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Thomas Penn's Top Book Recommendations

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

With the novelistic vividness that made his National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Queen of Scots “a pure pleasure to read” (Washington Post BookWorld), John Guy brings to life Thomas More and his daughter Margaret—his confidante and collaborator who played a critical role in safeguarding his legacy.

Sir Thomas More’s life is well known: his opposition to Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, his arrest for treason, his execution and martyrdom. Yet Margaret has been largely airbrushed out of the story in which she played so important a role. John Guy restores her to her...
Recommended by Thomas Penn, and 1 others.

Thomas PennThis is an exceptional double biography, written by one of the foremost experts on Tudor England. Thomas More, of course, was executed in 1535 for refusing to acknowledge the validity of Henry VIII’s break from Rome and his supremacy over the Church. Guy combines brilliant interpretation of primary sources with absorbing narrative to paint More’s relationship with Margaret and in so doing places... (Source)

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This is a major new student edition of the text described as 'the first modern classic of English history'. Francis Bacon's penetration into human motives, his life-long experience of politics and government, and his remarkable literary skills, render this History of the Reign of King Henry VII a major work of English literature and an important document in the history of political thought. The edition also includes other relevant writings by Bacon, generous editorial footnotes explaining the historical and political issues of the period, and a substantial glossary. less
Recommended by Thomas Penn, and 1 others.

Thomas PennBacon’s book is a terrific psychological portrait of Henry VII. As well as a philosopher and pioneering scientist, Bacon was an influential politician: Lord Chancellor during the reign of James I, who came to the throne in 1603 after the death of Elizabeth I. In 1621, Bacon’s career ended in disgrace – he was convicted of corruption and sacked. He went away to his large house in the country and... (Source)

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The story of Perkin Warbeck is one of the most compelling mysteries of English history. A young man suddenly emerged claiming to be Richard of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower. As such, he tormented Henry vii for eight years. He tried three times to invade England and behaved like a prince. Officially, however, he was proclaimed to be Perkin Warbeck, the son of a Flemish boatman. A diplomatic pawn, he was used by the greatest European rulers of the age for their own purposes. All who dealt with him gave him the identity they wished him to have: either the Duke of York or a jumped... more
Recommended by Thomas Penn, and 1 others.

Thomas PennPerkin Warbeck claims to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower who went missing in 1483. The two princes, of course, were the Yorkist heirs to the throne. The fact that they disappear – and are presumed to be dead – is crucial to Henry VII being able to claim the throne. But the great problem for Henry is that he can’t prove that the princes ever died. Just the... (Source)

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This study of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and the founder of two Cambridge colleges is the first biography to explore the full range of archival sources and one of the best-documented studies of any late-medieval woman. less
Recommended by Thomas Penn, and 1 others.

Thomas PennLady Margaret Beaufort was Henry VII’s mother. She gave birth to him in January 1457 when she was just 14 years old – pretty early even by the standards of the time. The Beauforts are descended from the House of Lancaster, one of the sides contesting the Wars of the Roses – the other, of course, being the House of York. (Source)

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Wolf Hall

Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell - a man as ruthlessly ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself.

His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

Neera Tanden@BarackObama Wolf Hall is a great book. (Source)

Vanora BennettThe Tudor monarchy has a big moment with England leaving the Church of Rome for love – that’s the moment every film and television writer is interested in. She turns it upside down. (Source)

Thomas PennHilary Mantel possesses an extraordinary historical imagination and her recreation of the world of the 1530s through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell is, I think, utterly convincing. (Source)

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