Sunday, February 8, 2009

Quarrel With the King

I'm still not all the way over my cold, but Thursday I went back to work and resumed my normal life. I also took a break from quick, fun novels and read Quarrel With the King (Adam Nicolson, 2008). It took me outside my usual narrow area of English history, focusing on a noble family's course between rising to royal favor in the 1520's and taking the parliamentarian side of the English Civil War in the 1640's.

It's a tough book to categorize. It includes intellectual history, history of art, vignettes of the lives of the Pembroke family's tenants, etc., but its overarching theme is the slow end of England's medieval ways, where there was hierarchy but also a degree of mutuality, in the face of the encroachment of the modern, more authoritarian state.

It's an artfully written book, and it gave me a better sense of the sweep of the times--how the seeds of the English Civil War were planted all the way back under the Tudors, and how the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries influenced "my" era of the late 18th and early 19th.

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