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50 Must-Read Books About Tudor England

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Erika Harlitz-Kern

Staff Writer

Erika Harlitz-Kern holds a doctorate from a Swedish university and can't get enough of history, books, and music. Her earliest memories involve a comic book and a Dutch troubadour. She has travelled South Asia on a shoestring, although nowadays she spends most of her vacations in the Mississippi Delta. Lives with her husband in South Florida, because sooner or later they would've ended up there anyway. Blog: The Boomerang Twitter: EH_Kern

Tudor England. Undoubtedly one of the most intriguing historical time periods in European history. Books about Tudor England conjures images of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I as Gloriana, the Spanish Armada, and, last but absolutely not least, William Shakespeare.

But as always, there is so much more to any historical time period and to any society of the past than a few infamous personalities and events. So, too, with Tudor England.

In fact, within the phrase “Tudor England” we find not one royal dynasty, but two—the Tudors (in power 1485–1603) and the Stuarts (in power 1603–1688). We find not only one geographical region—England—but several other, some nearby (Ireland, Scotland, and Wales), some further away (the Ottoman Empire), and some across the globe (the Americas, Africa, and India).

Tudor England encompasses a time period of religious conflict and religious encounters. Tudor England sees the breaking apart of the Catholic Church and the birth of Protestantism. This period sees the first lasting diplomatic contacts between representatives of the Christian and Islamic worlds. But also, the beginnings of colonialism, racism, and trans-Atlantic slavery.

Tudor England is the time period of incredible female empowerment. At one point there were three women—Mary I, Mary Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth I—who fought for supreme power. At the same time, it is the time period of immense misogyny, and its perhaps most cruel manifestation—the witch craze.

Here are fifty must-read books about Tudor England that cover all its contradictory glory of racism, conviviality, homosexuality, female friendship, childbirth, witch trials, antisemitism without Jews, encounters with Islam, conflicts with Spain, and, last but absolutely not least, Shakesqueer.


50 Must-Read Books about Tudor EnglandRifa’at Ali Abou-El-Haj, Formation of the Modern State: The Ottoman Empire Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century. This book reevaluates the established historical view of the Ottoman Empire as an eastern despotic nation-state in decline and instead analyzes it as a modern state comparable to contemporary states in Europe and Asia.


Pompa Banerjee, Burning Women: Widows, Witches, and Early Modern European Travelers in India. In early modern Europe, the circulation of visual and verbal transmissions of sati, or Hindu widow burning, not only informed responses to the ritualized violence of Hindu culture, but also intersected in fascinating ways with specifically European forms of ritualized violence and European constructions of gender ideology. European accounts of women being burned in India uncannily commented on the burnings of women as witches and criminal wives in Europe. When Europeans narrated their accounts of sati, perhaps the most striking illustration of Hindu patriarchal violence, they did not specifically connect the act of widow burning to a corresponding European signifier: the gruesome ceremonial burnings of women as witches. In examining early modern representations of sati, the book focuses specifically on those strategies that enabled European travelers to protect their own identity as uniquely civilized amidst spectacular displays of “Eastern barbarity.”

Emily C. Bartells, Speaking of the Moor: From Alcazar to Othello. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, when England was expanding its reach across the globe, the Moor became a central character on the English stage. In The Battle of Alcazar, Titus Andronicus, Lust’s Dominion, and Othello, the figure of the Moor took definition from multiple geographies, histories, religions, and skin colors. In Speaking of the Moor, Bartells sets the early modern Moor plays beside contemporaneous texts that embed Moorish figures within England’s historical record—Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, Queen Elizabeth’s letters proposing the deportation of England’s “blackamoors,” and John Pory’s translation of The History and Description of Africa. The book uncovers the surprising complexity of England’s negotiation and accommodation of difference at the end of the Elizabethan era.

50 Must-Read Books about Tudor EnglandAphra Behn, OroonokoWhen Prince Oroonoko’s passion for the virtuous Imoinda arouses the jealousy of his grandfather, the lovers are cast into slavery and transported from Africa to the colony of Surinam. Oroonoko’s noble bearing soon wins the respect of his English captors, but his struggle for freedom brings about his destruction. Inspired by Aphra Behn’s visit to Surinam, Oroonoko reveals Behn’s ambiguous attitude toward slavery: while she favored it as a means to strengthen England’s power, her powerful and moving work conveys its injustice and brutality. This new single-volume edition of Oroonoko includes a carefully modernized text accompanied by an introduction, chronology, explanatory notes and suggestions for further reading.

Alan Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England. Alan Bray’s Homosexuality in Renaissance England is a milestone work. Examining the image of the sodomite in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature and polemic, Bray demonstrates how widely that image differed from the everyday occurrences of male homosexual behavior in ordinary households and schools. Widely considered the best study of its kind, Homosexuality in Renaissance England clearly shows why the modern image of “the homosexual” cannot be applied to the early modern period, when homosexual behavior was viewed in terms of the sexual act and not an individual’s broader identity. Homosexuality in Renaissance England is a must-read for anyone interested in sexuality during the early modern period.

Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II vol. 1 and vol. 2. The focus of Fernand Braudel’s great work is the Mediterranean world in the second half of the sixteenth century, but Braudel ranges back in history to the world of Odysseus and forward to our time, moving out from the Mediterranean area to the New World and other destinations of Mediterranean traders. Braudel’s scope embraces the natural world and material life, economics, demography, politics, and diplomacy.

Jonathan Burton & Ania Loomba, Race in Early Modern England: A Documentary Companion. This collection makes available for the first time a rich archive of materials that illuminate the history of racial thought and practices in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. A comprehensive introduction shows how these writings on religion, skin color, sexual and marital practices, geography, and the human body are crucial for understanding the pre-Enlightenment lineages of racial categories.


Jorge Cañizares-Esquerra, Matt D. Childs & James Sidbury (eds.), The Black Urban Atlantic in the Age of the Slave Trade. During the era of the Atlantic slave trade, vibrant port cities became home to thousands of Africans in transit. Free and enslaved blacks alike crafted the necessary materials to support transoceanic commerce and labored as stevedores, carters, sex workers, and boarding-house keepers. By shifting focus away from plantations, this volume poses new questions about the nature of slavery in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, illustrating early modern urban spaces as multiethnic sites of social connectivity, cultural incubation, and political negotiation.

David Cressy, Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England. From childbirth and baptism through to courtship, weddings, and funerals, every stage in the life cycle of Tudor and Stuart England was accompanied by ritual. Even under the Protestantism of the reformed Church, the spiritual and social dramas of birth, marriage, and death were graced with elaborate ceremony. Powerful and controversial protocols were in operation, shaped and altered by the influences of the Reformation, the Revolution, and the Restoration. Using fascinating first-hand evidence, Cressy shows how the making and remaking of ritual formed part of a continuing debate, sometimes strained and occasionally acrimonious, which exposed the raw nerves of society in the midst of great historical events. In doing so, he vividly brings to life the common experiences of living and dying in Tudor and Stuart England.

Claire Cross, Church and People: England, 1450–1660. This book provides readers with an account of the rivalry between the two kingdoms of Church and State between the years 1450 and 1660. England inherited, from medieval times, two systems of authority: the Church, governed by Pope and Bishops; and the State, ruled by Monarch and Lords. However, from the late fourteenth century onwards, this division was increasingly challenged by the laity’s insistence on their right to choose not only between different systems of Church government but also between different forms of religious belief. The author charts the rivalry between clergy and laity’s and shows how political and social developments between 1450 and 1660 were decisively influenced by this conflict. This second edition includes updates throughout the text in the light of recent scholarship and a new bibliography.


50 Must-Read Books about Tudor EnglandEamon Duffy, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor. The reign of Mary Tudor has been remembered as an era of sterile repression, when a reactionary monarch launched a doomed attempt to re-impose Catholicism on an unwilling nation. In this controversial reassessment, the renowned reformation historian Eamon Duffy argues that Mary’s regime was neither inept nor backward looking. Led by the queen’s cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole, Mary’s church dramatically reversed the religious revolution imposed under the child king Edward VI. Inspired by the values of the European Counter-Reformation, the cardinal and the queen reinstated the papacy and launched an effective propaganda campaign through pulpit and press. Only the death of the childless queen and her cardinal on the same day in November 1558 brought the protestant Elizabeth to the throne, thereby changing the course of English history.


Elizabeth I and Leah S. Marcus, The Collected Works of Elizabeth I. This long-awaited and masterfully edited volume contains nearly all of the writings of Queen Elizabeth I: the clumsy letters of childhood, the early speeches of a fledgling queen, and the prayers and poetry of the monarch’s later years. The editors’ copious annotations make the book not only essential to scholars but accessible to general readers as well.


Cheryl Fury (ed.), The Social History of English Seamen, 1485–1649. This book provides an overview of our knowledge of English seamen during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the tumultuous world in which they lived. Subjects covered include trade, piracy, wives, widows and the wider maritime community, health and medicine at sea, religion and shipboard culture, how Tudor and Stuart ships were manned and provisioned, and what has been learned from the important wreck the Mary Rose.


Bernard Glassman, Anti-Semitic Stereotypes Without Jews: Image of the Jews in England, 1290–1700. Anti-Semitic Stereotypes Without Jews offers an exploration of English history, 1290–1700, tracing the growth and development of these attitudes. It demonstrates that it is possible for prejudice to thrive even in the absence of a scapegoat group. Following the expulsion in the year 1290 until 1656, although there was no real Jewish community in England, the molders of public opinion kept a shadowy image of the Jew alive through sermons and religious tracts, travelogues, folklore, religious and secular drama. Despite their theological differences, Anglican, Puritan, and Catholic clergymen concurred in the negative images of Jews presented to their congregations. Anti-Semitic sentiments are seen here as reflecting deep-seated, irrational responses to the Jewish people, rooted in the teachings of the church and exploited by men who needed an outlet for religious, social, and economic frustrations.

Lara Gowing, Gender Relations in Early Modern England. This concise and accessible book explores the history of gender in England between 1500 and 1700. Amidst the political and religious disruptions of the Reformation and the Civil War, sexual difference and gender were matters of public debate and private contention. Gowing provides unique insight into gender relations in a time of flux, through sources ranging from the women who tried to vote in Ipswich in 1640, to the dreams of Archbishop Laud and a grandmother describing the first time her grandson wore breeches. Examining gender relations in the contexts of the body, the house, the neighborhood and the political world, this comprehensive study analyses the tides of change and the power of custom in a pre-modern world.


50 Must-Read Books about Tudor EnglandImtiaz H. Habib, Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500–1677: Imprints of the Invisible. Containing an urgently needed archival database of historical evidence, this volume includes both a consolidated presentation of the documentary records of black people in Tudor and Stuart England, and an interpretive narrative that confirms and significantly extends the insights of current theoretical excursus on race in early modern England. Here for the first time, Habib collects the scattered references to black people in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, and arranges them into a systematic, chronological descriptive index. Both the archival information and interpretive scholarship provide a strong framework from which future historical debates on race in early modern England can proceed.

Imtiaz H. Habib, Shakespeare and Race: Postcolonial Praxis in the Early Modern Period. Shakespeare and Race is a provocative new study that reveals a connection between the subject of race in Shakespeare and the advent of early English colonialism. Citing generally neglected archival evidence, Habib argues that a small population of captured Indians and Africans brought to England during the 16th century provided the impetus for Elizabethan constructions of race rather than existing European traditions in which blackness was represented metaphorically. He explores Tudor and Stuart dramatic representations of black characters, focusing specifically on how race affected Shakespeare personally and historically over the course of his career. Using postcolonial paradigms combined with neo-Marxist, feminist, and psychoanalytic insights, Habib discusses the possible existence of a black woman that Shakespeare knew and wrote about in his Sonnets and examines the design of his black male characters, including Aaron, Othello, and Caliban. Shakespeare and Race represents a significant contribution that will fascinate scholars of literature as well as those interested in the cultural impact of colonialism.

Nick Hazlewood, The Queen’s Slave Trader: John Hawkyns, Elizabeth I, and the Trafficking in Human Souls. Throughout history, blame for the introduction of slavery in America has been squarely placed upon the slave traders who ravaged African villages, the merchants who auctioned off human lives as if they were cattle, and the slave owners who ruthlessly beat their helpless victims. There is, however, above all these men, another person who has seemingly been able to avoid the blame due her. The origins of slavery—often described as America’s shame—can actually be traced back to a woman, England’s Queen Elizabeth I. In The Queen’s Slave Trader, historian Nick Hazlewood’s haunting discoveries take you into the mind-set of the men who made their livelihoods trafficking human souls and at long last reveals the man who began it all—and the woman behind him.


Halil Incalik, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300–1600. Born as a military frontier principality at the turn of the fourteenth century, Turkey developed into the dominant force in Anatolia and the Balkans, growing to become the most powerful Islamic state after 1517 when it incorporated the old Arab lands. This distinctively Eastern culture, with all its detail and intricacies, is explored here by a pre-eminent scholar of Turkish history. He gives a striking picture of the prominence of religion and warfare in everyday life as well as the traditions of statecraft, administration, social values, financial and land policies. The definitive account, this is an indispensable companion to anyone with an interest in Islam, Turkey, and the Balkans.

Halil Inalcik & Donald Quataert, An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire vol. 2: 1600–1914. This major contribution to Ottoman history is now published in paperback in two volumes. The authors provide a richly detailed account of the social and economic history of the Ottoman region, from the origins of the Empire around 1300 to the eve of its destruction during World War One. The breadth of range and the fullness of coverage make these two volumes essential for an understanding of contemporary developments in both the Middle East and the post-Soviet Balkan world.


James I, King of Great Britain, Daemonologie. In 1590, 300 Scottish ‘witches’ were tried for plotting the murder of their King, James VI of Scotland (soon to be James I of England). James is known to have suffered from a morbid fear of violent death, and the trial heightened his anxiety over this apparently treasonous ‘un-Christian’ sect, and stimulated him to study the whole subject of witchcraft. Daemonologie is the result of this royal research, detailing his opinions on the topic in the form of a Socratic dialogue between the skeptic Philomathes and witch-averse Epistemon, who reveals many aspects of witchcraft. The book consists of three sections, on magic, on sorcery and witchcraft, and on spirits and ghosts, and ends with a lurid account of the North Berwick witch trials, based on the evidence of Dr John Fian, the alleged head of the coven, whose ‘confession’ was obtained with the aid of thumbscrews, the Boot, and by the ripping out of his fingernails.


Mehrdad Kia, Daily Life in the Ottoman Empire. This book provides a general overview of the daily life in a vast empire, which contained numerous ethnic, linguistic, and religious communities. The extensive bibliography provides rich and diverse sources of further reading. An index provides quick reference to the individuals and places mentioned in the text.

50 Must-Read Books about Tudor EnglandMiranda Kaufmann, Black Tudors: The Untold Story. From long-forgotten records, remarkable characters emerge. They were baptized, married and buried by the Church of England. They were paid wages like any other Tudors. Their stories, brought viscerally to life by Kaufmann, provide unprecedented insights into how Africans came to be in Tudor England, what they did there and how they were treated. A ground-breaking, seminal work, Black Tudors challenges the accepted narrative that racial slavery was all but inevitable and forces us to re-examine the seventeenth century to determine what caused perceptions to change so radically.


Kathy Lavezzo, The Accommodated Jew. English Antisemitism from Bede to Milton. In The Accommodated Jew, Kathy Lavezzo rethinks the complex and contradictory relation between England’s rejection of “the Jew” and the centrality of Jews to classic English literature. Drawing on literary, historical, and cartographic texts, she charts an entangled Jewish imaginative presence in English culture. In a sweeping view that extends from the Anglo-Saxon period to the late seventeenth century, Lavezzo tracks how English writers from Bede to Milton imagine Jews via buildings—tombs, latrines and especially houses—that support fantasies of exile. Epitomizing this trope is the blood libel and its implication that Jews cannot be accommodated in England because of the anti-Christian violence they allegedly perform in their homes.

David Loades, The Tudor Queens of England. From Elizabeth of York—wife of Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch—through to Elizabeth I, her granddaughter and the last in the line, this book explores some of the most colorful and dramatic women in British history. Queen consorts were central to the Royal Court but their role has rarely been examined or contrasted with the better-known ruling queens. How did they behave (in and out of the bedchamber)? How powerful were they as patrons of learning and the arts? What religious views did they espouse and why? How successful and influential were they?

Ania Loomba, Shakespeare, Race, and Colonialism. Did Shakespeare and his contemporaries think at all in terms of “race”? Examining the depiction of cultural, religious, and ethnic difference in Shakespeare’s plays, Loomba considers how seventeenth-century ideas differed from the later ideologies of “race” that emerged during colonialism, as well as from older ideas about barbarism, blackness, and religious difference. Accessible yet nuanced analysis of the plays explores how Shakespeare’s ideas of race were shaped by beliefs about color, religion, nationality, class, money, and gender.

Ania Loomba & Martin Orkin (eds.), Post-Colonial Shakespeares. Postcolonial Shakespeares is an exciting step forward in the dialogue between postcolonial studies and Shakespearean criticism. This unique volume features original work by some of the leading critics within the growing field of Shakespeare studies and is the most authoritative collection on this topic to date. This study explores the colonial and racial discourses emerging in early modern Britain; how the Shakespearean text later became a colonial battlefield; how Shakespeare circulates in our post- and neo-colonial world today. This collection of new essays traces the connections between early modern and contemporary vocabularies of colonization, ‘race’ and nationhood.


50 Must-Read Books about Tudor EnglandGerald MacLean & Nabil Matar, Britain and the Islamic World, 1558–1713. MacLean and Matar examine the place of Islam and Muslim in English thought, and how British monarchs dealt with supremely powerful Muslim rulers. They document the importance of diplomatic and mercantile encounters, show how the writings of captives spread unreliable information about Islam and Muslims, and investigate observations by travellers and clergymen who reported meetings with Jews, eastern Christians, Armenians, and Shi’ites. They also trace how trade and the exchange of material goods with the Islamic world shaped how people in Britain lived their lives and thought about themselves.

Randall Martin, Women, Murder, and Equity in Early Modern England. This book presents the first comprehensive study of over 120 printed news reports of murders and infanticides committed by early modern women. It offers an interdisciplinary analysis of female homicide in post-Reformation news formats ranging from ballads to newspapers. Individual cases are illuminated in relation to changing legal, religious, and political contexts, as well as the dynamic growth of commercial crime-news and readership.

Jeffrey Masten, Queer Philologies. Sex, Language, and Affect in Shakespeare’s Time. In Queer Philologies, Masten studies particular terms that illuminate the history of sexuality in Shakespeare’s time and analyzes the methods we have used to study sex and gender in literary and cultural history. Masten unpacks the etymology, circulation, transformation, and constitutive power of key words within the early modern discourse of sex and gender—terms such as “conversation” and “intercourse,” “fundament” and “foundation,” “friend” and “boy”—that described bodies, pleasures, emotions, sexual acts, even (to the extent possible in this period) sexual identities. Analyzing the continuities as well as differences between Shakespeare’s language and our own, he offers up a queer lexicon in which the letter “Q” is perhaps the queerest character of all.

Nabil Matar, Islam in Britain, 1558–1685. This book examines the impact of Islam on early modern Britain. Christian-Muslim interaction at this time was not, as is often thought, primarily adversarial; rather, there was extensive cultural, intellectual and missionary engagement with Islam. Matar investigates the impact of the Qur’an and sufism on the people of Britain, showing that the British interacted widely with Islamic religion, culture and people through travel, in London coffee houses, in church, among converts to and from Islam, in sermons and in plays.

Nabil Matar, Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery. In Turks, Moors, and Englishmen, Matar vividly presents new data about Anglo-Islamic social and historical interactions. Rather than looking exclusively at literary works, which tended to present unidimensional stereotypes of Muslims, Matar delves into hitherto unexamined English prison depositions, captives’ memoirs, government documents, and Arabic chronicles and histories. The result is a significant alternative to the prevailing discourse on Islam, which nearly always centers around ethnocentrism and attempts at dominance over the non-Western world, and an astonishing revelation about the realities of exchange and familiarity between England and Muslim society in the Elizabethan and early Stuart periods.

Nabil Matar, Britain and Barbary, 1589–1689. Matar examines the influence of Mediterranean piracy and diplomacy on early modern British history and identity.  Drawing on published and unpublished literary, commercial, and epistolary sources, he situates British maritime activity and national politics, especially in relation to the Civil War, within the international context of Anglo-Magharibi encounters.  Before there was the British encounter with America, there was the much more complex and destabilizing encounter with Islam in North Africa.

50 Must-Read Books about Tudor EnglandMadhavi Menon (ed.), Shakesqueer: A Queer Companion to the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Shakesqueer puts the most exciting queer theorists in conversation with the complete works of William Shakespeare. Exploring what is odd, eccentric, and unexpected in the Bard’s plays and poems, these theorists highlight not only the many ways that Shakespeare can be queered but also the many ways that Shakespeare can enrich queer theory. This innovative anthology reveals an early modern playwright insistently returning to questions of language, identity, and temporality, themes central to contemporary queer theory.

Madhavi Menon, Wanton Words: Rhetoric and Sexuality in English Renaissance Drama. In Wanton Words, Madhavi Menon intimately and expertly couples classical and Renaissance handbooks of with canonical Renaissance plays and demonstrates their shared propensity to speak about sex—often transgressive sex—in the same instance that they speak about the workings of language.


Elizabeth Norton, The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women. The Tudor period conjures up images of queens and noblewomen in elaborate court dress; of palace intrigue and dramatic politics. But if you were a woman, it was also a time when death during childbirth was rife; when marriage was usually a legal contract, not a matter for love, and the education you could hope to receive was minimal at best. Yet the Tudor century was also dominated by powerful and dynamic women in a way that no era had been before. Historian Elizabeth Norton explores the life cycle of the Tudor woman, from childhood to old age, through the diverging examples of women such as Elizabeth Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister; Cecily Burbage, Elizabeth’s wet nurse; Mary Howard, widowed but influential at court; Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of a controversial queen; and Elizabeth Barton, a peasant girl who would be lauded as a prophetess.


Onyeka, Blackamoors: Africans in Tudor England, Their Presence, Status, and Origins. Onyeka’s book is about the presence, status and origins of Africans in Tudor England. In it Onyeka argues that these people were present in cities and towns throughout England, but that they did not automatically occupy the lowest positions in Tudor society. This is important because the few modern historians who have written about Africans in Tudor England suggest that they were all slaves, or transient immigrants who were considered as dangerous strangers and the epitome of otherness. However, this book will show that some Africans in England had important occupations in Tudor society, and were employed by powerful people because of the skills they possessed.


Geoffrey Parker, Imprudent King. A New Life of Philip II. Philip II is not only the most famous king in Spanish history, but one of the most famous monarchs in English history: the man who married Mary Tudor and later launched the Spanish Armada against her sister Elizabeth I. Eminent historian Geoffrey Parker draws on four decades of research on Philip as well as a recent, extraordinary archival discovery—a trove of 3,000 documents in the vaults of the Hispanic Society of America in New York City, unread since crossing Philip’s own desk more than four centuries ago. Many of them change significantly what we know about the king.

Annabel Patterson, Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England. Patterson explores the effects of censorship on both writing and reading in early modern England, drawing analogies and connections with France during the same time. The result is an original account of the interpretive and communicative systems we call culture. Patterson’s work will interest anyone concerned with the relationship between art and politics. A new introduction by the author underscores the relevance of a historical perspective on censorship to contemporary culture.

James Pettegree, Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611. This original and scholarly work uses three detailed case studies of plays—Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra , King Lear and Cymbeline—to cast light on the ways in which early modern writers used metaphor to explore how identities emerge from the interaction of competing regional and spiritual topographies.


50 Must-Read Books about Tudor EnglandMelissa E. Sanchez, Erotic Subjects: The Sexuality of Politics in Early Modern English Literature. Treating sixteenth- and seventeenth-century erotic literature as part of English political history, Erotic Subjects traces some surprising implications of two early modern commonplaces: first, that love is the basis of political consent and obedience, and second, that suffering is an intrinsic part of love. Rather than dismiss such assumptions as mere conventions, Sanchez uncovers the political import of early modern literature’s fascination with eroticized violence.

Melissa E. Sanchez, Shakespeare and Queer Theory. Shakespeare and Queer Theory is an indispensable guide on the ongoing critical debates about queer method both within and beyond Shakespeare and early modern studies.

James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews. Going against the grain of the dominant scholarship on the period, which generally ignores the impact of Jewish questions in early modern England, James Shapiro presents how Elizabethans imagined Jews to be utterly different from themselves—in religion, race, nationality, and even sexuality. From strange cases of Christians masquerading as Jews to bizarre proposals to settle foreign Jews in Ireland, this book looks into the crisis of cultural identity in Elizabethan England and sheds new light on The Merchant of Venice.

James Sharpe, Witchcraft in Early Modern England. This book provides an introduction to the fascinating topic of witchcraft, informed by the main trends of new thinking on the subject. Beginning with a discussion of witchcraft in the early modern period, and charting the witch panics that took place at this time, the author goes on to look at the historical debate surrounding the causes of the legal persecution of witches. Contemporary views of witchcraft put forward by judges, theological writers and the medical profession are examined, as is the place of witchcraft in the popular imagination. Sharpe also looks at the gender dimensions of the witch persecution, and the treatment of witchcraft in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. Supported by a range of compelling documents, the book concludes with an exploration of why witch panics declined in the late seventeenth century and early eighteenth century.


Gustav Ungerer, The Mediterranean Apprenticeship of British Slavery. An essay about the importance of the English merchants in Spain for the early development of the British slave trade in the sixteenth century.


Adrian Wilson, Ritual and Conflict: The Social Relations of Childbirth in Early Modern England.. This book places childbirth in early-modern England within a wider network of social institutions and relationships. Starting with illegitimacy—the violation of the marital norm—it proceeds through marriage to the wider gender-order and so to the “ceremony of childbirth,” the popular ritual through which women collectively controlled this, the pivotal event in their lives. Focusing on the seventeenth century, but ranging from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, this study offers a new viewpoint on such themes as the patriarchal family, the significance of illegitimacy, and the structuring of gender-relations in the period.

Garthine Walker, Crime, Gender, and Social Order in Early Modern England. Walker reveals that women were not treated leniently by the courts and that beliefs about gender and order impacted on real legal outcomes in early modern England. She demonstrates that the household role had as much to do with the nature of criminality as the individual in this period. Challenging hitherto accepted views regarding gender stereotyping, this book illuminates the complexities of everyday English life in the early modern period.

Graham T. Williams, Women’s Epistolary Utterance: A Study of the Letters of Joan and Maria Thynne, 1575–1611. Located at the intersection of historical pragmatics, letters and manuscript studies, this book offers a multi-dimensional analysis of the letters of Joan and Maria Thynne, 1575–1611. It investigates multiple ways in which socio-culturally and socio-familially contextualized reading of particular collections may increase our understanding of early modern letters as a particular type of handwritten communicative activity. The book also adds to our understanding of these women as individual users of English in their historical moment, especially in terms of literacy and their engagement with cultural scripts. Throughout the book, analysis is based on the manuscript letters themselves and in this way several chapters address the importance of viewing original sources to understand the letters’ full pragmatic significance. Within these broader frameworks, individual chapters address the women’s use of scribes, prose structure and punctuation, performative speech act verbs, and (im)politeness, sincerity and mock (im)politeness.


50 Must-Read Books about Tudor EnglandMichael Young, King James I and the History of Homosexuality. James VI & I, the namesake of the King James Version of the Bible, had a series of notorious male favorites. No one denies that these relationships were amorous, but were they sexual? Michael B. Young merges political history with recent scholarship in the history of sexuality to answer that question. Persons acquainted with the history of sexuality will find surprising premonitions here of modern homosexuality and homophobia. General readers will find a world of political intrigue colored by sodomy, pederasty, and gender instability. For readers new to the subject, the book begins with a helpful overview of King James’s life.

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