Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister

Patrick Collinson writes:

After the elimination of Beria from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia it was necessary to insert a section devoted to the Bering Straits. In the dozen or so years since the death of Geoffrey Elton, the Tudor statesman Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s prime minister and plenipotentiary, has been similarly airbrushed out of history. Elton, as anyone who did the Tudors for A Levels or read history at Cambridge between 1950 and 1980 knows, made Cromwell the centrepiece of his account of English constitutional history. But in telling the story of the English monarchy, David Starkey found no occasion even to mention Cromwell’s name.[*] Now, with the publication of Robert Hutchinson’s biography of Cromwell, it is as if Beria has come back to haunt us, requiring a further revision of the Encyclopedia. And the analogy is not so far-fetched, since Hutchinson tells us that Cromwell was responsible for transforming the England of Henry VIII ‘into what we would now recognise as a totalitarian Stalinist state’.

(LRB 29 November 2007)

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