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Have you ever tried to get your head around early modern English history? Yes, I know it is a next to impossible, but with the right material, it can be done. Which is where A History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts by Robert Bucholz comes in. So is it any good? 1
Things do not start promisingly, with the very first lecture feeling like one of those 1980s “how to” documentaries. Where the presenter stands there for ages and says why you should be interested in, let say sailing. There is no easier way to bore the listener than by telling them to do something they already wanted to do. Especially since only those who are interested in English history would be listening. The next three lectures are not much better, providing only a basic understanding of feudal society and hierarchy. However if you are already familiar with early modern history, I would recommend skipping to lecture five. 1
I would recommend Bucholz taking a look at Ann Handley’s book Everybody Writes. As she recommends in Chapter 15, cutting off the beginning, until something substantial is reached in the text. This way unnecessary waffle is avoided. Although to be fair, historians are not primary chosen on their ability to write and communicate. 2
All of a sudden, Bucholz realise he is running out of time to set the scene for the main story. He crams in over a hundred years from 1377 to 1485 in lectures five and six. This a bit of an achievement, even if it makes for two very hard to follow lectures. To put this into perspective later lectures cover roughly 8.4 years a much more digestible amount. To illustrate the point, try explaining something as complex as World War Two in just over 3 minutes in some detail. Just to cover 1939-40, let alone the rest of the war, you would have to cover the following: 1
I think I have proved my point.
It would have been much better to condense the first four lectures into one or two lectures. Intern leaving four or five lectures to cover from 1377 to 1485 instead of just lectures five to six. 1
A History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts really begins with lecture seven, with the Tudors. I would suggest starting the course here, saving yourself three hours. From here on out Bucholz provides a brilliant series of lectures. His big achievement is to keep thing simple and easy to understand. With the lectures, avoiding becoming too bogged down in minor details, instead focusing on the big picture. This is a breath of fresh air, as so many books expect a certain amount of pre-gained knowledge. This intern makes it hard for people to break into new subjects. This in essence is A History of England brilliance. 1
The course can be split into two parts, the chronological and social history. The chronological history, e.g. covering historical events in order, is the more traditional form of history. It usually covers the English monarchy and their dealings with the nobility and foreign powers. Bucholz use chronological history in lectures seven to nineteen and lectures twenty-eight to forty-four. However, the remaining lectures break with tradition by covering the lives of ordinary people. This makes the lecture series more round and interesting. Bucholz use does this in lectures two to four, lectures twenty to twenty-seven, and lectures forty-six to forty-seven. 1
I would recommend speeding the course up to 135% as Bucholz narration is a bit slow. This is not a big loss since the book is over 24 hours long, therefore reducing the run time to a more manageable 18 hours. Otherwise, Bucholz delivery is perfectly respectable. 1
Yes, A History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts is simply excellent, weaving together complex historical events into a coherent narrative. Well as long as you start at lecture seven. 1
By Arran Wilkins © 2021 (text only)
(1) Bucholz, Robert. A History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts (The Great Courses, 2013) Amazon Audible, Available at: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/A-History-of-England-from-the-Tudors-to-the-Stuarts-Audiobook/B00D97Q8QQ?ref=a_library_t_c5_libItem_&pf_rd_p=7bf74090-5cb9-4f5e-bc6f-6ea28d055287&pf_rd_r=3JC2HZBEA7QCNKRT7KHS [Accessed 25th March 2021].
(2) Handley, Ann (Author). Barrett, Cynthia (Narrator). Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content (Audible Studios, 2014). Amazon Audible, Available at: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Everybody-Writes-Audiobook/B00PKOXT0Y?ref=a_library_t_c5_libItem_&pf_rd_p=7bf74090-5cb9-4f5e-bc6f-6ea28d055287&pf_rd_r=EPRP0TNAYD8DYZXMWETF [Accessed 15th April 2021].
See Chapter 15: If You Take a Running Start, Cover Your Tracks.
(Image one) Schäferle. Pixabay. Pixabay License. Accessed at: https://pixabay.com/photos/photo-monk-memory-middle-ages-2529307/ [Accessed 25th March 2021].
(Image two) Peter H. Pixabay. Pixabay License. Accessed at: https://pixabay.com/photos/gallery-art-mural-baroque-3114279/ [Accessed 25th March 2021].
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