The Earlier Tudors, 1485-1558

By J. D. Mackie | Go to book overview

II
THE FACE OF ENGLAND

WHAT manner of country was it, the England of the early sixteenth century? The question is not so easy to answer as might be supposed. It is true that interest in geography and topography were growing, and that 'Descriptions of England' were printed by Caxton in 1480 and by Wynkyn de Worde in 1497, but both these 'descriptions' are little more than borrowings from the fourteenth-centuryPolychronicon of Ranulph Higden, and Higden, who referred to his sources with care, relied on authorities like Giraldus Cambrensis, Bede, and Pliny. To dismiss his work as unimportant would be foolish as well as ungrateful, for his general observations on geography and climate are sound, and he emphasizes certain features of importance. England is a rich country and her wealth is not derived from one source only. Her soil is fertile and yields good crops of grain and fruit. Animals are plentiful -- cattle, horses, and sheep, and beasts of the chase besides. Fowls of all kinds are to be found and the many rivers and the surrounding seas teem with fish of great variety. There is abundance of metals and of the useful minerals -- copper, iron, tin, lead, and silver, salt, chalk, marble, and white clay. Altogether this is a rich and noble country, sufficient for its own needs and indispensable to the rest of the world.1

Descriptions of this kind, though they are of interest as illustrating the pride of the Englishman in his native land, say nothing of many things about which the modern inquirer is most curious. To the men of every generation the commonplaces of life do not seem worth recording, and to the men of the late fifteenth century it did not occur to describe in detail the towns or the country-sides in which their lives were set, or the manner in which everyday life was lived. Everyone knew the parts of the country and the social conditions which concerned himself; other places and other conditions were of little importance. Before the day of Leland there is not to be found in English sources anything like a comprehensive survey of Tudor England.

____________________
1
Polychronicon Ranulphi Higdeni, ii. 12-20 (Rolls Series, 1869).

-25-

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The Earlier Tudors, 1485-1558
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Maps xxii
  • I- The New Monarchy 1
  • II - The Face of England 25
  • III - The New King and His Rivals 46
  • IV - Foreign Policy 81
  • V - Perkin Warbeck 112
  • VI - Foreign Affairs 151
  • VII - The Achievement of Henry VII 189
  • VIII - Splendour of Youth 231
  • IX - The Cardinal 286
  • X - Royal Supremacy 335
  • XI - The Fall of the Monasteries 370
  • XII - Imperium Merum 402
  • XIII - Economic Development 444
  • XIV - The Young Josiah 478
  • XV - The Reign of Mary 526
  • XVI - The Achievement of the Age 562
  • Appendix - Tudor Coinage from Henry Vii. To Elizabeth 604
  • Bibliography 609
  • List of Holders of Offices 645
  • Key to Genealogical Table I 655
  • Index 659
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