The most recommended 16th century books

Who picked these books? Meet our 64 experts.

64 authors created a book list connected to 16th century, and here are their favorite 16th century books.
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Book cover of England's Other Countrymen: Black Tudor Society

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

From the list on everyday life in Tudor England.

Who am I?

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. 

Kirsten's book list on everyday life in Tudor England

Why did Kirsten 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…


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

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

From the list on everyday life in Tudor England.

Who am I?

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. 

Kirsten's book list on everyday life in Tudor England

Why did Kirsten 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 Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife

Tracy Borman Author Of Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story Of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant

From the list on life in Tudor times.

Who am I?

Tracy Borman is a historian and novelist specialising in the Tudor period and has written a number of best-selling books, including The Private Lives of the Tudors, Thomas Cromwell, and Elizabeth’s Women. She is also a popular broadcaster and has presented numerous history documentaries, including Channel 5’s The Fall of Anne Boleyn and Inside the Tower of London. Alongside this, she is the joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust.

Tracy's book list on life in Tudor times

Why did Tracy love this book?

The last in this stunning Six Wives series, this novel brings Henry VIII’s last wife to life as never before. Impeccably researched and with stunning period detail, this book paints a vivid picture of how women had to battle for survival in the Tudor world.

By Alison Weir,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A detailed and convincing portrait of an extraordinary life... this series is a serious achievement' THE TIMES

'This brilliant series has brought Henry VIII's six wives to life as never before. This novel will enthral and inspire, just as much as it will break your heart' TRACY BORMAN

Alison Weir, historian and author of the SUNDAY TIMES bestselling SIX TUDOR QUEENS series, recounts the story of Henry VIII's last wife - Katharine Parr, the queen who survived him.

---

A WOMAN TORN BETWEEN LOVE AND DUTY.

Two husbands dead, a boy and a sick man. And now Katharine is free…


The Midwife of Venice

By Roberta Rich,

Book cover of The Midwife of Venice

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From the list on women in Renaissance Venice.

Who am I?

My goal as a writer is to revive lost women’s stories through historical fiction. After co-authoring several historical novels, our last mystery set in Renaissance Rome, we decided to set the sequel in Venice. When we decided to split amicably before finishing that novel, I had spent so much time researching Renaissance Venice that I instantly knew I wanted to set my first solo novel there and focus on girls and women whose stories are so frequently lost to history. So began a quest to learn everything I could about the females of 15th and 16th-century Venice, leading me toward both academic and fictional works of the era.

Gina's book list on women in Renaissance Venice

Why did Gina love this book?

This evocative novel tells the story of a Jewish midwife making her way in a very Christian Renaissance Venice. Along with all Jews confined to the ghetto at night by doge’s decree, Hannah is not permitted to help Christians with her medical knowledge. However, when her husband is taken to Malta and sold as a slave, Hannah finds that certain laws can be broken, for the right price.

By Roberta Rich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Midwife of Venice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Not since Anna Diamant’s The Red Tent or Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimately into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history. A “lavishly detailed” (Elle Canada) debut that masterfully captures sixteenth-century Venice against a dramatic and poetic tale of suspense.

Hannah Levi is renowned throughout Venice for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers using her secret “birthing spoons.” When a count implores her to attend his dying wife and save their unborn son, she is…


Will in the World

By Stephen Greenblatt,

Book cover of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

Arlene Naylor Okerlund Author Of Elizabeth: England's Slandered Queen

From the list on biographies that tell the truth.

Who am I?

Fake news is not new. Biographies, in particular, are fraught with fallacies and fake stories. When fake news slanders individuals, reputations are ruined and lives destroyed. That’s what happened to Elizabeth Wydeville, Queen Consort to Edward IV, and mother of the two princes who disappeared during Richard III’s reign. When I discovered the slander that destroyed Queen Elizabeth’s reputation, I began a 5-year research project to set the record straight. Some fallacies are deliberate, originating in envy or power putsches. Others derive from historical laziness or incompetence. What I learned from my research has determined my choices of biographies, stories that tell previously unrevealed truths about individuals.

Arlene's book list on biographies that tell the truth

Why did Arlene love this book?

A literary biography, Will in the World connects the plots of Shakespeare’s plays and the sentiments of his poems to the writer’s life and career. No one living knows more about Shakespeare than Stephen Greenblatt. His research is solid and impressive. In this book, Greenblatt verges a bit into speculative possibilities. Where, exactly, was Shakespeare living—what was he doing?—during “The Lost Years”? Was the “Shakeshafte” mentioned in a Lancashire document our man, perhaps tutoring as a schoolmaster in a Catholic home? 

Greenblatt carefully points out that he is discussing possibilities, not certainties. But a possibility mentioned too many times by a scholar of Greenblatt’s authority often becomes accepted as fact. Yet, I appreciate this book because it provides a huge amount of information about Shakespeare’s milieu, and it forces readers to examine critically every claim. In our current milieu, we need exercises in critical thinking and analysis.

By Stephen Greenblatt,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Will in the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A young man from a small provincial town moves to London in the late 1580s and, in a remarkably short time, becomes the greatest playwright not of his age alone but of all time. How is an achievement of this magnitude to be explained? Stephen Greenblatt brings us down to earth to see, hear, and feel how an acutely sensitive and talented boy, surrounded by the rich tapestry of Elizabethan life, could have become the world's greatest playwright.


Lamentation

By C.J. Sansom,

Book cover of Lamentation

Elizabeth Fremantle Author Of Queen's Gambit

From the list on the wives of Henry VIII.

Who am I?

Even in childhood, I was struck by the sheer horror and tragedy of Henry VIII’s wives, women who had a place at the heart of power and managed, some more so than others, to influence the politics of their time, yet were powerless to save themselves when the wind changed. It was a fascinating and turbulent period that saw England rise from a provincial backwater to become an important player in European politics, bringing the social and cultural changes that sewed the seeds of our modern world. Exploring the period through the prism of women’s lives is a major aim of all my six novels.

Elizabeth's book list on the wives of Henry VIII

Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Part of Sansom’s acclaimed Shardlake series, this novel takes a different look at Henry’s last wife, Katherine Parr. It is a thrilling dive into the plots of Parr’s life and her seditious writings from the perspective of Sansom’s eponymous fictional investigator. Detailed and enthralling we are transported to the streets of Tudor London, to explore the shadowy corners where danger lurks. 

By C.J. Sansom,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Perfect for fans of Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and The Light, Matthew Shardlake is back in the sixth book in the Shardlake series, from number one bestselling author C. J. Sansom.

'When it comes to intriguing Tudor-based narratives, Hilary Mantel has a serious rival' - Sunday Times
'Sansom has the trick of writing an enthralling narrative. Like Hilary Mantel, he produces densely textured historical novels that absorb their readers in another time' - Andrew Taylor, Spectator

England, 1546: King Henry VIII is slowly, painfully dying. His Protestant and Catholic councillors are engaged in a final and decisive power struggle; whoever…


Book cover of Apology For The Woman Writing

Joanne Limburg Author Of A Want of Kindness

From the list on bringing you closest to historical figures.

Who am I?

I’m an academic and non-fiction writer as well as a novelist. My favourite part of writing is the research phase, when you catch the scent of something fascinating, and hitherto unknown, and never know where it might lead you. As you’ve probably guessed from my recommendations, I have a soft spot for the quiet, unflashy, overlooked figures. Recently I’ve returned to the subject of overlooked women, although in non-fiction, in my book Letters to my Weird Sisters: On Autism and Feminism. For my next novel, I’m learning all about the bluestocking women of eighteenth-century Britain, and their attempt to create an ideal community. Perfect characters aren’t interesting to me – flawed ones are so much better.

Joanne's book list on bringing you closest to historical figures

Why did Joanne love this book?

This is a book about being a celebrity’s biggest fan. In 16th Century France, eighteen-year-old Marie de Gournay reads the essays of the philosopher Montaigne, and is so overwhelmed that she faints. When she finally meets her idol, she stabs herself with a hairpin to prove her devotion. For two blissful months, she lives as his adopted daughter. When he dies four years later, de Gournay devotes herself to editing the writings he left behind, persisting even though she is despised both by the intellectuals of the time and by her own family. I know how it feels to be that intense, socially awkward, bookish girl and I found Marie’s story extremely moving.

By Jenny Diski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Apology For The Woman Writing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marie de Gournay was eighteen when she read, and was overwhelmed by, the essays of the French philosopher Montaigne. She had to be revived with hellebore. When she finally met Montaigne, she stabbed herself with a hairpin until the blood ran in order to show her devotion. He made her his adopted daughter for the two months they knew each other. He died four years later, after which, though scorned by intellectuals, she became his editor. Jenny Diski engages with this passionate and confused relationship between 'father and daughter', old writer/young acolyte, possible lovers, using both their voices. Much of…


The Dance Tree

By Kiran Millwood Hargrave,

Book cover of The Dance Tree

Julia Stone Author Of The Accident

From Julia's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Psychologist and psychotherapist Artist with aphantasia Duckling raiser Recycler of rusty stuff Psychological suspense author

Julia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Julia love this book?

While I don’t usually read historic novels, I selected this book because it was loosely based around a bizarre true event that happened in 1518, when women in Europe danced manically, not stopping to rest even when their feet bled.

I was intrigued to find out how the author would spin this into a novel. The story took me to places and times I knew nothing about, and the world was so richly described I could imagine the events and the people in their day-to-day lives witnessing these strange spectacles.

At its heart, a tragic story which will touch many women who identify with aspects of the story, from a bleak marriage, difficulty with conception, struggles with a patriarchal society, and lost love. 

By Kiran Millwood Hargrave,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dance Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in an era of superstition and hysteria, and inspired by the true events of a doomed summer, The Dance Tree is a story of family secrets, forbidden love, and women pushed to the edge. The gripping, historical novel from Kiran Millwood Hargrave, as seen on BBC Two's Between the Covers.

'Brilliant' - Marian Keyes

'I absolutely loved this book' - Elodie Harper, author of The Wolf Den

Set in an era of superstition and hysteria, and inspired by the true events of a doomed summer, The Dance Tree is a story of family secrets, forbidden love, and women pushed…


Book cover of Being Protestant in Reformation Britain

Helen Hackett Author Of The Elizabethan Mind: Searching for the Self in an Age of Uncertainty

From the list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved all things Elizabethan, and I especially love spending time with books and manuscripts where voices from the period speak to us directly. Wanting to understand how Shakespeare and his contemporaries understood themselves led me to investigate their ideas about relations between mind and body, about emotions, about the imagination, and about the minds of women and those of other races. I’ve learned that the Elizabethans grappled with many conflicting ideas about the mind, from classical philosophies, medieval medicine, new theologies, and more – and that this intellectual turmoil was essential fuel for the extraordinary literary creativity of the period.

Helen's book list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind

Why did Helen love this book?

The most seismic cultural shift of the sixteenth century was undoubtedly the Protestant Reformation.

It affected everything: not only religion and politics, but also, profoundly, how each individual thought about themselves. Ryrie uses many sources from the period to show how private prayer, meditation, and self-examination became central to everybody’s life.

Spending time in contemplation was not just an anticipation of modern mindfulness practices: it was a matter of eternal life or death. In looking within, you were searching for certainty that you had received God’s saving grace, destining you for bliss in heaven, not endless torment in hell.

Inevitably this created turbulent states of doubt and anxiety, and Ryrie shows how Protestants came to value the passions (what we call emotions) as a necessary part of inward spiritual struggle.

By Alec Ryrie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Being Protestant in Reformation Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Reformation was about ideas and power, but it was also about real human lives. Alec Ryrie provides the first comprehensive account of what it actually meant to live a Protestant life in England and Scotland between 1530 and 1640, drawing on a rich mixture of contemporary devotional works, sermons, diaries, biographies, and autobiographies to uncover the lived experience of early modern Protestantism.

Beginning from the surprisingly urgent, multifaceted emotions of Protestantism, Ryrie explores practices of prayer, of family and public worship, and of reading and writing, tracking them through the life course from childhood through conversion and vocation to…


The Devil's Doctor

By Philip Ball,

Book cover of The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science

Patrick Hahn Author Of The Day the Science Died: Covid Vaccines and the Power of Fear

From Patrick's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Lecturer Researcher Author

Patrick's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Patrick love this book?

Paracelsus was a man centuries ahead of his time.

The father of allopathic medicine, the father of toxicology, and an iconoclast who encouraged doctors to listen to women knowledgeable in healing arts and who encouraged women to understand the workings of their own bodies rather than blindly accepting the proclamations of male docs, he also came within a hair’s breadth of enunciating the principles of segregation of alleles and of dominance and recession – three centuries before Mendel. 

By Philip Ball,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Devil's Doctor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Philip Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim - known to later ages as Paracelsus - stands on the borderline between medieval and modern; a name that is familiar but a man who has been hard to perceive or understand. Contemporary of Luther, enemy of established medicine, scourge of the universities ('at all the German schools you cannot learn as much as at the Frankfurt Fair'), army surgeon and alchemist, myths about him - from his treating diseases from beyond the grave in mid-nineteenth century Salzburg to his Faustian bargain with the devil to regain his youth - have been far more…


How to Be a Tudor

By Ruth Goodman,

Book cover of How to Be a Tudor

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

From the list on everyday life in Tudor England.

Who am I?

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. 

Kirsten's book list on everyday life in Tudor England

Why did Kirsten 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?

1 author 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…


Witch Craze

By Lyndal Roper,

Book cover of Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany

Julian Goodare Author Of The European Witch-Hunt

From the list on the history of European witchcraft and witch-hunting.

Who am I?

I’m a historian who wants to know: Why did people burn other people at the stake for what we think was an impossible crime? It seems so unjust; indeed it was unjust. I mention Amnesty International in my book; as well as being a professional historian, I’ve been writing letters for Amnesty for many years, trying to rectify injustice. Yet witch-hunting made sense to the perpetrators; they weren’t simply ‘wicked’ or ‘crazed’ or ‘ignorant’. We need to understand them on many levels, from the most erudite demonology, all the way down to psychological processes by which we identify enemies. The five books I’ve chosen move gradually downwards, in order, from the highest to the deepest level.

Julian's book list on the history of European witchcraft and witch-hunting

Why did Julian love this book?

How did godly states deal with the threat from witches and the Devil?

At the heart of this book is the torture chamber. Judicial torture, at least in principle, was not mindless cruelty, nor was it a punishment; it was a means of eliciting the truth. Confessions were supposed to reveal information that only a guilty person would know.

With witches, this primarily meant details of their relationship with the Devil. A story about this had to be constructed that was credible both to the accused witch and to the interrogators. It had to contain individual detail about places and times, motives for entering the Devil’s service, activities at the witches’ sabbat, and malefices committed.

Witch Craze shows how bizarre confessions to impossible crimes emerged from the fears of the authorities.

By Lyndal Roper,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Witch Craze as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A powerful account of witches, crones, and the societies that make them

From the gruesome ogress in Hansel and Gretel to the hags at the sabbath in Faust, the witch has been a powerful figure of the Western imagination. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries thousands of women confessed to being witches-of making pacts with the Devil, causing babies to sicken, and killing animals and crops-and were put to death. This book is a gripping account of the pursuit, interrogation, torture, and burning of witches during this period and beyond.

Drawing on hundreds of original trial transcripts and other rare…


Rich Apparel

By Maria Hayward,

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

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

From the list on everyday life in Tudor England.

Who am I?

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. 

Kirsten's book list on everyday life in Tudor England

Why did Kirsten 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…


The Watchers

By Stephen Alford,

Book cover of The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I

Tracy Borman Author Of Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story Of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant

From the list on life in Tudor times.

Who am I?

Tracy Borman is a historian and novelist specialising in the Tudor period and has written a number of best-selling books, including The Private Lives of the Tudors, Thomas Cromwell, and Elizabeth’s Women. She is also a popular broadcaster and has presented numerous history documentaries, including Channel 5’s The Fall of Anne Boleyn and Inside the Tower of London. Alongside this, she is the joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust.

Tracy's book list on life in Tudor times

Why did Tracy love this book?

Although Elizabeth I has gone down in history as the iconic ‘Gloriana’, the longest-reigning and arguably most successful monarch from the Tudor dynasty, as queen she never enjoyed the luxury of feeling secure on her throne. This brilliant non-fiction book explores the many plots that swirled around the Virgin Queen’s throne – and the intricate spy network that helped thwart them all.

By Stephen Alford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The acclaimed and enthralling story of the dark side of Elizabethan rule, from Stephen Alford

Elizabeth I's reign is known as a golden age, yet to much of Europe she was a 'Jezebel' and heretic who had to be destroyed. The Watchers is a thrilling portrayal of the secret state that sought to protect the Queen; a shadow world of spies, codebreakers, agent provocateurs and confidence-men who would stop at nothing to defend the realm.

Reviews:

'Forget Le Carre, Deighton and the rest - this is more enthralling than any modern spy fiction' Daily Telegraph

'Absorbing and closely documented ...…


Black Tudors

By Miranda Kaufmann,

Book cover of Black Tudors: The Untold Story

Kenneth L. Campbell Author Of The History of Britain and Ireland: Prehistory to Today

From the list on British and Irish history with a wide range of topics.

Who am I?

I have a Ph.D. in British history and have taught a variety of courses on the topic for the past 40 years. Since first visiting Scotland on a study tour in 1981, I have been to Britain and Ireland both multiple times and have spent extended periods of time there. From Shakespeare to the Beatles, from the Norman Conquest to the Second World War, from Roman Britain to Brexit, I have found each period of British and Irish history endlessly fascinating and sharing my passion with students and readers has been one of the great joys of my life. 

Kenneth's book list on British and Irish history with a wide range of topics

Why did Kenneth love this book?

If there is any one book that has changed the way I view early modern British history, Kaufman has written that book.

Kaufman has written a series of mini-biographies here of Black residents of Britain during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that predate Britain’s involvement in the slave trade and demonstrate just how wide-ranging the Black British experience was during this period. The book challenges many preconceptions, especially the association of Blacks with slavery that really only emerged in England after the Tudor period.

The stories of the individuals featured in this book have much to teach us, not only about this early period, but about the Black contribution to British history in general and the need for historians to write them back into that history.

By Miranda Kaufmann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018

A Book of the Year for the Evening Standard and the Observer

A black porter publicly whips a white Englishman in the hall of a Gloucestershire manor house. A Moroccan woman is baptised in a London church. Henry VIII dispatches a Mauritanian diver to salvage lost treasures from the Mary Rose. From long-forgotten records emerge the remarkable stories of Africans who lived free in Tudor England...

They were present at some of the defining moments of the age. They were christened, married and buried by the Church. They were paid wages like any…


Mad Blood Stirring

By Edward Muir,

Book cover of Mad Blood Stirring: Vendetta and Factions in Friuli During the Renaissance

Celeste McNamara Author Of The Bishop's Burden: Reforming the Catholic Church in Early Modern Italy

From the list on Renaissance Italy.

Who am I?

I teach medieval and early modern European history at Dublin City University, with a particular interest in 16th-18th century Italian history. My own research focuses on the religious, legal, and popular culture of northern Italy, particularly Venice and the Veneto region. I became fascinated with Renaissance Italian history as an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary, and then went on to do a masters and a PhD at Northwestern University. I have taught at Northwestern, the College of William and Mary, the University of Warwick/Warwick in Venice, and the State University of New York at Cortland.

Celeste's book list on Renaissance Italy

Why did Celeste love this book?

We often think of the Renaissance as a time of intellectual and artistic advances, elite cultural experiences, and royal courts or sober republican governments. It was also a time of violence – and attempts to control that violence. Muir focuses on a violent riot known as the Cruel Carnival of 1511, which took place in the remote Friuli region of northern Italy, then under the control of the Republic of Venice. He uses this event to explore vendetta conflict, factional violence, and peasant culture, showing a very different side of Renaissance Italy. This book is a fascinating exploration of ritualized violence and its meanings and makes a compelling case for its gradual control – or at least redirection – as dueling became the ritual of choice to maintain or restore honor.

By Edward Muir,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mad Blood Stirring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nobles were slaughtered and their castles looted or destroyed, bodies were dismembered and corpses fed to animals-the Udine carnival massacre of 1511 was the most extensive and damaging popular revolt in Renaissance Italy (and the basis for the story of Romeo and Juliet). Mad Blood Stirring is a gripping account and analysis of this event, as well as the social structures and historical conflicts preceding it and the subtle shifts in the mentality of revenge it introduced. This new reader's edition offers students and general readers an abridged version of this classic work which shifts the focus from specialized scholarly…


A Tudor Turk

By Rehan Khan,

Book cover of A Tudor Turk

Laury Silvers Author Of The Unseen

From the list on seriously historical historical fiction.

Who am I?

I'm a retired historian of early Islam and writer of historical fiction set in medieval Iraq, Turkic, and Persian lands. I write and love to read novels that “do history.” In other words, historical fiction that unravels the tangles of history through the lives of its characters, especially when told from the perspectives of those upon whom elite power is wielded. My selections are written by authors who speak from an informed position, either as academic or lay historians, those with a stake in that history, or, like me, both, and include major press, small press, and self-published works and represent the histories of West Africa, Europe, Central and West Asia, and South Asia.

Laury's book list on seriously historical historical fiction

Why did Laury love this book?

This riveting Young Adult novel sets the action on a stage in which “East” and “West” are not divided as typically imagined, but intertwined economically, politically, and culturally. Moses’ staff has been stolen from Topkapi Place and a team of Ottoman janissaries is sent on a mission through Italy and England to recover it. The team is made of free and formerly enslaved men and women hailing from rising empires and those lost. Their struggles offer a searing account of the Ottoman, West and North African, and European dependence on the trade of enslaved human beings. And while the theft of the staff of Moses may seem fanciful, its possession confers imperial power and thus is the perfect object to ask from who was it truly stolen and to whom should it be returned.

By Rehan Khan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Tudor Turk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A small undercover unit of hand-picked, trusted warriors is assembled to track down the thieves who have stolen the Staff held by Moses as he parted the Red Sea. They are the `Ruzgar' - the `Wind' - and like the wind, they travel silently and unseen. Awa, the studious daughter of a noble family from the Songhai Empire in West Africa, was kidnapped and enslaved by Moroccans after the disastrous Battle of Tondibi. Awa is a whirling and deadly force when she has a scimitar in her hand. Will, who was snatched from his home in London at the age…


Book cover of Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England

Malcolm Gaskill Author Of Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy

From the list on witch hunting in Britain and Europe.

Who am I?

I am an Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I taught history for many years at several UK universities, and I was the Director of Studies in History at Churchill College, Cambridge. I am the author of six books, including Hellish Nell: Last of Britain’s Witches and Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction. His latest book, The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World, will be published in November by Penguin. I live in Cambridge, England, and I am married with three children.

Malcolm's book list on witch hunting in Britain and Europe

Why did Malcolm love this book?

Originally published in 1970, this was another foundational text for me and other witchcraft scholars of my generation.

It grew out of Macfarlane’s doctoral thesis focusing on Essex, which had been supervised by Keith Thomas, whose own great book, Religion and the Decline of Magic (much of which dealt with witches), came out the following year. Even then, the historian Macfarlane was on his way to becoming an anthropologist – a transition visible on every page of this fascinating book.

But its overriding character is that of a work of sociology. Social science models helped to impose interpretative order on the kind of archival information dug up by C. L’Estange Ewen, and connected a rise in witchcraft accusations to a number of strains in late-sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century English life, especially economic strains.

Although their interpretations differ in substance and emphasis, Macfarlane and Thomas are still associated with a paradigm…

By Alan Macfarlane,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a classic regional and comparative study of early modern witchcraft. The history of witchcraft continues to attract attention with its emotive and contentious debates. The methodology and conclusions of this book have impacted not only on witchcraft studies but the entire approach to social and cultural history with its quantitative and anthropological approach. The book provides an important case study on Essex as well as drawing comparisons with other regions of early modern England.
The second edition of this classic work adds a new historiographical introduction, placing the book in context today.


Collision of Worlds

By David M. Carballo,

Book cover of Collision of Worlds: A Deep History of the Fall of Aztec Mexico and the Forging of New Spain

Matthew Restall Author Of When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History

From the list on the Aztecs and Spanish Conquistadors.

Who am I?

I spent a good part of my childhood in Spain and Venezuela while being educated in England, and early on I developed a fascination with the Spanish and Native American worlds. After traveling as a young man in Mexico and in Central America, I was hooked for life. With history degrees from Oxford and UCLA, for thirty years now I have been studying and writing books about the Aztecs and Mayas, Spanish conquistadors, and Afro-Mexicans—fascinating subjects from whom I continue to learn.

Matthew's book list on the Aztecs and Spanish Conquistadors

Why did Matthew love this book?

To complement the perspectives of historians and art historians, Carballo’s book offers the viewpoint and skills of an archaeologist. But Collision of Worlds is far from being a field report from a dig. Instead, Carballo combines the sources and methods of historians and archaeologists to present a thorough and deep-rooted account of the two civilizations that met in Mexico five hundred years ago, giving the reader a more extensive background on the Iberian and Mesoamerican past than the other books I have selected. Like the other books I have chosen, this is recent work, and thus together these books all represent slightly different takes on the topic.

By David M. Carballo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mexico of five centuries ago was witness to one of the most momentous encounters between human societies, when a group of Spaniards led by Hernando Cortes joined forces with tens of thousands of Mesoamerican allies to topple the mighty Aztec Empire. It served as a template for the forging of much of Latin America and initiated the globalized world we inhabit today. The violent clash that culminated in the Aztec-Spanish war of 1519-21 and the new colonial order
it created were millennia in the making, entwining the previously independent cultural developments of both sides of the Atlantic.

Collision of Worlds…


Sacred Hearts

By Sarah Dunant,

Book cover of Sacred Hearts

Susan Van Allen Author Of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

From the list on women who love Italy.

Who am I?

I am grateful to my maternal grandparents, immigrants from southern Italy, who instilled in me a love for the Bel Paese that has inspired me all my life. I began to travel to Italy 45 years ago, and after writing for television—on the staff of Everybody Loves Raymond—I turned to travel writing. I’ve written 4 books about Italian travel, along with many stories for magazines. I also design and host Golden Weeks in Italy: For Women Only tours, to give female travelers an insider’s experience of this extraordinary country.

Susan's book list on women who love Italy

Why did Susan love this book?

I love all of Sarah Dunant’s historical fiction novels that take place in Italy. This one is a favorite, bringing me into the world of a 16th-century convent in Ferrara, centering around a rebellious teenager who has been sent there by her family. The relationships between the nuns, young and old, rituals of daily convent life, politics of the church during the days of the Counter-Reformation, and a rich love story blend to make this a fascinating read.

By Sarah Dunant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

1570 in the Italian city of Ferrara. Sixteen-year-old Serafina is fipped by her family from an illicit love affair and forced into the convent of Santa Caterina, renowned for its superb music. Serafina's one weapon is her glorious voice, but she refuses to sing. Madonna Chiara, an abbess as fluent in politics as she is in prayer, finds her new charge has unleased a power play - rebellion, ecstasies and hysterias - within the convent. However, watching over Serafina is Zuana, the sister in charge of the infirmary, who understands and might even challenge her incarceration.