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Henry VIII Historical British King Henry VIII J. J. Scarisbrick University of California Press

8th July 2013 History Books 5 Comments

J. J. Scarisbrick is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Bristol. –This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Henry VIII’s forceful personality dominated his age and continues to fascinate our own. In few other reigns have there been developments of such magnitudein politics, foreign relations, religion, and societythat have so radically affected succeeding generations. Above all the English Reformation and the break with Rome are still felt more than four centuries on.

First published in 1968, J. J. Scarisbrick’s Henry VIII remains the standard account, a thorough exploration of the documentary sources, stylishly written and highly readable. In an updated foreword, Professor Scarisbrick takes stock of subsequent research and places his classic account within the context of recent publications.

“It is the magisterial quality of J.J. Scarisbrick’s work that has enabled it to hold the field for so long.”Steve Gunn, Times Literary Supplement

Henry VIII (English Monarchs Series)

Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen

John Edwards is Modern Languages Faculty Research Fellow in Spanish, University of Oxford. His recent books include The Spanish Inquisition, Ferdinand and Isabella, and Isabella: Catholic Queen and Madam of Spain. He lives in Oxford, UK.

The lifestory of Mary Idaughter of Henry VIII and his Spanish wife, Catherine of Aragonis often distilled to a few dramatic episodes: her victory over the attempted coup by Lady Jane Grey, the imprisonment of her half-sister Elizabeth, the bloody burning of Protestants, her short marriage to Philip of Spain. This original and deeply researched biography paints a far more detailed portrait of Mary and offers a fresh understanding of her religious faith and policies as well as her historical significance in England and beyond.

John Edwards, a leading scholar of English and Spanish history, is the first to make full use of Continental archives in this context, especially Spanish ones, to demonstrate how Mary’s culture, Catholic faith, and politics were thoroughly Spanish. Edwards begins with Mary’s origins, follows her as she battles her increasingly erratic father, and focuses particular attention on her notorious religious policies, some of which went horribly wrong from her point of view. The book concludes with a consideration of Mary’s five-year reign and the frustrations that plagued her final years. Childless, ill, deserted by her husband, Mary died in the full knowledge that her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth would undo her religious work and, without acknowledging her sister, would reap the benefits of Mary’s achievements in government.

Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen (The English Monarchs Series)

  • 5 responses to "Henry VIII Historical British King Henry VIII J. J. Scarisbrick University of California Press"

  • Llyods smile
    3:07 on July 8th, 2013
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    Anyone wanting to seriously study Henry VIII will need to read this book. I think that it takes a number of books to get an idea of “Great Harry’s” life, but this has unique information. I believe that Scarisbrick was the first historian permitted to use the Vatican archives to research Henry’s annulment/divorce. Scarisbrick, for example, analyzes the divorce/annulment of Henry and Catharine of Aragon in careful details, and comes to a somewhat surprising conclusion. Also very carefully examined are the course of the Henrician church, and Henry’s ever-shifting foreign policy.

    I have one small comment. Scarisbrick expresses surprise that Henry persisted in using the somewhat eccentric argument from Leviticus. I think the reason is clear: Henry wanted something that could not be resolved by dispensation. As Retha Warnicke says in The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII (Canto): “[...] Cardinal [Wolsey] [...] could and did find better reasons than Henry’s for ending his marriage, but his arguments (like those of other scholars) can all be characterized as legal technicalities that are by their nature subject to retroactive dispensation. In contrast, Henry’s reasoning is straightforward: the pope could not dispense from Biblical law [...].” This cavil does not diminish Scarisbrick’s achievement.

  • Sparky
    6:06 on July 8th, 2013
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    This remains the best biography of Henry VIII, the one that began to turn the tide against Eltonianism.

  • Contrarian
    6:37 on July 8th, 2013
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    I read this book right after reading Carolly Erickson’s biography of Henry VIII, and on balance this book is better and easier to read. I love that Scarisbrick has modernized the spelling and punctuation of the original documents he quotes. I think the picture of Henry presented is well-balanced, and does not minimize the faults of the subject of the biography. The careful examination of the question of the validity of the marriage of Henry and Catherine of Aragon is the best I have ever read, and partisans on either side of that question will see that there is indeed another side to the view they favor. The examination of the religious views of Henry is detailed and enlightening. I have always had a negative view of Henry VIII and I still have after reading this book, but the book was instructive and enlightening. The footnotes are where they belong (at the bottom of each page) and the bibliography is detailed though of course a bit dated in the 1968 edition I read. After you read this book you will know that you have read a really good biography of this important figure in world history.

  • Matt Microsoff
    5:59 on July 9th, 2013
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    Scarisbrick’s book is a scholar’s book and remains recognized after over three decades as the definitive work on the subject. It provides the background for other, equally valuable books, such as David Starkey’s “Six Wives: The Wives of Henry VIII”. This, though, is not to say that Scarisbrick can’t be read for pleasure. It can, but you will not find it the brezzy read of a popular history; instead, you will find a wealth of information that will serve you well in future reading on the subject. And it is a very enjoyable read itself. If you are serious about your understanding of this period of English history then Scarisbrick is essential, and I can’t imagine a personal library on Henry or Tudor England without a copy.

    As another reviewer remarked, this is not the book for an extensive treatment of Henry’s wives. For that, I recommend turning to Starkey, and it too is essential for an understanding of this period of the history of Tudor England. What I’ve said about Scarisbrick’s book can also be said about Starkey; although, I don’t think it has quite the stature of Scarisbrick’s.

  • johnsondick
    6:50 on July 10th, 2013
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    Prof. Scarisbrick has written the definitive biography of Henry VIII and his times, even though this book is about 30 years old. Scarisbrick brought an interesting view to the subject: as a Roman Catholic he was the first British author granted access to Vatican archives for his research on the subject. The result is a still cogent, absolutely exhaustive book on the subject. Entailing a practically week by week account of Henry VIII’s reign is overwhelming but of the upmost help for students of the subject. If you are looking for a light introduction to Henry VIII, this is probably not the place. But if you want *all* the (mind-numbing) details on Henry VIII, look no further than Scarisbrick’s brilliant work.

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