Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England

John Watts writes:

Henry VII’s reign is conventionally thought of as poorly documented – it falls between the extensive ministerial records that survive from the 16th century and the voluminous chronicles and correspondence of the 15th – but Penn shows how much can be done with what does survive. The result is a remarkably well realised work of historical reconstruction. In dealing with each turning point in his story, Penn has taken care to think about what was going on for all the key protagonists and what else was happening at the same time: he is thus able to explain the darkening tone of Henry’s regime not only in terms of the king’s sadness or paranoia, or of the exigencies of foreign affairs (above all, the problem posed by Suffolk’s residence at the court of Maximilian), or of the legalism of Henry’s advisers, or of their insecurities and ambitions regarding one another, but – more realistically – in terms of all these things, and of the relationship between them.

(LRB 26 April 2012)