Cromwell: The rise and fall of Henry VIII's most
notorious minister, by Robert Hutchinson, Weidenfeld
and Nicholson, £20, ISBN-13 978 0 297 84642
titles of two chapters summarise Hutchinson's
'no punches pulled' account of how Thomas Cromwell,
the insignificant brewer's son, became one of
England's most brutal tyrants since Bloody Mary.
are: The Most Hated Man in England, and A Bloody
Season. Born at Putney in Surrey, Cromwell was
to bully and butcher his way through torture,
political intrugue and convenient executions to
become the mid 16th century's version of Josef
frightening detail, the author catalogues how
Cromwell grasped a series of titles, such as Earl
of Essex, Vice-Regent and High Chamberlain of
England, Keeper of the Privy Seal, and Chancellor
of the Exchequer in a reign of terror akin to
Idi Amin in Uganda in the 1970s.
this was England's green and pleasant land from
1525 until Cromwell's eventual execution at Tower
Hill in July 1540.
historians of this period tend to focus on King
Henry VIII's battles with Rome, Hutchinson gives
a vivid account of the brutalisation of English
Catholicism. It is somewhat ironic that a century
later, another Cromwell Oliver unleashed
his anti-Catholic puritanism throughout the England
of the 17th century.
account of Cromwell, T leaves the reader posing
a fundamental question did Thomas's ruthless
use of court intrigue, bribery and clearly psychotic
personality weaken English Catholicism to such
a degree it was powerless to resist the purges
initiated 100 years later by Cromwell, O?
has been written about Henry VIII, a monarch just
as notorious in his stupidly and self-belief,
as Thomas Cromwell was hated for his single-minded
political energy and distinct lack of subtlety.
But in Hutchinson's rich narrative, we see a different
Henry emerge a bombastic fool who allowed
one of his most cunning and dangerous ministers
in Cromwell to constantly get the better of him.
as the author unveils through his indepth research,
strict adherence to detail and, above all, his
flowing writing style, Cromwell was a maniac who
used the blunt intrument of his brutal personality
to become a devastating political force in England.
deliberate use of indecent and squalid description
is at its most potent as the author recalls in
graphic detail how Cromwell took a fanatical delight
in engineering the judicial murder of Henry's
second wife, Anne Boleyn, after she had worn out
her welcome beneath the royal sheets.
Hutchinson is very firm in his account of how
Cromwell tortured the doomed Boleyn's servants
and relations before instigating a 'show trail'
with Stalinist proficiency. But Cromwell's biggest
crime was not his destruction of the Henry's disgarded
sex slave, but the dissolution of the Catholic
monasteries across the land. Cromwell lined his
pockets with the seized coffers to enrich the
crown and cement the loyalty of the nervous nobility.
author leaves no stone unturned in painting Cromwell
as a tyrant who did not lack for ill-gotten gains
himself, detailing in frightening language how
the minister used the colossal bribes and loans
he solicited to bind many of the noble families
to him indefinitely.
leaves us with a terrifying image of Cromwell
travelling home from court literally weighed down
with monastic gold. It was not Henry who wrecked
16th century English Catholicism it was
the murderous, scheming Thomas Cromwell.
like every tyrant, the old maxim holds true
what goes around, comes around. Hutchinson outlines
how even Cromwell's purse was not enough to protect
him from all his many enemies. The final two chapters,
entitled No Armour Against Fate, and A Traitor's
Cry for Mercy, unveil a political rat caught in
his own trap. Cromwell was a self-made thug who
paid the ultimate price for his destructive streak.
This is a compelling 'must read' for anyone interested
in religious upheaval in England.
Freedom: The history of nationalism in Ireland,
by Richard English, MacMillan, £25, ISBN-13
republicanism is going through its single biggest
political development since the blood sacrifice
of the failed 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, which
is the main reason anyone remotely interested
in nationalism needs English's expertly researched
and documented historic companion.
Belfast-born scholar holds one of the most prestigious
posts in Irish political academia Professor
of Politics at his home city's Queen's University.
accolade alone even before the reader has
opened this impressive 620 page plus publication
- has already given 'Irish Freedom' a strong degree
of credibility and objectivity. Libraries are
packed with books on Irish nationalism, but English's
work is still unique in this realm for two specific
reasons timing and structure.
timing, the storm of religious conflict in Ireland,
which has raged for eight centuries, is set to
enter a significant period of calm, which could
last for at least a generation. English's efficiently
written analysis make a terrific historical back
drop to nationalist developments in the current
Northern peace process.
theme underpines the entire work, as English,
notes: "Certainly, the idea of Ireland as
a distinct political entity is evident from at
least the twelfth century, and this included a
sense that the place might require defence against
there is no way English's work can be branded
as 'yet another volume on nationalism'. What makes
this work so compelling and vividly readable is
not just his clever narration of events, but the
sheer quality and depth of his analysis and explanation.
often, historical evaluations of Irish nationalism
can come unstuck because the author attempts to
explain events by lumping them together in incorrect
time spans. The uniqueness of English's work is
that it tactfully avoids this fatal literary pitfall.
author has organised his analysis into three clearly
definable time spans, allowing his final and fourth
section to be devoted entirely to concluding observations.
Part 1 is Ireland before 1800, followed by The
Nineteenth-Century Drama, with part three
The Long Twentieth Century.
trying to successfully guide the reader towards
grasping a clear understanding of why Irish nationalists
believed and acted they way they did over the
centuries, English takes us on an almost hypnotic
journey historically from the Ulster Plantation
to Home Rule; from the Famine of the 1840s to
the IRA/INLA hunger strikes of the 1980s.
is also an unbiased focus on key characters in
this development from the democratic dilemmas
faced by Charles Stewart Parnell, to the blood
sacrifice mentality of Patrick Pearse and the
shelled streets of Dublin in 1916.
is also the epic voyage nationalism has taken
from Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen of 1798,
to the rebirth of Sinn Fein under its current
president and West Belfast Westminster MP Gerry
in English's analysis of the development of nationalism
in the last century, readers are clearly allowed
the freedom to ask themselves the telling question
- how did nationalism attempt to heal itself from
the destructive internecine slaughter of the 1920s
Irish Civil War to the uneasy peace of the early
author himself forces readers to reach their own
conclusions on another crucial question surrounding
Irish nationalism is it imaginable that
Ireland might, as some have suggested, be about
to enter a post-nationalist period, or will Irish
nationalism remain the defining force on the island
in future years?
real power behind English's analysis is that he
sees the Irish interpretation of nationalism not
as a blunt 'Brits Out' mentality, but as one unique
part of a wider global ideology, simply called
nationalism, which has shaped the modern world,
caused wars, stabilised and destabilised nations,
and defined politics and culture across the world.
is not just a superb insight into Irish nationalism;
this is a defining chronicle on the theory of