Library Journal Review
MacCulloch's (Silence: A Christian History) monumental biography brings Henry VIII's notorious minister to vivid, detailed life, revealing a brilliantly innovative statesman whose accomplishments significantly altered the course of English history. MacCulloch reveals Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) as a man of contradictions: fiercely loyal to his first patron, the Catholic Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, yet dedicated to the principles of the Protestant Reformation. Indeed, MacCulloch contests the long-held picture of Cromwell as a Machiavellian schemer whose primary motivation was personal gain, presenting instead a man of sincere faith who used the turmoil of Henry's marital woes to push forward the Reformation in England, sometimes under the very nose of his volatile, less committed monarch. Combing through correspondence, memoranda, and draft legislation, the author finds ample evidence of Cromwell's improvisatory skill in seizing opportunities, streamlining administrative processes, and revolutionizing the use of Parliament to accomplish the king's business. Yet, MacCulloch makes a convincing argument that it was Cromwell's single-minded advocacy of religious change, more so than his consolidation of power or accumulation of personal wealth, that led to his violent downfall. VERDICT A must-read biography of a man whose role in shaping English and Protestant history has long been misunderstood. [See Prepub Alert, 4/23/18.]-Sara Shreve, Newton, KS © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
This meticulously researched biography of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to King Henry VIII of England, from professor and historian MacCulloch (Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years) highlights Cromwell's legal abilities and the complicated-and often fatal-relationship between Tudor advisers and king. These advisers toiled away as Henry gained notoriety for his numerous wives, removing legal and societal obstacles from Henry's path to a legitimate male heir. An astute protégé of his predecessor Thomas Wolsey, Cromwell earned royal trust by contributing to the redefinition of his monarch's religious role-ushering in the English Reformation-and helping Anne Boleyn become Henry's second wife. MacCulloch's densely packed narrative argues for a more sympathetic view of Cromwell; in his portrayal, Cromwell's personal religious views dovetail sincerely with the Reformation, and crafting legal arguments around the mercurial Henry's whims was difficult. But this characterization is undercut by Cromwell's central role in the dissolution of monasteries, the execution of dissenters, and the destruction of Anne Boleyn despite their shared theological views. Cromwell's personal thoughts are largely lost to history due to a shortage of surviving letters, but MacCulloch threads Cromwell's notes and other contemporary sources along with modern historians' work to recreate his motivations. This comprehensive biography is ideal for passionate devotees of Hilary Mantel's historical novels, which also paint Cromwell in a forgiving light, and Tudor history buffs. Agent: Felicity Bryan, Felicity Bryan Associates (U.K.). (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* If Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) had never met Henry VIII, he might have lived the serene life of a wealthy, cultured Englishman. He had a talent for making money, a head for languages, an immoderate love of books, and many friends. But Cromwell was talent-spotted by Cardinal Wolsey, and after his loyalty to Wolsey was noted by Henry, the king pulled Cromwell into the maelstrom of Tudor politics. He survived for only a decade, but England would never be the same. Readers of MacCulloch's (Christianity , 2010) exhaustively researched account may conclude that if anything, Hilary Mantel's mesmerizing novels about Cromwell understate the drama of this story, from the king's fits of murderous rage to the horrifying torture and executions of believers both Catholic and Protestant, and the greed that fueled the dissolution of the monasteries. MacCulloch makes the case that Cromwell's moves were more than Machiavellian. He burned with a desire to spread his Protestant faith and destroy the Catholic Church. Cromwell's essence remains elusive, and MacCulloch's challenge is that most of Cromwell's correspondence to others was destroyed after his execution, leaving historians to sift for clues in letters that others wrote to him. Still, this is a landmark portrait of a complex, confounding man.--Mary Ann Gwinn Copyright 2018 Booklist