care. Henry VIII began the process of breaking away from Rome for political and dynastic reasons, not because he was swayed by the new teachings of Luther or Calvin. By the end of his reign, the monasteries were destroyed, much of the church lands and treasure confiscated and the monarch was head of the Church in England. The Mass was said in English, not Latin. An authorised translation of the Bible into English was placed in all churches. For the first time people could understand the words of the religious services and engage with the scriptures themselves. Powerful theologians such as Thomas Cranmer worked on standardised forms of liturgy which were to be used in all churches throughout England. The Book of Common Prayer effectively set the doctrine and liturgy of the Church of England for the future. The shifts of religious practice, decreed from the centre, were fiercely resisted. Rebellions broke out. Charges of heresy were levelled by each side against the other; when religion was so tightly tied to politics and power, being declared a heretic could be seen as treason. The punishment for heresy was burning at the stake; that for treason was to be hung, drawn and quartered (no, I’m not going into details), or beheaded if you were an aristocrat. Each of the Tudor monarchs approached religion in different ways. Henry’s son Edward VI ruled only for a few years, but during that time England shifted significantly to the Calvinist position. A new Treason Act was introduced in 1563, passed specifically to protect the religious changes; it was a ‘considered a serious offence question the royal supremacy or to dissent from the articles of faith that the English Church now enjoined’. After Edward’s early death, his deeply conservative Catholic eldest sister, Mary, came to the throne. Under her rule, Protestants were ruthlessly pursued and thousands were burned at the stake as heretics. Elizabeth followed. A Protestant herself, she ended the burnings for heresy, but many were executed for treason for plotting her overthrow. During her reign, the Anglican doctrine settled down with ‘studied vagueness or ambiguity’, centring around piety rather than doctrine. By the beginning of the 17th century, Ackroyd says, England was no longer Catholic, though the nature of its Protestantism was not clear cut. Separated from Catholic Europe, the idea of Englishness began to form during this period, and Catholics were excluded from it under the Protestant regimes. Ackroyd remarks that we can see ‘the enduring effects of the Reformation in the emphasis upon the individual rather than the community’. The idea of good governance emerged, with the state at different levels having a role in social and economic policy. This is mostly a history of the connections between religion and politics, both within England itself and in its international relations. Social and economic issues are touched on as part of the overall background against which his central dramas are played out. It says a great deal for Ackroyd's fluent, easy style, that I read this 470 page history in just three days. As befits a good storyteller, he has a clear view of the main story line he wants to follow, and achieves it with a strong narrative livened by incidental detail and quotes perfectly chosen to make a point. I missed end-note references, though I understand why he hasn't included them. The index is pretty good.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah (Presto agitato)

    Peter Ackroyd’s Tudors is popular history that goes down easy. Tudors is the second volume of Ackroyd’s history of England, taking us from Henry VIII through Elizabeth I. It’s a complicated period, replete with monarchs with larger-than-life personalities, scheming companions and spouses, attempted assassinations and usurpations, endless wars, and religious upheaval that pulled the country from one extreme to the other with every change in ruler while courtiers scrambled for position. With the w Peter Ackroyd’s Tudors is popular history that goes down easy. Tudors is the second volume of Ackroyd’s history of England, taking us from Henry VIII through Elizabeth I. It’s a complicated period, replete with monarchs with larger-than-life personalities, scheming companions and spouses, attempted assassinations and usurpations, endless wars, and religious upheaval that pulled the country from one extreme to the other with every change in ruler while courtiers scrambled for position. With the wealth of material, it would be easy to get bogged down in details and miss the bigger picture. Ackroyd avoids this trap, giving a readable narrative rather than exhaustive documentation. This is not Alison Weir’s Henry VIII: The King and His Court, where every ruffle and button is described, and no morsel of food crosses Henry’s table without being chronicled. For readers well-versed in Tudor history, some of the discussion may be too superficial. Ackroyd doesn’t present any groundbreaking theories, and his analysis of many of the secondary but important players is cursory. The tradeoff comes in the coherent storytelling which makes this history a pleasure to read. Ackroyd particularly excels in his lucid discussion of the English Reformation, the transition from Catholicism to Protestantism that was far from a single, simple event. Each of the Tudor monarchs - Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth - had strong opinions about what the national religion should look like and who should control it (religious tolerance was never an option). They did not hesitate to reverse one another’s decisions while destroying those who ended up on the wrong side of the debate in the process. Even the rulers who chose a middle ground (Henry with his Protestant Catholicism and Elizabeth with her Catholic Protestantism) lashed out brutally at those on either side. It did not do to be too papist or too reformed, as Henry illustrated graphically when he had Lutherans burned as heretics and Catholics hung and disemboweled for supporting the Pope on the same day. It was difficult to ignore object lessons like those. The Reformation serves as the overarching theme for this book. For the Tudor rulers, there was much more at stake than matters of religious faith. Changes in religion were accompanied by shifts in power and access to enormous ecclesiastical fortunes, necessary for waging foreign wars. The Tudors probably couldn’t have guessed, though, at the implications for the future. Once people were willing to accept that even the Pope’s authority could be questioned and supplanted by the King’s, was it so much of a stretch to imagine that there shouldn’t be a King at all? I expect Ackroyd will cover this in volume 3 with the English Civil War. Stay tuned. . . A copy of this book for review was provided by NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This truly inclusive work of history, the second of Ackroyd's History of England series, provides a close look at the evolution of England from an insular feudal country of parts to a nation ready to participate in the greater world on its own terms at the end of the 16th century. Ackroyd takes the reader through the lives of Henry VIII and his well known, but perhaps less well understood, quest for an heir; his son Edward VI; then the queen known as "Bloody Mary"; and finally the reign of Eliza This truly inclusive work of history, the second of Ackroyd's History of England series, provides a close look at the evolution of England from an insular feudal country of parts to a nation ready to participate in the greater world on its own terms at the end of the 16th century. Ackroyd takes the reader through the lives of Henry VIII and his well known, but perhaps less well understood, quest for an heir; his son Edward VI; then the queen known as "Bloody Mary"; and finally the reign of Elizabeth which cemented and ended the Tudor era. Along the way, he includes all that happens with the political and religious machinations of the day and the cultural implications. I have learned so much and realize that much of my prior "knowledge" has been based on half-truths and silly songs. While there is so much that I could cite from this vastly informative book, perhaps the best summary is Ackroyd's own: Yet arguably all these matters - the growing emphasis upon the individual, the dissolution of communal life, the abrogation of custom and tradition - were the necessary conditions for the great changes in the spirit and condition of the nation that were still to come. I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for a very readable text on this era in English history. I plan to read much more from Ackroyd's very prolific list. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)

    The second time around, I enjoyed it about the same. I like how it wasn't a personal history of the monarchs. But, you can tell the bias at times with how Ackroyd feels. When I looked at his sources, I could see he used Weir a lot, so it makes sense to me. Still, a good book! I enjoyed it! Original review: I've read a lot about Tudor history. And, really, there's nothing new in this book that hasn't been said by some other author, whether I've read them or not. However, this is unique from other bo The second time around, I enjoyed it about the same. I like how it wasn't a personal history of the monarchs. But, you can tell the bias at times with how Ackroyd feels. When I looked at his sources, I could see he used Weir a lot, so it makes sense to me. Still, a good book! I enjoyed it! Original review: I've read a lot about Tudor history. And, really, there's nothing new in this book that hasn't been said by some other author, whether I've read them or not. However, this is unique from other books. What changes is the scope that Ackroyd focuses on compared to what I have read before. More specifically, this largely ignores Henry VIII's personal life and his wives, unless it has something to do with major changes within governmental structure. And, Ackroyd either puts focus on that or a careful look at the religious changes within the realm. I learned more about Henry VIII's reign in a political and religious sense more than ever. Everything I've read has more been focused on his wives and the dynastic changes that brought then the actual policies he had. And, I'm so appreciative for that. I found myself seeing connections that hadn't been there before. "So that's why this happened!" Also, it skipped over Henry VII. That, to me, was weird. He is the one who started the Tudor dynasty, although he didn't do anything huge like his son did. I'm sure he goes over it in the first volume, Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors, which I haven't read.* Now I'm looking forward to read it, because I'd like to see how he presents history that I haven't heard. As I said before I hit my tangent, he focuses on the politics. Such as, instead of spending a ton of time on Elizabeth I's thing with Thomas Seymour when she was a child, he mainly mentioned it then moved on the the larger political sphere. I liked that. I really liked that. Same with Mary I's phantom pregnancies. Mentioned it, then got on with the politics of the reign. What Ackroyd spent the most time on, in a political and even personal frame, was Mary, Queen of Scots and her inevitable demise. I think that's because that was the hardest thing in Elizabeth I's reign, and it also is a piece of history that's really interesting. The first time a sovereign was killed, before the English Civil War (not War of the Roses, since that's completely different, but the one with Oliver Cromwell) and the French Revolution.** So, it makes sense that he focused a lot on it, because that was the first time it was ever done. Overall, it was dry at some points. I found myself spacing off when he really went on about stuff, but it was still very interesting. If you want to learn a lot about politics in the Tudor reign -- and see how they were constantly changing -- give this one a go. I don't think you'll be disappointed. *Okay, I attempted to read it, but got really bored since he was just waxing on about roads and countryside. Too much like Tolkien, so I started dozing off. **Although, I will argue that Henry VIII's execution of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard was very close to that. Katherine Howard, if I remember correctly, was never actually anointed as queen, so he technically wasn't executing royalty. And, Anne Boleyn had that title stripped from her before her death, even though she had been anointed as a sovereign. So, Anne Boleyn was really the first, if we want to get more technical and argue some more philosophical and political stuff.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I've now reached the second volume of Peter Ackroyd's History of England and it turns out it's a volume even more fantastically absorbing than the first, partly thanks to its taking on one of my favourite periods to read about - the Terrible Tudors (hat tip to Horrible Histories, one of the best TV programmes ever made, and I'll have anyone who disagrees burnt as a heretic). Beginning with start of the reign of Henry VIII and taking us through Edward VI, the Nine Day Queen (Lady Jane Grey), Blood I've now reached the second volume of Peter Ackroyd's History of England and it turns out it's a volume even more fantastically absorbing than the first, partly thanks to its taking on one of my favourite periods to read about - the Terrible Tudors (hat tip to Horrible Histories, one of the best TV programmes ever made, and I'll have anyone who disagrees burnt as a heretic). Beginning with start of the reign of Henry VIII and taking us through Edward VI, the Nine Day Queen (Lady Jane Grey), Bloody Mary and Good Queen Bess, it's also a look at the religious upheaval that was a defining part of that time and that led to the separation, albeit in fits and starts, of church and state in England. With each of the monarchs (and indeed, most of the populace) holding their own strong views on the role of religion in their kingdom, 16th century England was a particularly dangerous time. With what seemed like most of the population denounced and/or executed for being either Protestant or Catholic (depending on which doctrine was currently in favour), it's a wonder there were any English left for us to descend from. Especially during the particularly volatile times of transition where views that would have had you praised for your piety one week would get you publicly burnt as a heretic the next - and the accounts of those burnings are pretty appalling (our ancestors must have had much stronger stomachs than I, especially when it came to watching those where helpful families and friends would tie bags of gunpowder around their loved ones necks in order to bring their agonies to a quicker end). Filled with fascinating and surprising facts that I may have been regurgitating to my friends on a regular basis ever since, and so well written that it often made me forget I was reading a history book, I'm becoming something of a fan of Peter Ackroyd.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chloe Phillips

    Honestly, I was all for giving this book four stars, before I read the last chapter. Having read more than enough books on the Tudor period, I tend not to come to them looking to learn anything new, but to see whether the author has a different way of looking at things, or how they word and structure the events of the period. Having loved all Peter Ackroyd's previous books, and really enjoying his style of writing, I had high hopes for this. There were areas where it seemed a little dry, especia Honestly, I was all for giving this book four stars, before I read the last chapter. Having read more than enough books on the Tudor period, I tend not to come to them looking to learn anything new, but to see whether the author has a different way of looking at things, or how they word and structure the events of the period. Having loved all Peter Ackroyd's previous books, and really enjoying his style of writing, I had high hopes for this. There were areas where it seemed a little dry, especially surrounding the politics of Henry VIII's reign (specifically the divorce - I am yet to find an author that can make all those papal bulls and legates as compelling as the rest of the Tudor era), but about halfway through, his enthusiasm began to show. A large section of the book is devoted to Elizabeth - perhaps rightly so, considering the length of her reign compared to the period as a whole - and Ackroyd succeeds wonderfully in bringing the saga of her and Mary, Queen of Scots back to life once more. It is not all kings and queens, however. Every now and then is a touch of the common man - how they felt towards religion, the famines and sicknesses being suffered as matters of high policy, with little effect on the majority of the country, were being discussed in court. Yet it was really the last chapter that stood out for me. In just a few pages, Ackroyd manages to bring together all the overarching themes of the period, and set the stage for the next instalment. He brings together politics, religion, culture, and social experience, and ensures that the reader recognises the enormous changes wrought upon England during these years.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  10. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    I am slowly working my way through this epic history of England. Peter Ackroyd does his best to put as much as he can into these books about the founding of this part of Great Britain, and trust me there is a lot to get through. It's exactly what it says it is the history during the time of the Tudors, he doesn't try to condense it so there is a ton of information here and I can see where it could be way too much for some to start with. However, I really don't recommend this series to anyone who I am slowly working my way through this epic history of England. Peter Ackroyd does his best to put as much as he can into these books about the founding of this part of Great Britain, and trust me there is a lot to get through. It's exactly what it says it is the history during the time of the Tudors, he doesn't try to condense it so there is a ton of information here and I can see where it could be way too much for some to start with. However, I really don't recommend this series to anyone who doesn't have a good base to the histories he is writing, you need to know a general idea of what is in the book because of all the information to get through. I love how Peter Ackroyd writes so I thoroughly enjoyed getting into this monster history, but I have to admit it won't be for everyone. If you're interested in British history and want to get into a massive overview of it, definitely pick up this set.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    There is way too much about church reformation in this book. The topic doesn't interest me at all.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary Atwell

    This is a more tightly compressed and focused narrative than its predecessor and examines the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth through the prism of the Reformation. Although Ackroyd's coverage of religious reform is very impressive, I would have enjoyed some of the diversity that characterised the first volume. Still highly enjoyable though - engrossing and entertaining. Ackroyd Is a wonderful stylist.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Sharpnack

    Who doesn’t love the Tudors? They tie up the dynastic wars of the heirs of Edward Iii in fifteenth century into such a neat little bow. Peter Ackroyd’s second volume in the history of England begins w/ Henry VIII, whose obsession w/ a male heir turns him from a golden prince into a bloodthirsty tyrant, and then covers each of Henry’s “legitimate” children in turn. Mr. Ackroyd is the first historian that I have EVER read who thinks Anne Boleyn WAS screwing around on Henry. I can’t get over that on Who doesn’t love the Tudors? They tie up the dynastic wars of the heirs of Edward Iii in fifteenth century into such a neat little bow. Peter Ackroyd’s second volume in the history of England begins w/ Henry VIII, whose obsession w/ a male heir turns him from a golden prince into a bloodthirsty tyrant, and then covers each of Henry’s “legitimate” children in turn. Mr. Ackroyd is the first historian that I have EVER read who thinks Anne Boleyn WAS screwing around on Henry. I can’t get over that one. At least he paints Mary, Queen of Scots as the evil spider spinning her webs that I have always considered her. This book could have easily been titled “Reformation”. It would have gone better w/ the first book, “Foundation” and the next book, “Rebellion.” Anyway, the history of England under the Tudors is actually the history of England slowly turning from Catholicism to Protestantism. It proceeded by fits and starts, and seen from the view of an average Englishman, religion was a subject to be feared and avoided during this time period. Henry tore down the monasteries and despoiled church properties to enrich himself, and the three succeeding monarchs, even uber-Catholic Mary, did nothing to restore those properties, and thus restore the traditional order of society to the countryside. W/o the monasteries and convents, vagrancy abounded And poor people basically died in the streets. Shameful. Not until Poor Laws were passed in the last few years of Elizabeth’s long reign was this problem addressed. English rulers and government did not yet care about the “common man.” Ackroyd did a fair job of staying impartial in the Catholic-Protestant divide, which is difficult. He tried hard to defend Mary’s burning of heretics by comparing the numbers who died to those executed for Their faith under Henry and Elizabeth, but the numbers don’t hold up b/c Mary reigned for a scant five years compared to Elizabeth’s 45 years and Henry’s 39+. “Tudors” does a masterful job of showing why churches and the great cathedrals of England are empty. It also set up nicely the divisions between Queen and parliament that will come to a head in “Rebellion.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Pete daPixie

    Everything that I have read from Peter Ackroyd is certainly very well written, rich in detail and expertly researched. Volume II of this six volume series, 'Tudors', documents the sixteenth century reigns of England's most enigmatic dynasty. Unfortunately the author chose to begin in 1509 at the death of Henry VII. The founder of the Tudors is covered in his 'Foundation'. Having only read the first three volumes of this 'History of England' maybe I should wait to judge the full vision of Ackroyd Everything that I have read from Peter Ackroyd is certainly very well written, rich in detail and expertly researched. Volume II of this six volume series, 'Tudors', documents the sixteenth century reigns of England's most enigmatic dynasty. Unfortunately the author chose to begin in 1509 at the death of Henry VII. The founder of the Tudors is covered in his 'Foundation'. Having only read the first three volumes of this 'History of England' maybe I should wait to judge the full vision of Ackroyd's labours. Yet, that is the only reason for removing a star, in what is otherwise a five star book. The main focus of the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, ignoring the brief interlude of Lady Jane Grey, is centred on the reformation of the English church and the slow demise of the feudal society. These issues are brought to the fore in 'Tudors'. At times the chronology of events jumps around the narrative and perhaps some sixteenth century innovations and personalities are only given brief mention, but throughout Ackroyd's 'History' series there are always surprises too! Edward VI's Vagrancy Act was a measure that was introduced against the large bands of vagrants that roamed the country, "begging or stealing at pleasure, the sturdy beggars were an old order with their own traditions and their own language in 'the canting tongue'. 'The cull has rum rigging, let's ding him, and mill him, and pike' was as much to say that 'the man has very good clothes, let us knock him down, rob him and run'. Interesting in that the only person in my lifetime that I have ever heard to use the word pike in this context was my father. The modern dictionary still shows 'piker' as one who picks, a pilferer or a tramp. Terms born from Tudor patois!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    Peter Ackroyd's second volume in his history of England series carries with it the promise shown in the first volume, "Foundation". Of course, how can you write about "The Tudors" and not generate interest? They are the one English royal family about whom one never tires of reading. But Mr. Ackroyd's account of this famous (and infamous) family - from Henry VIII to his daughter, Elizabeth I - not only recounts the personal aspects, but also focuses upon the most important thread which ran throug Peter Ackroyd's second volume in his history of England series carries with it the promise shown in the first volume, "Foundation". Of course, how can you write about "The Tudors" and not generate interest? They are the one English royal family about whom one never tires of reading. But Mr. Ackroyd's account of this famous (and infamous) family - from Henry VIII to his daughter, Elizabeth I - not only recounts the personal aspects, but also focuses upon the most important thread which ran through the reigns of Henry, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth: The English Reformation. He traces the slow transformation of a country from one where the churches once were looked to for "good governance" to one in which "the state" as a governmental body slowly began to evolve. People began to look to themselves for answers, rather than to those who ruled them - both in religious and secular organizations - and Mr. Ackroyd further details the path of the Reformation from the simple Catholic/Protestant paradigm to the schisms and divisions within Protestantism itself, yielding any number of sects and diverse groupings, including the Puritans, and pointing out that to be "Protestant" wasn't quite as simple as it sounded. Throughout all move The Tudors themselves - Henry and his wives, his unfortunate son, Edward VI, the not-altogether unsympathetic "Bloody Mary" Tudor and, finally, the glorious, enigmatic, ephemeral Elizabeth - imperious, haughty, cruel, awesome (in the traditional sense of the word), magisterial, pitiful, the stuff of dreams. No doubt they will always fascinate us, and their "larger than life" images remain so in Ackroyd's capable telling, while he manages at the same time to reveal their humanness - Henry's relentless pursuit of the perfect wife and an heir to guarantee his dynasty, Edward's half-child/half-adult princely and, finally, kingly state which he was not fated to wear long, the personal tragedy of a lonely woman in the case of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth's greatness despite all her personal flaws, her temper and her often irritating habit of prevarication which drove her Privy Council members to despair. I look forward to Volume III of Mr. Ackroyd's history, when he will no doubt take up the reigns of James I through, I'm guessing, Charles II. In "The Tudors", the violent, sometimes overwhelming changes in English society and the monarchy itself have only begun; coming up are the travails of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell and Charles II. Don't miss out on this wonderful series!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rob Adey

    I've never really 'done' any history - my ideas of the Tudors until recently were Henry VIII = a sort of half-timbered shouting Brian Blessed and Elizabeth I = Miranda Richardson - so I guess I'd probably have liked any book which told their crazy stories fairly competently. But as far as I can tell, Peter Ackroyd does a very good job here. The previous book in the series covered a huge swathe of time and was very wide angle - necessarily, he slows down and zooms in here. Somehow, it's pacy whil I've never really 'done' any history - my ideas of the Tudors until recently were Henry VIII = a sort of half-timbered shouting Brian Blessed and Elizabeth I = Miranda Richardson - so I guess I'd probably have liked any book which told their crazy stories fairly competently. But as far as I can tell, Peter Ackroyd does a very good job here. The previous book in the series covered a huge swathe of time and was very wide angle - necessarily, he slows down and zooms in here. Somehow, it's pacy while getting through a lot of detail. It's not as rich and heady as his London biography, but throughout he sprinkles plenty of quotes from the protagonists, for which he has an excellent ear. This is history that focuses very much on the ruling class, with only the odd hint of what life was like for the general populace. But that seems appropriate for this particular century, when the whims and wishes of the monarch had massive impacts on the country - not least on the kind of weird political and religious system we have, bits of which are still around today.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Helene Harrison

    Review - A little disappointing in places as there were some glaring errors e.g. Thomas Brandon where it should have been Charles Brandon in the index. What? Nevertheless, a good overview of the period, although not very balanced. A large part of the book was given over to Elizabeth I with very little on Edward and Mary, and not much more on Henry VIII. Henry VII isn't even covered in this book on the Tudors but is covered in the previous one in the series, which seems a little odd to me. I woul Review - A little disappointing in places as there were some glaring errors e.g. Thomas Brandon where it should have been Charles Brandon in the index. What? Nevertheless, a good overview of the period, although not very balanced. A large part of the book was given over to Elizabeth I with very little on Edward and Mary, and not much more on Henry VIII. Henry VII isn't even covered in this book on the Tudors but is covered in the previous one in the series, which seems a little odd to me. I wouldn't really recommend it to serious historians, a few too many little errors. Subjects - History / Tudors Recommend? - Maybe Rating - 13/20

  18. 4 out of 5

    John Allgood

    A very readable history of the Tudor dynasty although it starts at the death of its founder, Henry VII. This is Ackroyd's second volume in his history of England. It is by no means necessary to read the first volume in order to enjoy and understand this volume. Ackroyd examines in detail the religious changes during the period and clearly explains the turmoil this created. Well written and full of detail, it's a good volume to an interested reader wanting to know more about the period.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    Didn't enjoy this as much as Vol 1 but only because I was filling a gap in my knowledge then and the Tudors are already too familiar. The religious issues of these times are crucially important to the understanding of the politics but Ackroyd possibly goes into too much detail for me. It's still a book to relish, keep and dip into occasionally though.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Candy

    Didn't learn anything new. Tells the same tales as most books on the Tudors, but this one was a little duller.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Graham

    The second volume of Peter Ackroyd's epic 'History of England' series. This one sees the focus narrowed down almost entirely to the 16th century, where the focus is on a pair of Tudor monarchs and the changes they wrought to the country and the world. As ever, this book is distinguished by the breadth of research and liveliness of the prose, even when discussing complex topics like the Reformation. Ackroyd is never dry, but always engaging. As somebody well familiar with Henry and all his wives, The second volume of Peter Ackroyd's epic 'History of England' series. This one sees the focus narrowed down almost entirely to the 16th century, where the focus is on a pair of Tudor monarchs and the changes they wrought to the country and the world. As ever, this book is distinguished by the breadth of research and liveliness of the prose, even when discussing complex topics like the Reformation. Ackroyd is never dry, but always engaging. As somebody well familiar with Henry and all his wives, I particularly enjoyed the latter half of the book exploring the tumult of the 1550s and Elizabeth I's long and glorious reign. Epic stuff indeed, and as ever I eagerly look forward to the next volume.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Helen Felgate

    A compelling read particularly the section on Elizabeth 1. Ackroyd provides a lot of detail on the conflicts of different religious factors but always finds new snippets of fascinating social history such as the shortages of leather due to the growth in coach building.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tara Starr bishop

    Very detailed and intricate look of England during the reign of the Tudors. Gave great insight not only into the players, the ideologies that shaped policies and often the fate of the guilty as well as innocent, but also the daily life of those living in England during the 16th century.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ionia

    Tudors is the second book in Peter Ackroyd's History of England series--if you have not read the first Foundation (you really should) it is not a problem. This book is a continuation of the historical period and will still make perfect sense without the preface of the first book. Whist I enjoyed reading this very much, I liked the way the information was organised and appreciated the scope of how much research was put into this, I was vaguely disappointed that it mostly focused on the upper class Tudors is the second book in Peter Ackroyd's History of England series--if you have not read the first Foundation (you really should) it is not a problem. This book is a continuation of the historical period and will still make perfect sense without the preface of the first book. Whist I enjoyed reading this very much, I liked the way the information was organised and appreciated the scope of how much research was put into this, I was vaguely disappointed that it mostly focused on the upper class and not so much on the general population at that time. It was interesting to see how the rulers lived and gain insight into their lives, but it would have also been nice to see how the rest lived. A good portion of this book also deals with the Protestant Reformation and the changes in social attitude during the Tudor period. The general feeling of Tudor determination to gain authority and status came through well in the writing. For me, this was not quite as intriguing as the first book, but I still enjoyed it. I learned some new things and had fun along the way. With peter Ackroyd, you are always guaranteed quality work that can make history feel truly alive. This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher and provided by netgalley.

  25. 5 out of 5

    judy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Tudors--a perfect escape--especially if you can get from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I in 500 pages. Ackroyd is evidently obsessive about writing English history. I don't even have time to count up the books he has turned out. This is his second volume in attempting the whole ball of wax. Thankfully, he didn't drag us through a salacious telling of Henry's wives. What he did do--that I couldn't tell from the title--was trace the evolution of the Reformation of the English church. It was actually The Tudors--a perfect escape--especially if you can get from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I in 500 pages. Ackroyd is evidently obsessive about writing English history. I don't even have time to count up the books he has turned out. This is his second volume in attempting the whole ball of wax. Thankfully, he didn't drag us through a salacious telling of Henry's wives. What he did do--that I couldn't tell from the title--was trace the evolution of the Reformation of the English church. It was actually quite interesting to see it laid out through the Tudors and their Catholic enemies in Europe. I'll admit I've never read it in one piece before. If you're looking for an escape, as I was, pass this by. You have the Religious Right (emergence of Puritans); the 1% prospering while the 99% get poorer; flour increasing to 3 times the price in just 3 years and Parliament ignoring Elizabeth's commands so they can make their own rules about religious observance. Any of this sound familiar? The most significant thing is the English Reformation changed the country from a community emphasis to the individual. The modern English-speaking world began.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Essjay

    I read this book to extend my knowledge for my A level history on Elizabethan foreign policy this year and it has certainly proved informative and interesting. I, unlike many others who have read this book, did not previously have any knowledge of Mr Ackroyd, nor was I familiar with any of his work but I certainly enjoyed this volume. I particularly like his uncanny ability to bring the historical figures to life and write with such fluidity. I also enjoyed his detailed description of the execution I read this book to extend my knowledge for my A level history on Elizabethan foreign policy this year and it has certainly proved informative and interesting. I, unlike many others who have read this book, did not previously have any knowledge of Mr Ackroyd, nor was I familiar with any of his work but I certainly enjoyed this volume. I particularly like his uncanny ability to bring the historical figures to life and write with such fluidity. I also enjoyed his detailed description of the executions, gory details that the usual TV historians love to leave out in order to put school students to sleep. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in the Tudor period as it is a fantastic read and much deserving of my five star rating, though for someone as young as I am, this could prove a challenging read, so prepare yourself! (:

  27. 5 out of 5

    Victor Gibson

    I came across this book on the shelves of El Corte Ingles in Madrid. What luck! I had already ready the first volume and enjoyed it so was keen to read the second. This is a real page turner, whether you are a student of history or just an enthusiastic reader as I am, who despite having learnt history at school, have forgotten much of the detail. And detail there is here, from the affairs of state, to the grovelling poverty of the poor, not the mention the many executions which of course included I came across this book on the shelves of El Corte Ingles in Madrid. What luck! I had already ready the first volume and enjoyed it so was keen to read the second. This is a real page turner, whether you are a student of history or just an enthusiastic reader as I am, who despite having learnt history at school, have forgotten much of the detail. And detail there is here, from the affairs of state, to the grovelling poverty of the poor, not the mention the many executions which of course included beheadings, disembowellings (if that is a word) and burnings. From what Peter Ackroyd writes it actually seems possible that Anne Boleyn had sex with others in the hope of producing an heir, and hence saving her life. And there is more. You don't have to be a student of history to enjoy this book. It is great stuff, and it somehow made me proud to be English.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nicki Markus

    Having read and seen so much about the Tudors, I had expected to find this book of less interest than the first and third in the series. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, the Henry VIII stuff was very familiar, but I learnt a few new things about Mary and Elizabeth's reigns, and overall it was an engaging and delightful read. I am now moving on to volume three, and the Civil War is an era in which I am less well read, so I look forward to learning more. I continue to recommend this serie Having read and seen so much about the Tudors, I had expected to find this book of less interest than the first and third in the series. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, the Henry VIII stuff was very familiar, but I learnt a few new things about Mary and Elizabeth's reigns, and overall it was an engaging and delightful read. I am now moving on to volume three, and the Civil War is an era in which I am less well read, so I look forward to learning more. I continue to recommend this series, especially for casual readers who want non-fiction history books that are not simply a retelling of dry facts.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    Having read Dan Jones excellent history of the Plantagenets and on through the Wars of the Roses I wanted to continue the tale of England's history with the Tudor dynasty. Ackroyd is a much duller writer however and rather than giving a clear and succinct account of the (undeniably fascinating ) facts and focusing on those things that are interesting (the wives, foreign affairs, wars, court intrigues) this gets really bogged down in the religious affairs of the king and the Reformation. These co Having read Dan Jones excellent history of the Plantagenets and on through the Wars of the Roses I wanted to continue the tale of England's history with the Tudor dynasty. Ackroyd is a much duller writer however and rather than giving a clear and succinct account of the (undeniably fascinating ) facts and focusing on those things that are interesting (the wives, foreign affairs, wars, court intrigues) this gets really bogged down in the religious affairs of the king and the Reformation. These complex issues are explored in great detail but are so dry and tedious I ultimately decided life was too short and abandoned this. Too many good history books to get through to get stuck on this one.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    As someone who has read a lot about the Tudors, I thought that no Tudor book could interest me again. But I was wrong. Peter Ackroyd charts the Tudor story from the accession of Henry VIII to the death of Elizabeth I. His writing style makes it incredibly easy to read. Even events that I know well, such as the execution of Thomas Cranmer, the Wyatt Rebellion, and the death of Mary Queen of Scots were described in ways that made them exciting to read.

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