The history of the English royal House of Tudor has fascinated British history fans for centuries. Truly, this historical family has everything a drama-loving history buff could ask for: affairs, wars, political intrigue, religious disputes, deaths, betrayals. There’s a reason Henry VIII and his eight wives made for a compelling Showtime television show. And there are many best-selling historical fiction novels about the House of Tudor. The history of the Tudors and British life surrounding them wouldn’t have been great to live through, but it’s fun to hear about. The best part of all? The historical truth is just as interesting, if not more so, than the fictional accounts. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out these 8 fascinating non-fiction books about the history of the Tudors.
Leanda de Lisle's Tudor: Passion. Manipulation. Murder. takes a deep dive into Tudor history, proving that however fascinating you thought the Tudor family was, there's even more to their story than you knew. While most books about the Tudors typically start with the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, de Lisle looks back at the family's Welsh origins and all of the history leading up to Henry VIII and the reformation that is often left out. All the religious and political intrigue that you would expect from a Tudor narrative is still here, but de Lisle's major focus is the family's long history of ambition.
While many books about Tudor England focus on the English royal history, historian Liza Picard is more interested in the lives of everyday people in Elizabeth's London. Picard looks at the infrastructure of London during these times and how the River Thames was the lifeblood of the city. Picard writes about what the people of London did for work, fun, and self-expression. She also looks at the not so great parts of Elizabethan London, like the Plague, smallpox and other diseases that afflicted the city's people. After reading this book, you'll have a pretty clear picture of what life in sixteenth-century London was like for the average citizen.
Elizabeth Stuart, granddaughter of Mary, Queen of Scots, might have only been queen for a season, but in Daughters of the Winter Queen, author Nancy Gladstone looks at how Mary, Queen of Scot's legacy lived on through Elizabeth Stuart and her four daughters, long beyond her short reign. This book follows the story of Elizabeth and her four resilient daughters who, in refusing to give up in the face of adversity, changed the course of history.
If what interests you most about the Tudor legacy are the wars that shaped history, then Juliet Barker's Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England will captivate you. British historian Barker draws from a wide range of sources to recreate the October 1415 battle on the page. English archers were greatly outnumbered by heavily-armored French knights. And yet the English won, defying all odds. How did they succeed? Barker breaks it down with all of the suspense, intrigue, and dramatic flair of an excellent storyteller.
Liza Picard's book was a thorough and fascinating breakdown of everyday life in London, and Adrian Tinniswood's book Behind the Throne offers up the same kind of treatment for English royal life. In this book, Tinniswood breaks down the inner workings of a British Royal household, getting into how the system worked. She also looks at the gossip and feuds that one would expect to erupt within a large group of people working and living together in close proximity. This book is a fascinating look at the daily life of a royal.
When Great Britain history buffs think of the War of the Roses, there are several prominent British houses that probably come to mind: the Yorks, the Lancasters, the Nevilles, the Howards, the Mowbrays, the Percys, and of course the Tudors. But Nathen Amin's book The House of Beaufort reminds readers of another important house that had a hand in the war: the Beauforts. Amin argues that the Beauforts are truly the most intriguing family of this time period, and after reading this dramatic account of their line, you might agree.
When most people think of the Tudor period, they think of a time in history that was overwhelmingly white. However, in her book England's Other Countrymen, historian Onyeka Nubia points out that there were many people of African descent in Tudor England. In fact, Nubia argues that ideas about race during this time period were a lot more nuanced than we realize, and a lot of the idea of racism that we project on the Tudor period are actually more recent developments.
If Onyeka Nubia's account of Black people in Tudor England interested you, then you'll also want to take a look at David Olusoga's Black and British: A Forgotten History. This book looks at Black people living during that time period in Great Britain as well, including Shakespeare's Black characters in plays such as Othello. But Olusoga's book also takes a comprehensive look at Britain's long relationship with the people of Africa. Olusoga points out how Black British history has long been an integral part of the cultural and economic histories of the nation.
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