NEW WORLDS, LOST WORLDS: The Rule of the Tudors, 1485–1603

Susan Brigden, Author
Susan Brigden, Author . Viking $25.95 (434p) ISBN 978-0-670-89985-2
Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-14-200125-7
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-101-56399-1
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In many respects, the 16th is surely the most appealing of English centuries—an age of extraordinary vitality, when the intolerance that wrecked France was suppressed (almost everywhere but in Ireland) by pragmatic Elizabethan moderation. Brigden's new work is the fifth entry in the nine-volume Penguin History of Britain, a series that features a number of leading lights (Kishlansky, Colley, Cannadine, etc.), and it provides a spirited introduction to this fertile period. Political and religious themes predominate, as befits a student of the late Sir Geoffrey Elton, but the author avoids the brilliant turgidity of her former teacher. Operating within the series' standard conceptual framework (dynastic change shaping the structure, right up until the fall of Mrs. Thatcher), Brigden writes with mature and engaging sobriety. She is fully conscious of the oppressive potential of English government, "whose superiority was "evident only to the English," and gives substantial attention to the disasters that befell the Irish. Indeed, her claim to speak "more of kings, and queens, than cabbages" is a little self-deprecating. The plight of the poor, prone to disease and catastrophic famine, is rarely far from the surface; astonishingly, we learn that one-third of the population of Norwich died during a plague epidemic in 1579. Equal attention is paid to popular religion—to the lost world of English Catholicism, witch crazes and mystery plays—and to family life and friendship. This is a well-balanced if fairly traditional history and will make for an ideal textbook when it appears in paper. (June 25)

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