Hilary Mantel is an English novelist, short story writer, and critic. Her novel, Wolf Hall, won the Man Booker Prize in 2009.


Bring Up the Bodies: An Inquisition

King Henry VIII of England; sixteenth-century portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger
In this passage from Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, George Boleyn, the brother of Anne Boleyn, has been arrested. Henry VIII has turned against his sister, the queen. George here meets with Thomas Cromwell, the king’s chief minister. Francis Bryan is a leading courtier, caught between allegiances: he is …

Bring Up the Bodies

Portrait of Henry VIII from The Psalter of Henry VIII, circa 1540
“I wish you had been here this morning,” Lady Rochford says with relish. “It was something to witness. The king and Anne in the great window together, so everybody in the courtyard below could see them. The king has heard about the quarrel she had with Norris yesterday. Well, the whole of England has heard of it. You could see the king was beside himself, his face was crimson. And she holding up the little princess to him, as if to say, ‘Husband, how can you doubt this is your daughter?’”

The Magic of Keith Thomas

‘The Concert in an Egg’; painting after Hieronymus Bosch, circa 1561
There never was a merry world since the fairies left off dancing and the parson left conjuring. —John Selden (1584–1654) The English historian Keith Thomas has revealed modes of thought and ways of life deeply strange to us, and he illustrates them with precise evidence. In his Religion and the …

Dreams & Duels of England

William Hogarth: The Denunciation; or, A Woman Swearing a Child to a Grave Citizen, 1729. In The Ends of Life, Keith Thomas writes of this painting, ‘Masculine honour was vulnerable to malicious paternity suits. [Here] a pregnant girl is being coached by her lover into swearing before a magistrate that a respectable elderly citizen (apparently a Dissenting clergyman) is the father of her child.’

The Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfilment in Early Modern England

by Keith Thomas
We live in a society basted in self- regard, our moralists tell us; fat and dozy on the lion’s share of the world’s resources, polluting the seas and burning fossil fuels, we gaze in loving torpor at our own reflection, and the gnat-bite of recession barely disturbs our narcissistic trance.

The War Against Women

A prostitute in the Calle Cuauhtemoctzin, Mexico City, 1934

From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women, Volume I: Origins

by Marilyn French, with a foreword by Margaret Atwood

From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women, Volume II: The Masculine Mystique

by Marilyn French, with a foreword by Margaret Atwood
There was once a woman who never smiled. Her name was Bao Si and she was a concubine to a king of the Zhou dynasty, which flourished in China after 1000 BCE. The king wanted so much to see her smile that he scoured the kingdom for entertainers and performing …


How to Play ‘Wolf Hall’

 Remigius van Leemput's 1667 copy of Hans Holbein's

Anne Boleyn: From the moment you enter public consciousness, you carry the projections of everyone who is afraid of sex or ashamed of it. You will never be loved by the English people, who want a proper, royal Queen like Katherine, and who don’t like change of any sort. Does that matter? Not really.