Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life

Viking. Oct. 2018. 752p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780670025572. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780525560296. BIOG
OrangeReviewStarMacCulloch's (Silence: A Christian History) monumental biography brings Henry VIII's notorious minister to vivid, detailed life, revealing a brilliantly innovative statesman whose accomplishments significantly altered the course of English history. MacCulloch reveals Thomas Cromwell (1485–1540) as a man of contradictions: fiercely loyal to his first patron, the Catholic Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, yet dedicated to the principles of the Protestant Reformation. Indeed, MacCulloch contests the long-held picture of Cromwell as a Machiavellian schemer whose primary motivation was personal gain, presenting instead a man of sincere faith who used the turmoil of Henry's marital woes to push forward the Reformation in England, sometimes under the very nose of his volatile, less committed monarch. Combing through correspondence, memoranda, and draft legislation, the author finds ample evidence of Cromwell's improvisatory skill in seizing opportunities, streamlining administrative processes, and revolutionizing the use of Parliament to accomplish the king's business. Yet, MacCulloch makes a convincing argument that it was Cromwell's single-minded advocacy of religious change, more so than his consolidation of power or accumulation of personal wealth, that led to his violent downfall.
VERDICT A must-read biography of a man whose role in shaping English and Protestant history has long been misunderstood. [See Prepub Alert, 4/23/18.]

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