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Up and doing

Susan Brigden, 6 August 1992

Fire from Heaven: Life in an English Town in the 17th Century 
by David Underdown.
HarperCollins, 308 pp., £17.99, May 1992, 0 00 215865 5
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... This book charts a kind of revolution: the building of a new Jerusalem, ‘a city on a hill’, in Dorchester, Dorset, in the early 17th century. The story of a little country town, inhabited, like others, by ordinary sinners and recidivists, which, for a time, aspired to godliness is a remarkable one, and is here well and enjoyably told. Professor Underdown seeks to explain ‘who the reformers were, whom they were reforming, how and why they did it, and why in the end they failed ...

Homage to the Old Religion

Susan Brigden, 27 May 1993

The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c.1400-c.1580 
by Eamon Duffy.
Yale, 704 pp., £29.95, November 1992, 0 300 05342 8
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... At the Reformation a world was lost that could never be recovered. The images and altars, the dooms and roods of the parish churches, the towers and cloisters of the religions houses were desecrated. But the loss and profanation of the treasures donated over centuries was nothing compared to the shattering of the beliefs they had symbolised. For Catholics, the desecration threatened the end of mediation, propitiation and spiritual solace: the loss of community between the dead and the living ...

Smelling the Gospel

Patrick Collinson, 7 March 1991

London and the Reformation 
by Susan Brigden.
Oxford, 676 pp., £55, December 1989, 0 19 822774 4
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... would be an absurd enterprise, truly Hamlet without the Prince. So a considerable part of Dr Susan Brigden’s magisterial account of London and the Reformation has to do with events of transcendent, national importance, which occurred in London. After all, the seat of government, Court, Council and Parliament, was normally located in London, or ...

And Cabbages Too

Patrick Collinson: The Tudors, 22 March 2001

New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors 1485-1603 
by Susan Brigden.
Allen Lane, 434 pp., £20, September 2000, 0 7139 9067 8
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... of economic historians, we know that peasants, too, had a politics; and we are critical (although Susan Brigden apparently is not) of Sir Thomas Smith’s famous mid-Tudor put-down of ‘the fourth sort of men which do not rule’: ‘These have no voice nor authority in our commonwealth, and no account is made of them but only to be ruled, not to rule ...

He fights with flashing weapons

Katherine Rundell: Thomas Wyatt, 6 December 2012

Thomas Wyatt: The Heart’s Forest 
by Susan Brigden.
Faber, 714 pp., £30, September 2012, 978 0 571 23584 1
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Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt: Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy 
by Nicola Shulman.
Short Books, 378 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 1 906021 11 5
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... Wyatt wrote at this time can be read as a personal and spittingly angry lament, although, as Susan Brigden points out in her magnificent biography, Thomas Wyatt: The Heart’s Forest, he wrote in a tradition of disillusioned lovers. It is not always possible to distinguish ventriloquism from confession, and for readers of Chaucer, the prototype for ...

Not Biographable

Patrick Collinson: The Faithful Thomas Cromwell, 29 November 2007

Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister 
by Robert Hutchinson.
Weidenfeld, 360 pp., £20, February 2007, 978 0 297 84642 0
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... with the cluster of ranking Henrician historians, Starkey, Guy, E.W. Ives, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Susan Brigden, nor with Henry VIII’s biographers, J.J. Scarisbrick (here renamed ‘Scarisbrook’) and Bernard. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is tabloid history. It is also the kind of biography which Elton might have written if half out of his ...

Through Trychay’s Eyes

Patrick Collinson: Reformation and rebellion, 25 April 2002

The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village 
by Eamon Duffy.
Yale, 232 pp., £16.95, August 2001, 0 300 09185 0
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... from the Humber to the Thames, appeared to contain very little precocious Protestantism; while Susan Brigden, who published London and the Reformation in 1989, found that even in London, it was a minority sect, at least until the early years of Elizabeth. Christopher Haigh, who describes himself as an ex-Methodist Anglican agnostic, decided that this ...

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