Interesting reading – Elizabethan England

Hi all –

I’ve just found some new-to-me books which are available on my e-reader through our local library – what a rush! Thought some might be interested in knowing what I’ve found.

First, I’d already known about C. J. Sansom’s historical novels about the period. The hero, Matthew Shardlake, is a hunch-backed lawyer who interacts with many historical figures. The books certainly carry the flavour of those days vividly – the smells, sights, colours – the mass of people, some dying on the streets from starvation, some riding magnificent horses, the vast majority using their legs to get about, trying to avoid the refuse in the streets. As the author was/is a lawyer in this day and age, and a historian, they’re wonderfully evocative. (and they’re good mysteries, as well.)

Now I’ve found “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England”, by Ian Mortimer. Now, it’s not as lively as the Shardlake novels – but it’s chock full of information that suddenly puts a lot of things in place. Such as the first occurrences of Poor Relief came in 1597 – in conjunction with a 2 year crop failure when thousands starved to death. There was NO poor relief prior to that – in fact, if you harboured one or more poor persons, you’d be fined. And if you were a ‘vagabond’, local authorities were to remove circles of tissue from your ears!  But as the author pointed out, the population almost doubled in the century, while traditional work diminished. The result? Lots of people in poverty so deep they could not rise above it. (and lots of dispossessed people searching for any work, of any kind, throughout the kingdom.)

He also wrote “The Time Traveler’s Guide to the Middle Ages.” Can’t wait to read it.

If you do try the Sheldrake novels, you might become a bit interested in Walsingham. (he’s one of the villains in the novels.) There’s an interesting history of his time in office – “Her Majesty’s Spymaster.” by Stephen Budiansky. It’s a firmly official history, based completely on documents discovered in European repositories – including the Vatican. Very interesting!! The author claims Walsingham set up the model for the modern-day intelligence services we see today, and does much to prove his point.  It certainly brings to life the idea that life itself in those days was anything but assured, no matter what your status.

Have any of you read any novels or histories of interest? (Or for that matter, any books on English genealogy?) Please, share.

And enjoy the coming Spring weather!!

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