Book Review – ‘A Brief History of the Tudor Age’ by Jasper Ridley

Jasper Ridley 'A Brief History of the Tudor Age'
Jasper Ridley ‘A Brief History of the Tudor Age’

Jasper Ridley, ‘A Brief History of the Tudor Age’ (London: Constable and Robinson, 2002), Paperback, ISBN 978-1-84119-471-4

Title: This book is not a history of the Tudor monarchs, like so many history books are, but the age as a whole. It includes chapters on the likes of fashion, law-enforcement and vagabonds, for example. However, it is brief, as the title also suggests.

Preface: Unusually, there is no preface as such to this book. However, it does include a very helpful chronology for those not as familiar with the period.

Citations: These aren’t brilliant, as notes aren’t made within the text to suggest where information came from. There aren’t footnotes or endnotes, either, just a list of sources used in each chapter, which means that you can’t follow up where Ridley got certain pieces of information from. You just have to trust that he’s telling the truth.

Contents: The contents page is clear and easy to understand; there are no complex titles as in so many books trying to stand out. However, some information is not where you’d expect it to be, as I realised when looking something up from the index. Nevertheless, a well-organised contents page and index.

Jasper Ridley 1920-2004
Jasper Ridley 1920-2004

Genre/Audience: It is blatantly a history book through and through, no pretensions to be a biography, as some explorations of a certain person are. It is a general history, definitely not political, more social and economic history. It doesn’t seem like it’s really for a serious scholarly audience already versed in the period, but more useful for students and those looking for an introduction.

Concepts: There are some interesting ideas and concepts, but what made it particularly interesting and engaging for me was the thematic rather than chronological exploration – it allows more of an overview, which is useful for students. It is good to get a small (brief) view of the world outside the court to add some context to what is better known.

Sources: There is a comprehensive list of sources by chapter, which is particularly helpful if you’re looking for further reading on a particular topic. There is a wide selection of primary and secondary sources, although within the bibliography it isn’t divided down as such. There is enough information given about the sources to track them down (particularly helpful with rarer primary sources), but there is no way of knowing what information came from which sources.

Illustrations: There is a wide selection of images, from portraits and places to cartoons and newssheet drawings, in both colour and greyscale. The captions give plenty of information on each image, including the estimated year of conception, as well as materials that were used, and current locations.

Jasper Ridley 'Bloody Mary's Martyrs'
Jasper Ridley ‘Bloody Mary’s Martyrs’

Other Works: Jasper Ridley has written a selection of other works on the Tudors, including ‘Bloody Mary’s Martyrs’, and biographies of ‘Elizabeth I’, ‘Henry VIII’ and ‘Thomas Cranmer’. There aren’t really any similar works looking at the background of the Tudor era unless you turn to textbooks.

My Rating: 14/20

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