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Benedict King's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Benedict King recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Benedict King's favorite book recommendations of all time.


London And The Reformation

This is a study of the religious and social world of a community transformed by the Reformation. In London the new faith was most fervently evangelized and most fiercely resisted. A city that had once been bound by a common faith was, for the first time, divided in religion as a succession of governments and monarchs--Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary--vied for control. The disproportionate size and wealth of the capital, the network of connections within London and between London and the provinces and overseas, its particular integration of social forces and high politics, and the strength of... more
Recommended by Benedict King, and 1 others.

Benedict KingThis tells the story of the Reformation in London. It covers a longer period than the 1530s, but gives a good sense of what was happening on the ground and the intense divisions in society that the Reformation provoked. (Source)

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Charismatic, insatiable and cruel, Henry VIII was, as John Guy shows, a king who became mesmerized by his own legend - and in the process destroyed and remade England. Said to be a 'pillager of the commonwealth', this most instantly recognizable of kings remains a figure of extreme contradictions: magnificent and vengeful; a devout traditionalist who oversaw a cataclysmic rupture with the church in Rome; a talented, towering figure who nevertheless could not bear to meet people's eyes when he talked to them. In this revealing new account, John Guy looks behind the mask into Henry's mind to... more
Recommended by Benedict King, and 1 others.

Benedict KingThis is a brilliant book… Guy is excellent on both the political and religious origins of the Reformation. But, perhaps, above all, he is brilliant on the high politics of the reign, both domestic and international. (Source)

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The Reformation Parliament, 1529–1536

The Reformation Parliament, which sat in seven sessions between 1529 and 1536 and derived its name from being the Parliament which ushered in the Reformation in the Church of England, was one of the most important assemblies ever to meet in England. Professor Lehmberg gives a full analysis of the composition and attendance of both Houses of Parliament and of the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury which sat simultaneously with Parliament. His main concern in this book, however, is with the activities of Parliament rather than with an analysis of its composition. He examines the... more
Recommended by Benedict King, and 1 others.

Benedict KingThis book really helps one understand the constitutional mechanisms and innovations that were used to push through the Reformation in England by looking at the work of the Reformation Parliament from beginning to end, rather than in a thematic way. It shows how the machinery of court, council, church and parliament actually interacted and drove the political drama. (Source)

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Though the first edition of this book (1960) rapidly established itself as a sound collection of source material and a comprehensive analysis of the government of England in the sixteenth century, the astonishing amount of work done, by many hands including the author's, in the last twenty years has rendered a revision very necessary. Thc scope of these changes is indicated by the fact that in the list of books cited some 180 make a first appearance while some 70 have been discarded. In the upshot, no single section has remained unaltered and several (especially on the Church, on Parliament... more
Recommended by Benedict King, and 1 others.

Benedict KingEach chapter comprises a selection of original documents with a very helpful—and short!—introduction by the doyen of Tudor constitutional historians, Geoffrey Elton. (Source)

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Thomas Cromwell

A Life

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, such that in 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, and the coming of the Protestantism. Cromwell was central to all this, but establishing his role with... more
Recommended by Benedict King, Paul Lay, and 2 others.

Benedict KingThe book got rave reviews, including from Hilary Mantel. It’s a very scholarly book but highly readable. (Source)

Paul LayThis scholarly but very accessible biography will be the definitive life of Cromwell for many years to come. It has all the qualities that we’ve come to expect from MacCulloch: it’s rigorous in terms of its scholarship, but it’s also beautifully written and it does, I think, make a change. It transforms the character of Cromwell from this brilliant bureaucrat we saw with Elton into a slightly... (Source)

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Richard III

Brother, Protector, King

The last Plantagenet king remains one of England's most famous and controversial monarchs. There are few parallels in English history that can match the drama of Richard III's reign, witnessed in its full bloody intensity.

A dedicated brother and loyal stalwart to the Yorkist dynasty for most of his early life, Richard's personality was forged in the tribulation of exile and the brutality of combat. An ambitious nobleman and successful general with a loyal following, Richard was a man who could claim to have achieved every ambition in life, except one.

Within months of...
Recommended by Benedict King, and 1 others.

Benedict KingChris Skidmore MP has published three books on early modern English history. The most recent, Richard III: Brother, Protector, King has been well reviewed and went down very well with our editor here at Five Books, Sophie, who admired its use of primary sources. There is no very obvious contemporary resonance, as there is with our other authors, although part of Skidmore’s thesis is that even if... (Source)

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Kwasi Kwarteng is the child of parents whose lives were shaped as subjects of the British Empire, first in their native Ghana, then as British immigrants. He brings a unique perspective and impeccable academic credentials to a narrative history of the British Empire, one that avoids sweeping judgmental condemnation and instead sees the Empire for what it was: a series of local fiefdoms administered in varying degrees of competence or brutality by a cast of characters as outsized and eccentric as anything conjured by Gilbert and Sullivan. The truth, as Kwarteng reveals, is that there was no... more
Recommended by Benedict King, and 1 others.

Benedict KingKwasi Kwarteng’s Ghosts of Empire: British Legacies in the Modern World does not paint a rose-tinted view of the past or view the rulers of the British Empire as titans. Quite the contrary. He may be thinking about the role of US imperialism in the modern world, but his book is saved from facile comparisons by his scepticism about the merits of imperialism in general, and the failings of the... (Source)

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Edmund Burke is both the greatest and the most underrated political thinker of the past three hundred years. A brilliant 18th-century Irish philosopher and statesman, Burke was a fierce champion of human rights and the Anglo-American constitutional tradition, and a lifelong campaigner against arbitrary power. Revered by great Americans including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Burke has been almost forgotten in recent years. But as politician and political philosopher Jesse Norman argues in this penetrating biography, we cannot understand modern politics without him. more
Recommended by Benedict King, and 1 others.

Benedict KingIn spite of the hazards, a number of serving Tory MPs, with plenty to play for politically, have managed to write highly readable history books that are not brazen vehicles of self-promotion. Jesse Norman (currently deciding whether or not to join the Tory leadership contest) has written a biography of Edmund Burke that fits into this category. The book is divided into two sections, one covering... (Source)

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'He writes with gusto... the result is a book that is never boring, genuinely clever... this book sizzles.'
The Times

'The point of the Churchill Factor is that one man can make all the difference.'

Marking the fiftieth anniversary of Winston Churchill's death, Boris Johnson explores what makes up the Churchill Factor - the singular brilliance of one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century. Taking on the myths and misconceptions along with the outsized reality, he portrays - with characteristic wit and passion - a man of multiple...
Recommended by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Benedict King, and 2 others.

Arnold SchwarzeneggerThere’s one book that I’ve given that it was just Christmas, that I’ve given away a lot of copies. This is a book about Winston Churchill by Boris Johnson. A very talented guy. (Source)

Benedict KingJohnson’s thesis is that Churchill may have had faults and made mistakes, but on all the big issues he called it right and that, as a politician, he had a unique combination of personal qualities – bravery, industry, eloquence and, when necessary, ruthlessness – that put him in a league of his own. The subtext bubbles up from every page: The Churchill Factor: Why I Have it in Spades. (Source)

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They made Britain Great. Now it's our turn.
Many associate the Victorian era with austere social attitudes and filthy factories. But in this bold and provocative book, Jacob Rees-Mogg -- leading Tory MP and prominent Brexiteer -- takes up the story of twelve key figures to paint a very different picture of the age, one of bright ambition, bold self-belief and determined industriousness. Whether through Peel?s commitment to building free trade, Palmerston's deft diplomacy in international affairs, or Brunel's incredible engineering feats, the Victorians transformed the nation and...
Recommended by Jonny Geller, Benedict King, and 2 others.

Jonny GellerGreat hatchet job on Jacob Rees-Mogg’s new book by Dominic Sandbrook. Though I suspect we will see “astonishing” The Times, on the paperback (Source)

Benedict KingOn 23 May this year, the day of the European elections that were never supposed to happen, Jacob Rees-Mogg, member of parliament and the presiding genius of the anti-EU European Reform Group, published his first book, The Victorians: Twelve Titans who Forged Britain. The book has been widely panned as “staggeringly silly” and very bad history. But Rees-Mogg is not really writing history, he’s got... (Source)

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