Acclaimed as a landmark in historical biography and an unparalleled feat of investigative research, Diarmaid MacCulloch’s life of Thomas Cromwell brings us the most exhaustive portrait yet of this hugely influential figure. Furnished with more historical detail than any previous biographer MacCulloch is able to make connections and fill in gaps that had hitherto remained tantalising mysteries, whilst presenting a compelling narrative that reads like the finest fiction. A masterpiece.
'This is the biography we have been awaiting for 400 years' - Hilary Mantel
Thomas Cromwell is one of the most famous - or notorious - figures in English history. Born in obscurity in Putney, he became a fixer for Cardinal Wolsey in the 1520s. After Wolsey's fall, Henry VIII promoted him to a series of ever greater offices, and by the end of the 1530s he was effectively running the country for the King. That decade was one of the most momentous in English history: it saw a religious break with the Pope, unprecedented use of parliament, the dissolution of all monasteries.
Cromwell was central to all this, but establishing his role with precision, at a distance of nearly five centuries and after the destruction of many of his papers at his own fall, has been notoriously difficult.
Diarmaid MacCulloch's biography is much the most complete and persuasive life ever written of this elusive figure, a masterclass in historical detective work, making connections not previously seen. It overturns many received interpretations, for example that Cromwell was a cynical, 'secular' politician without deep-felt religious commitment, or that he and Anne Boleyn were allies because of their common religious sympathies - in fact he destroyed her.
It introduces the many different personalities of these foundational years, all conscious of the 'terrifyingly unpredictable' Henry VIII. MacCulloch allows readers to feel that they are immersed in all this, that it is going on around them.
For a time, the self-made 'ruffian' (as he described himself) - ruthless, adept in the exercise of power, quietly determined in religious revolution - was master of events. MacCulloch's biography for the first time reveals his true place in the making of modern England and Ireland, for good and ill.
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Number of pages: 752
Weight: 548 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 32 mm
'Careful, specialist stuff, evidenced to the hilt. He brings to his work a probably unequalled knowledge of the Tudor age and although unlikely to be the the final word on Cromwell, it is hard to see how it could be surpassed.' - The Telegraph
'MacCulloch's Cromwell is complicated and contradictor, but more real than those that have gone before.' - The Sunday Telegraph
'MacCulloch covers a lot of familiar ground in a fresh and deeply researched way.' - The Observer
'MacCulloch is a stylish and playful writer. It is, at the same time, seriously heavyweight both in terms of size and archival theft'.- The Guardian
'...a major work of scholarship' - The Financial Times
'Diarmaid MacCulloch's hugely impressive new biography, meticulous and magisterial, thus meets a reading public with arms open to receive it. ... If this is not the definitive biography, I don't know what that would look like.' - Peter Marshall, The Literary Review
'Thomas Cromwell has famously defied his biographers, but no more. Diarmaid MacCulloch's book is subtle, witty and precisely constructed. He has sifted the vast archive to clear away the accumulated error, muddle and propaganda of centuries, allowing us to see this clever and fascinating man better than ever before, and in the mirror of his times. This is the biography we have been awaiting for 400 years' - Hilary Mantel