Susan Brigden's book is a reappraisal of Tudor rule in England and Ireland. Taking a close look at the world of Shakespeare, Francis Drake and Elizabeth I, this book leave no stone unturned as the author unravels the myths behind the grandeur of the period.
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Tudor rule was plagued by military threats abroad, and religious factions, rival claimants to the throne and rebellions at home. The poor, too, were a constant problem. Ireland was a place of constant war between rival Gaelic dynasties and rebellion and heavily influenced the course of events in England.
Brigden takes us to the heart of the Tudor court from Henry VII to Elizabeth I and provides insight into how the famous handled themselves in fraught situations. Elizabeth is shown as an indecisive monarch in dealing with crucial issues: the execution of the Queen of Scots and the question of succession. Even trusted advisors were full of deceit and nefarious dealings. Cardinal Wolsey and William Cecil's characters come in for analysis.
Brigden says our understanding of the Tudor world comes not only from the personalities or economics of the time but also in looking at religion. The world of medieval Christianity was torn to shreds when the new Protestant faith took ascendance over the Catholic. The author states that the whole fabric of life, formerly based on the Mass and religious festivals, was abruptly discarded; that the people, facing plagues and bad harvests and the threat of war from Catholic nations, were thrown into a time of desperation, believing as they did in the divine justice of God. It was during the time of the Tudors that witchhunts and religious wars took place. Martyrs to faith loomed large during the Tudor times.
Brigden states that the Lost Worlds of the Tudors were, in England and Wales, the certainties of medieval religion and the structure of feudal life. In Ireland these lost worldsÂ were the final days of the Gaelic Lords. The New Worlds-the colonies of North America andÂ the new expositions of religious faith-offered unprecedented opportunities.
Both terrible and grand, the 16th century generated outstanding literary works, from Thomas More's Utopia to Shakespeare's Hamlet, yet lives were often nasty, brutish, and short. New Worlds, Lost Worlds depicts the terror as well as the greatness of the 16th century. Brigden has captured well the atmosphere of the age in this fascinating, detailed book.
Susan Brigden, the author of New Worlds, Lost Worlds is Reader in Modem History and a Fellow and Tutor of Lincoln College, Oxford.
New Worlds, Lost Worlds
Penguin Press, published 2000