Written by Peter Ackroyd
Published by Macmillan
ARC courtesy of NetGalley
Review by Meredith Allard
Since reading Peter Ackroyd’s Dickens, an intensive biography of my favorite author, and his London: A Biography, Ackroyd has been one of my favorite scholars.
I haven’t read the first volume in the series, Foundation, but I didn’t find it necessary. This second volume focuses on a topic I’ve only recently found an interest in, the Tudors, and in this book Ackroyd examines the time of Henry VIII through Elizabeth I. While Ackroyd focuses on the extreme religious reforms that occurred in England throughout this time, there is still enough attention paid to the main players to keep the human interest story alive.
The Tudor period hadn’t been one that caught my attention until I watched the show The Tudors. I love historical stories enough to know that poetic license can be taken when telling them, and I know the history presented in the television show often wasn’t the way it occurred in life. After I saw the show I read Hilary Mantel’s fictional Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. I also read Alison Weir’s biography Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World. I came into Ackroyd’s book with some knowledge of the period and the important players, though prior knowledge isn’t necessary to enjoying Ackroyd’s book. Ackroyd gives enough background information to clue readers in about his subject from the beginning.
Ackroyd is not only a great researcher and scholar, but he is also a fine writer. For someone who loves history as much as I do, I don’t often love reading history books because they’re often not well written–merely a flatline list of facts and figures that hold as much interest for me as a mathematical equation. But Ackroyd’s prose is engaging, and his book reads as though it was written with a master fiction writer’s hand, making it extremely readable and relatable.
Ackroyd’s book filled in the gaping holes of missing information I had about the Tudor period. I had known bits and pieces of the story before, but now I feel I have a more rounded perspective. For anyone with an interest in the Tudor period of British history, Peter Ackroyd’s Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I will quench your thirst for more information.
Meredith Allard is the Executive Editor of The Copperfield Review.