Posted By Claire on July 8, 2014
Reading and Writing During the Dissolution: Monks, Friars and Nuns 1530-1558 is a tricky book to review because it is so specialised and is not, in any way, a mainstream book for Tudor history lovers.
Well, firstly because of its price – the RRP of the hardcover version is £55 ($90) and the Kindle edition is over $70 – this puts it well out of the price range of the usual Tudor enthusiast and it only has 203 pages including the index. Secondly, it is very academic in style. Rather than a flowing book, it is a collection of “biographical case studies of English religious men and women” and has a very “heavy” style. It would be perfect for anyone doing a project or thesis on the impact of the dissolution of the monasteries or the monastic communities because the studies are detailed and the appendices includes primary sources like letters, but I could not recommend it to anyone who just wants to read up about the monasteries and their dissolution. I found it hard-going and I read 16th century documents and chronicles on a daily basis. I feel awful criticising something which is meticulously researched and must have taken years to put together and write, but I review books for mainstream Tudor history lovers and I don’t feel that this one would appeal to many of them.
In the years from 1534, when Henry VIII became head of the English church until the end of Mary Tudor’s reign in 1558, the forms of English religious life evolved quickly and in complex ways. At the heart of these changes stood the country’s professed religious men and women, whose institutional homes were closed between 1535 and 1540. Records of their reading and writing offer a remarkable view of these turbulent times. The responses to religious change of friars, anchorites, monks and nuns from London and the surrounding regions are shown through chronicles, devotional texts, and letters. What becomes apparent is the variety of positions that English religious men and women took up at the Reformation and the accommodations that they reached, both spiritual and practical. Of particular interest are the extraordinary letters of Margaret Vernon, head of four nunneries and personal friend of Thomas Cromwell.
Hardcover: 211 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st Edition edition (25 July 2013)
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and your usual bookstore.