The best books on everyday life in Tudor England

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian and historic buildings consultant with a longstanding interest in 15th and 16th century England. In addition to my own work on memorials, funerals, and the Howard family, I have worked as a researcher and consultant for television and books, including being a production researcher for the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall. 


I wrote...

The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk

By Kirsten Claiden-Yardley,

Book cover of The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk

What is my book about?

Understand how Thomas' life shaped the recovery and success of the Howard family through his military prowess and navigation of the political landscape of Tudor England. Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk, lived a remarkable life spanning eighty years and the reigns of six kings. Amongst his descendants are his granddaughters, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and his great-granddaughter, Elizabeth I. The foundations of this dramatic and influential dynasty rest on Thomas' shoulders, and it was his career that placed the Howard family in a prominent position in English society and at the Tudor royal court.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of How to Be a Tudor

Kirsten Claiden-Yardley Why did I love 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.

By Ruth Goodman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Be a Tudor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the heels of her triumphant How to Be a Victorian, Ruth Goodman travels even further back in English history to the era closest to her heart, the dramatic period from the crowning of Henry VII to the death of Elizabeth I. A celebrated master of British social and domestic history, Ruth Goodman draws on her own adventures living in re-created Tudor conditions to serve as our intrepid guide to sixteenth-century living. Proceeding from daybreak to bedtime, this "immersive, engrossing" (Slate) work pays tribute to the lives of those who labored through the era. From using soot from candle wax…


Book cover of The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII

Kirsten Claiden-Yardley Why did I love 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.

By Steven Gunn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Henry VIII fought many wars, against the French and Scots, against rebels in England and the Gaelic lords of Ireland, even against his traditional allies in the Low Countries. But how much did these wars really affect his subjects? And what role did Henry's reign play in the long-term transformation of England's military capabilities?

The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII searches for the answers to these questions in parish and borough account books, wills and memoirs, buildings and paintings, letters from Henry's captains, and the notes readers wrote in their printed history books. It looks…


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

Kirsten Claiden-Yardley Why did I love 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.

By Maria Hayward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rich Apparel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

English dress in the second half of the sixteenth century has been studied in depth, yet remarkably little has been written on the earlier years, or indeed on male clothing for the whole century. The few studies that do cover these neglected areas have tended to be quite general, focusing upon garments rather than the wearers. As such this present volume fills an important gap by providing a detailed analysis of not only what people wore in Henry's reign, but why. The book describes and analyses dress in England through a variety of documents, including warrants and accounts from Henry's…


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

Kirsten Claiden-Yardley Why did I love 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.

By Peter Brears,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All the King's Cooks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Possibly the first industrial complex to be operated in England, the kitchens at Hampton Court Palace were highly organised and built to feed the whole of King Henry VIII''s household. Brears traces their history & functions in this illustrated volume.'


Book cover of England's Other Countrymen: Black Tudor Society

Kirsten Claiden-Yardley Why did I love 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.

By Onyeka Nubia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked England's Other Countrymen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Tudor period remains a source of timeless fascination, with endless novels, TV programmes and films depicting the period in myriad ways. And yet our image of the Tudor era remains overwhelmingly white. This ground-breaking and provocative new book seeks to redress the balance: revealing not only how black presence in Tudor England was far greater than has previously been recognised, but that Tudor conceptions of race were far more complex than we have been led to believe.

Onyeka Nubia's original research shows that Tudors from many walks of life regularly interacted with people of African descent, both at home…


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Empire's Daughter

By Marian L Thorpe,

Book cover of Empire's Daughter

Marian L Thorpe Author Of Empress & Soldier

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Birder Traveller Amateur landscape historian Reader

Marian's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Lena thinks she knows her future: in her small village, nothing much has changed for two hundred years. Women farm and fish, plant and harvest: a cooperative, productive, peaceful life. Until the day a soldier rides in, to ask the unthinkable of the women: learn to fight. Invasion is imminent, and the men alone cannot defeat them.

Maya, Lena’s partner, refuses. Going against the collective decision of the village means banishment. Will Lena decide to defend her home, or go with her love?

Journey with Lena as she makes this terrible choice, setting her feet on a path towards a…

Empire's Daughter

By Marian L Thorpe,

What is this book about?

"Fans of Guy Gavriel Kay will love Thorpe's work." Anya Pavelle

A B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree; Eric Hoffer Finalist, 2021; BBNYA 2021 Semi-Finalist

An Emperor's request. A lover's refusal. And a young woman who must choose between them.

Many generations past, the great empire from the east left Lena's country to its own defences. Now invasion threatens...and to save their land, women must learn the skills of war. But in a world reminiscent of Britain after the fall of Rome, only men fight; women farm and fish. Lena's choice to answer her leader's call to arms separates her from her lover…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Tudor, 16th century, and King Henry VIII?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Tudor, 16th century, and King Henry VIII.

Tudor Explore 30 books about Tudor
16th Century Explore 87 books about 16th century
King Henry VIII Explore 48 books about King Henry VIII