Charles II was thirty when he crossed the English Channel in fine May weather in 1660. His Restoration was greeted with maypoles and bonfires, as spring after the long years of Cromwell's rule. But there was no way to turn back, no way he could "restore" the old dispensation. Certainty had vanished. The divinity of kingship had ended with his father's beheading. "Honor" was now a word tossed around in duels. "Providence" could no longer be trusted. As the country was rocked by plague, fire, and war, people searched for new ideas by which to live. And exactly ten years after he arrived, Charles would again stand on the shore at Dover, this time placing the greatest bet of his life in a secret deal with his cousin, Louis XIV of France.
Jenny Uglow's previous biographies have won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and International PEN's Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History. A Gambling Man is Uglow at her best: both a vivid portrait of Charles II that explores his elusive nature and a spirited evocation of a vibrant, violent, pulsing world on the brink of modernity.
Clare Jackson's marvellous book takes full advantage of its irrepressible subject.
The short reign of James II is generally seen as one of the most catastrophic in British history, ending in his exile after he unsuccessfully tried to convert England to Catholicism, a crisis that would haunt the monarchy for generations. Ultimately, David Womersley's biography shows, James was a man whose blindness to subtlety and political reality brought about his ruinous downfall.
In his ambition to provide a male heir to the throne, Henry VIII married six times. Divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, caused England’s break from the Catholic church in Rome. He went on to divorce Anne of Cleves and behead Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard for infidelities. Jane Seymour died and Catherine Parr survived Henry.
Henry VIII’s Wives in an Hour will introduce you to these six entirely diverse and captivating personalities and the events that propelled them to their individual fates. You will learn which wife had what impact on Henry and England and understand why Henry and his six wives form the most popular period of Tudor history.
Know your stuff: read about Henry VIII’s wives in just one hour.
At the end of the eighteenth century, Britain, and much of the Western world, fell in love with nature. Thomas Bewick's History of British Birds marked the moment, the first "field guide" for ordinary people, illustrated with woodcuts of astonishing accuracy and beauty. But his work was far more than a mere guide, for in the vivid vignettes scattered through the book, Bewick captured the vanishing world of rural English life.
In this superb biography, Jenny Uglow tells the story of the farmer's son from Tyneside who influenced book illustration for a century to come. It is a story of violent change, radical politics, lost ways of life, and the beauty of the wild -- a journey to the beginning of our lasting obsession with the natural world.
Sarah Losh is a lost Romantic genius—an antiquarian, an architect, and a visionary. Born into an old Cumbrian family, heiress to an industrial fortune, Losh combined a zest for progress with a love of the past. In the church, her masterpiece, she let her imagination flower—there are carvings of ammonites, scarabs, and poppies; an arrow pierces the wall as if shot from a bow; a tortoise-gargoyle launches itself into the air. And everywhere there are pinecones in stone. The church is a dramatic rendering of the power of myth and the great natural cycles of life, death, and rebirth.
Losh's story is also that of her radical family, friends of Wordsworth and Coleridge; of the love between sisters and the life of a village; of the struggles of the weavers, the coming of the railways, the findings of geology, and the fate of a young northern soldier in the First Afghan War. Above all, it is about the joy of making and the skill of unsung local craftsmen. Intimate, engrossing, and moving, The Pinecone, by Jenny Uglow, the Prize-winning author of The Lunar Men, brings to life an extraordinary woman, a region, and an age.
The Stuart monarchy brought together the two nations of England and Scotland into one realm, albeit a realm still marked by political divisions that echo to this day. More importantly, perhaps, the Stuart era was marked by the cruel depredations of civil war, and the killing of a king. Shrewd and opinionated, James I was eloquent on matters as diverse as theology, witchcraft, and the abuses of tobacco, but his attitude to the English parliament sowed the seeds of the division that would split the country during the reign of his hapless heir, Charles I. Ackroyd offers a brilliant, warts-and-all portrayal of Charles's nemesis, Oliver Cromwell, Parliament's great military leader and England's only dictator, who began his career as a political liberator but ended it as much of a despot as "that man of blood," the king he executed.
England's turbulent seventeenth century is vividly laid out before us, but so too is the cultural and social life of the period, notable for its extraordinarily rich literature, including Shakespeare's late masterpieces, Jacobean tragedy, the poetry of John Donne and Milton and Thomas Hobbes's great philosophical treatise, Leviathan. In addition to its account of England's royalty, Rebellion also gives us a very real sense of the lives of ordinary English men and women, lived out against a backdrop of constant disruption and uncertainty.
In 1611, the merchants of London's East India Company received a mysterious letter from Japan, written several years previously by a marooned English mariner named William Adams. Foreigners had been denied access to Japan for centuries, yet Adams had been living in this unknown land for years. He had risen to the highest levels in the ruling shogun's court, taken a Japanese name, and was now offering his services as adviser and interpreter.
Seven adventurers were sent to Japan with orders to find and befriend Adams, in the belief that he held the key to exploiting the opulent riches of this forbidden land. Their arrival was to prove a momentous event in the history of Japan and the shogun suddenly found himself facing a stark choice: to expel the foreigners and continue with his policy of isolation, or to open his country to the world. For more than a decade the English, helped by Adams, were to attempt trade with the shogun, but confounded by a culture so different from their own, and hounded by scheming Jesuit monks and fearsome Dutch assassins, they found themselves in a desperate battle for their lives.
Samurai William is the fascinating story of a clash of two cultures, and of the enormous impact one Westerner had on the opening of the East.