The best books on everyday life in Tudor England

Kirsten Claiden-Yardley Author Of The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
By Kirsten Claiden-Yardley

The Books I Picked & Why

How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-To-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life

By Ruth Goodman

How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-To-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life

Why this book?

In this book, Ruth Goodman takes the reader through a day in the life of an ordinary person in Tudor England. Along the way she covers a wide range of topics including hygiene, clothing, education, work, leisure, and diet. This is not the only book to cover everyday life in the 16th century but it is elevated above other, similar, books by the anecdotes Goodman provides from her own experiences as a re-enactor. Where other authors might tell you what a Tudor bed was like, or how people ploughed, this book tells you what it feels like to sleep on that bed and how the oxen behaved.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII

By Steven Gunn

The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII

Why this book?

Rather than examining Henry VIII’s wars as military engagements or part of international politics, this book looks at the impact war had on the English people. How were towns and villages affected by the need to provide men for the royal army? What was the impact of war on trade and agriculture? How were ordinary men persuaded to enact the violence required by war, and what was the physical and mental impact on them? How were wars justified and linked to a sense of Englishness? Originally given as a series of lectures, the chapters are connected but can be dipped into as stand-alone articles.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII's England

By Maria Hayward

Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII's England

Why this book?

Maria Hayward is my go-to author for all things clothing and fashion in Tudor England. In this book, she focuses on dress during Henry VIII’s reign, and the sumptuary legislation that regulated what people could wear. However, this is more than just a study of legislation. Hayward also uses wills, portraits, inventories and letters to describe and analyse the actual clothes owned by people from across the social spectrum. Of particular use to newcomers to the history of fashion is the information she provides about the different types of fabric and accessories, and her glossary.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

All the King's Cooks: The Tudor Kitchens of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace

By Peter Brears

All the King's Cooks: The Tudor Kitchens of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace

Why this book?

Peter Brears takes us ‘below stairs’ at the court of Henry VIII and into the kitchens that fed and waited on up to 1000 people a day. Structured around the different rooms that made up the kitchen, he details the food and drink that was being produced and gives a snapshot of the ordinary people working there. The book is nicely illustrated with sketches of Tudor implements and methods of cooking. For anyone who wants to try eating like a Tudor, the book concludes with a selection of recipes, all of which have been trialed in the kitchens at Hampton Court and adapted for the modern kitchen.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

England's Other Countrymen: Black Tudor Society

By Onyeka Nubia

England's Other Countrymen: Black Tudor Society

Why this book?

In this thought-provoking book, Onyeka Nubia encourages us to re-examine Tudor concepts of race and ethnicity in Tudor (and Stuart) England without assumptions based on post-colonial narratives. What emerges is a nuanced picture of complex interactions, attitudes, and prejudices. As well as studying the writings of Tudor scholars, theologians, and authors, Nubia looks at the lives of individual Africans in England, showing that they weren’t “strangers” but lived as part of English communities - whether in cosmopolitan London parishes such as St Botolph without Aldgate, or in rural villages.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Random Book Lists