When I was a student, history was always one of my favorite subjects. But European history, other than the very broadest of strokes, was something that I never formally studied. As an adult, my lack of European history keeps coming up as a lack of understanding of current European events.
My one advantage has been a decent Christian history background. I have read a number of books on the Reformation and some on other parts of early Christian history. This history of the Tudors is in large part a history of the English Reformation. From Henry VIII’s movement away from the Roman Catholic church to the backlash against the English Reformation under Mary to the re-assertion of the Anglican church under Elizabeth, the English Reformation is inseparable from the Tudors.
About a year ago I read a Very Short Introduction to the Tudors, which while helpful, mostly skipped the religious aspects of the era. If anything, Ackroyd probably spent too much time on the religious issues during the reign of the Tudors.
Part of what was very helpful about this book was Ackroyd’s attention to the cultural and religious understanding of the office of King/Queen. When you believe that you have been placed in authority by a direct action of God, it is not surprising when you do not take criticism well.
Ackroyd also was careful in his exploration of the religious devotion of each of the Tudors as well as their blindspots. Henry’s infidelity does not pair well with his religious devotion. But he seems to have been actually devote, although unbothered by frequent infidelity. Elizabeth similarly was actually devote but vain and viewed insults as treason.
I never cease to be amazed when reading history easy it is to see parallels in current events. They are not always direct, but history is so helpful to provide understanding for current events.