A Discordant Queen

Lady Antonia Fraser is young, beautiful, and rich, an earl’s daughter married to a busy and successful politician, the mother of a large family; yet she has surmounted all these handicaps to authorship to produce a first-rate historical biography. I do not mean to sound sarcastic or patronizing. Only a …

England Atomized

Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm have been commissioned to produce a new economic and social history of England in a little more than 600 pages. This is a meager allotment of space in which to explain why a small, poor country outside the mainstream of European development—Hill accurately describes her …

All the Way with Henry the K

By courtesy of Holbein the bloated Henry VIII of middle age is familiar to us all, tight-mouthed and pig-eyed, so obese that it needed machinery to haul him upstairs. In A Man for All Seasons Robert Shaw gave us the young Henry VIII, a booming, back-slapping locker-room bore, and a …

The Last Whig

Trevor-Roper’s work is always a challenge to the reviewer; it is brilliant, bitty, and bitchy, and what it all adds up to is difficult to say. His brilliance is never seriously questioned, except by his personal enemies, but is he a brilliant historian? Our sons and grandsons may think not, …

A Hectic Revolution

The period between the Reformation and the Restoration of Charles II was the heroic age of English history. The lightest actions were heavy with decision, the simplest utterances were couched in prophetic language. Ivan Roots’s characterization of the Great Rebellion can be applied to the whole period: It was an …

Tough Job

Successful kingship, like all great leadership, defies analysis. The Plantagenet Henry II of England handed on to posterity a shining reputation as a great administrator and a great man, while his son John, certainly more intelligent and probably more able, is one of the great villains of English history. Only …

Decline and Fall

Since the end of the Second World War the attention of some of the ablest academic minds in Britain has been focussed on the growth of English society in the century following 1540. Synthesis has succeeded synthesis, theory has begotten theory, and the debate has been conducted with an asperity …

Habsburg Espionage

In its inception this book was apparently intended to be no more than a detailed examination of Spanish diplomacy and espionage in the London of King James I. However, so complex were the foreign relations of the European states in the early seventeeth century that Professor Carter’s brilliant elucidation of …

Spoiled Kings

English history in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has always attracted a breed of elegant, highly-educated, but essentially amateur historians who are the direct descendants of industrious nineteenth-century divines like Archdeacon Coxe and Robert Blencowe, or literary ladies like Mrs. Julia Cartwright Addy. They have a great reverence for original …