A mostly entertaining mixture of esoteric social history and well-known details of the personal lives of Tudor monarchs.




Amusing, well-researched biographies of rulers from Henry VII to Elizabeth I, focused on how they were born, dressed, ate, washed, slept, played, and died.

For readers anticipating salacious surprises, Borman (The Story of the Tower of London, 2015, etc.), joint chief curator of the Historic Royal Palaces and chief executive of the Heritage Education Trust, explains that they were rarely alone, so tales of clandestine royal trysts that have come down were mostly fictional, but she does not ignore them. Privacy, a later concept, barely touched the Tudors. “Even in their most private moments,” writes the author, “they were accompanied by a servant specifically appointed for the task.” Entering a typical palace, one passed through a public great chamber into a presence chamber (throne room), where the ruler dined in state, received visitors, and chaired council meetings, and then to the privy chamber, which was both lodging and the name of the organization that governed them. It was not very private, and every royal activity, from dining to preparing the royal bed to dressing the royal person in the morning, was subject to formal ceremony. Thus, Tudor monarchs did not go to the bathroom; the bathroom came to them, led by the groom of the stool, who managed a portable privy and attended his master when he used it. An important official, he supervised the other grooms and oversaw items in daily use such as jewels, plates, linens, and the Privy Purse. Borman delivers plenty of similar tidbits on 16th-century diet, hygiene, medicine, and sport à la Ian Mortimer’s A Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England (2013). She also includes familiar (perhaps too-familiar) details of royal private lives—e.g., Henry VIII’s pursuit of wives, Elizabeth’s nonpursuit of husbands.

A mostly entertaining mixture of esoteric social history and well-known details of the personal lives of Tudor monarchs.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2599-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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