History and the roofs under which it occurred.
Publisher: Ebury Press (Random House)
First Published: 15th March 2012
Date Reviewed: 12th November 2014
In a work that is a combination of reference book and good old straightforward non-fiction, Lipscomb focuses on 50 different locations with a background either exclusively Tudor or worthy of a visit by those interested in the popular history.
There are two ways to read A Visitor’s Companion To Tudor England. Lipscomb herself introduces it as a guide for the general reader, bereft of footnotes and too much information so that it’s accessible to all. This makes the first way of reading that of the previously uninformed. The second way is obviously one that is more natural to myself and quite likely many who read this review – as yet another book that will enable you to spend even more time on something you already enjoy learning about.
Lipscomb’s introduction sets out all you might have wanted to know about the selection of these houses, castles, tombs, and ruins, which is important to read because no matter your prior knowledge you’ll likely say ‘but what about such and such a place?’. Lipscomb tells us why some prominent places did not make the cut, why less well-known places did, and whether or not you agree with her choices you get to see all the planning involved.
However the book does not entirely live up to its promise and this is because of the criteria. The specific criteria listed in the introduction means that some places are of only minor interest overall (perhaps more interest if you’ve had time to visit all the major places before) and this is compounded by the fact that the approach to the chapters vary. Some focus on describing what you will see, others leave that out in favour of writing about the occupants, and there will be times you’ll likely wish another slice of the history had been focused on instead of the one chosen, the abode of a person of more interest written of instead. This means that the book as a ‘handbook’ is less useful unless you’re using it as a quick reference when deciding where to go on your next day trip.
There is a lot of well-known history included, but also a lot of lesser-known facts. In this way both those with prior knowledge and those without are catered for – for every fact you may know, there is a new one, and for the new learner it’s fair to say this gets you up to speed. Whilst there are no footnotes (another decision discussed in the introduction) Lipscomb includes various views from primary sources as well as her own and those from her peers; much as in her work for television, views are discussed before thoughts are given as to her own, so you also get a good taste for the study of history here, too.
What doesn’t work so well are the suppositions. There are many ‘probablys’ in this book, and this is of course more problematic given the lack of footnotes, as there are ‘probablys’ without reasoning behind them. This may work for new learners but means that you won’t learn as many facts as you might think. The cross-references to other chapters are a few too many and there is a lot of repetition – though this is to aid the reader who wants only to dip in to one or two chapters. There are also sections about Tudor life included in chapters that aren’t related to the subject at hand wherein you might wish more had been written about the location.
A Visitor’s Companion To Tudor England is good, but (necessarily) brief. It sports enough to please all readers but is most likely to satisfy the new reader. The inclusions of lesser-known places, however, make it a worthwhile quick read for all.
November 14, 2014, 7:07 pm
I like the sound of this and I don’t know a great deal of Tudor locations so this could be a great read for me.
November 17, 2014, 12:55 pm
Jessica: It would be a good pick. I found it jogged my memory of general facts, too.