England Under the Tudors (Anglais) Broché – 29 août 1991
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Présentation de l'éditeur
First published in 1955 and never out of print, this wonderfully written text by one of the great historians of the twentieth century has guided generations of students through the turbulent history of Tudor England.
Now in its third edition, England Under the Tudors charts a historical period that saw some monumental changes in religion, monarchy, government and the arts. Elton's classic and highly readable introduction to the Tudor period offers an essential source of information from the start of Henry VII's reign to the death of Elizabeth I.
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It is a very upbeat history, particularly interesting in its judgment of Henry VIII.
The story of Henry VII is well told, the careful statemaker who established firm, even ruthless governance, succeeded by the 'Renaissance Prince' who wasted no time in overthrowing some of his father's carefully constructed policies.
Nevertheless, while revealing Henry's cruelties and his determination to sacrifice anyone and everyone in order to safeguard the realm and succession, remeniscent to me on a smaller scale of the attitudes of Mao and Stalin, it was under Henry that the future of British greatness was made possible.
He was not afraid to sever the connection with Rome, and to sacrifice his two great servants, Wolsey and Cromwell, when they became past their sell-by date.
He left England in chaos as although he knew his route he could not manage men like his servants, and the last years of his reign suffered in every respect except general direction. Crucially, Henry refused, a bit like Queen Anne 150 years later to come down on one or the other side of the great debate, which was at that time religion.
After his death Edward went one way and Mary the other, but Elizabeth picked up the reins just where Henry left them and consolidated all his achievements.
The account of Elizabeth's reign focuses on her maintainence of a steady path. Elton appears to criticise her vacillation and romantic swings of mood, whereas Alison Weir in her biography tends to see these as feminine wiles which enabled her to twist the courts of Europe round her ringless wedding finger.
There is a great chapter on Hawkins and Drake, and a moving one on the arts.
This book doesn't explain everything but it is very positive about the achievements of the Tudors, in a way that I feel would be quite unfashionable were it to be written now.
The character and accomplishments of each of the rulers stands out as a uniquely individual: Henry VII, the fiscally responsible monarch who established the Tudor claim to the throne and restored the monarchy to solvency; Henry VIII the religiously orthodox ruler who nonetheless broke with Rome and established the Church of England; Edward, the protestant fanatic who (fortunately?) did not live long enough to have much impact; Mary, sincere but of limited ability as a queen; and of course Elizabeth.
Elizabeth's portrait is perhaps the most interesting, since she reigned longest and cast such a huge shadow over the time. The view is a balanced one. Elton is not over-awed by his subject, as so many biogrpahers of Elizabeth seem to be. He acknowledges her political deftness and sure-fire judge of men's ability, without losing sight of her failings and personal weaknesses. Her fiery temper and vainty are not forgotten and not every decision she makes is hailed as correct - nor is she dismissed as being merely "lucky" for her entire 45 year reign, as the occassional critic of Elizabeth seems to imply.
The true hero of the work, however, is none of the monarchs, not even Henry VII whom Elton seems to think quite highly of. It is Thomas Cromwell, who essentially ran the government during the crucial years of Henry VIII's break with Rome. Elton credits him with "revolutionizing" the beauracracy of the country as well as guiding policy for the entire span of his service. Hea rgues that the revolution in Henry VII's time was guided primarily by Cromwell and merely "consolidated" under Elizabeth.
Along the way, other men of ability and position who influnenced the course of history are given time as well. There is the brilliant but ultimately unsuccessful Woolsey, who Elton believes set the stage for the collapse of support for Catholicism in England, William Cecil (later Lord Burghley), who was Elizabeth's chief minister and right hand man throughout most of her reign, and the tragically unstable Essex who was his own worst enemy, to name only a few.
A great introduction or refresher for those interested in learning more about a period that was crucial to the formation of the England that become the world's dominant power.
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