Diarmaid MacCulloch's biography is the most complete life ever written of this elusive figure, making connections not previously seen and revealing the channels through which power in early Tudor England flowed.
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 precision has been notoriously difficult.
Diarmaid MacCulloch's biography is the most complete life ever written of this elusive figure, making connections not previously seen and revealing the channels through which power in early Tudor England flowed. It overturns many received interpretations, for example that Cromwell and Anne Boleyn were allies because of their common religious sympathies, showing how he in fact destroyed her. It introduces the many different personalities contributing to these foundational years, all worrying about the 'terrifyingly unpredictable' Henry VIII, and allows readers to feel that all this is going on around them. For a time, the self-made 'ruffian', as he described himself - ruthless, adept in the exercise of power, quietly determined in religious revolution - was master of events.
About the Author
Diarmaid MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford and a Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford. His Thomas Cranmer (1996) won the Whitbread Biography Award, the James Tait Black Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize; Reformation: Europe's House Divided (2003) won the Wolfson Prize for History and the British Academy Book Prize.
A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years and the BBC television series based on it appeared in 2009; the book won the Cundill Prize, the world's largest history prize, in 2010. His television series How God Made the English aired on BBC2 in March 2012. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and was knighted in the New Year's Honours List of 2012.
Thomas Cromwell has famously defied his biographers, but no more. Diarmaid MacCulloch's book is subtle, witty and precisely constructed. He has sifted the vast archive to clear away the accumulated error, muddle and propaganda of centuries, allowing us to see this clever and fascinating man better than ever before, and in the mirror of his times. This is the biography we have been awaiting for 400 years -- Hilary Mantel
Balances a wealth of particular detail with a consistent grasp on the larger story, and holds the attention for the whole of its formidable length ... a model of classical historical biography at its finest -- Rowan Williams * New Statesman *
Triumphant and definitive ... a masterpiece of documentary detective-work, which buzzes with the excitement of a great historian immersed in archives -- Dan Jones * Sunday Times *
Anyone looking for the true story of Wolf Hall will be challenged, but also mightily rewarded -- Jessie Childs * Guardian *
MacCulloch's skill is to introduce even the general reader to the thrill of a historian's process ... and, golly, can MacCulloch make a Tudor paper-trail seem exciting -- Kate Maltby * Financial Times *
Meticulous and magisterial ... If this is not the definitive biography, I don't know what that would look like -- Peter Marshall * Literary Review *
Thrilling ... A human drama replete with sickening bloodshed, intrigue, torture and treachery -- Robert McCrum * Observer *
Captivating and definitive ... MacCulloch gives us depth and perspective on the contradictions and inconsistencies of a man who improvised just as much as he choreographed his way to power -- Marcus Nevitt * Spectator *
This book is the counter-weight to fiction and speculation, a formidably detailed and precise account ... This book is the work of an internationally renowned historian at the top of his game -- Lucy Wooding * Times Literary Supplement *