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Thomas Cromwell

A Life
Narrated by: David Rintoul
Length: 26 hrs and 38 mins
Categories: History, British
4.5 out of 5 stars (104 ratings)

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Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Thomas Cromwell by Diarmid MacCulloch, read by David Rintoul. 

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, and by the end of 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. Cromwell was central to all this, but establishing his role with precision, at a distance of nearly five centuries and after the destruction of many of his papers at his own fall, has been notoriously difficult. 

Diarmaid MacCulloch's biography is much the most complete and persuasive life ever written of this elusive figure, a masterclass in historical detective work, making connections not previously seen. It overturns many received interpretations, for example that Cromwell was a cynical, 'secular' politician without deep-felt religious commitment, or that he and Anne Boleyn were allies because of their common religious sympathies - in fact he destroyed her. It introduces the many different personalities of these foundational years, all conscious of the 'terrifyingly unpredictable' Henry VIII. MacCulloch allows listeners to feel that they are immersed in all this, that it 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. MacCulloch's biography for the first time reveals his true place in the making of modern England and Ireland, for good and ill.

©2018 Diarmaid MacCulloch (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

Critic reviews

"This is the biography we have been awaiting for 400 years." (Hilary Mantel) 

What members say

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Enormously interesting and very entertaining.

A very enjoyable journey through Tudor politics and religion with one of the most intriguing characters of the period. Saint or sinner? Devoted royal servant or brazen chancer? This book throws some light onto a very complex man.

Although long, this book is fast paced and I enjoyed the author's dry humour. I will be seeking out his other titles.

The narrator of this audiobook was perfect for the job - very easy listening.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Impressive & worthwhile listening experience

An entertaining and well-researched biography of one of the most interesting and influential men of English history. The narration was magnificent too. Loved it. Bravo!

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Stellar

Amazingly detailed and fascinating biography, which confirms some of the things we know about Thomas Cromwell, also explaining (and reassigning!) many things we think we know - about the man himself, his often capricious monarch, and various important players at and around the Court at this time.

It's a painstakingly well-researched book. I have the hard copy as well, and have combined ear and eye from time to time. The reading, I might add, is perfect. A better choice of narrator could not have been made.

Although a comprehensive and detailed account of Cromwell's life, it is by no means dull or stuffy. I have smiled and even chuckled, often whilst listening - and had more than one 'Ohhhh... of course!' moment. It's a long book, but never boring; and anyone at all interested in how Tudor bureaucracy functioned, how patronage worked, and the genuine causes and varied progress of the English Reformation is strongly encouraged to buy a copy now and start listening!

Thank you, Audible!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Excellent, informative biography

I wonder if even the English understand the events of their confused and bloodthirsty “reformation”? Hilary Mantel’s novels have certainly whetted my appetite for this era in their history.
This is a witty and intelligent biography, well narrated by David Rintoul (as always), full of interesting anecdote and insights into the bizarre reign of the narcissistic, unpredictable, avaricious and vindictive Henry VIII, who had, unfortunately, more than 4/8 years to impose his changeable whims.
I feel I comprehend much more about the origins of the Anglican Church, which I found mysterious (as a Presbyterian turned Catholic).
MacCullough is unbiased in his account; he reveals the faults of his subject, and admits the better attributes of Cromwell’s enemies.
Thomas Cromwell was evidently a man of great ability, given the extent and length of his service to a very touchy, cruel and capricious king. (I can just imagine Henry VIII’s Twitter account; fortunately communication was slower then, but the penalties for incurring his wrath were deadly.)
I’m going to listen again soon- there were some memorable phrases I want to preserve.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Interesting

interesting story and great detail but feel the author misinterpreted the Irish element to the book

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Highly recommended.

Diarmaid MacCulloch brings to life the enigmatic character of Thomas Cromwell and the turbulent world of Tudor England. He is particularly good at showing the major social, economic, religious and political factors at play. Some of his characters such as Thomas Moore, the Duke of Norfolk, John Fisher remain shadowy caricatures but he presents Cromwell as a multi-dimensional and fully developed character.

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Not to be confused with Wolf Hall

This is a meticulously researched book chronicling the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in Tudor England. It is a fascinating tale. However it is written in very dense style and I often had to scroll back to remind myself of characters.
This is not a historical novel, like Wolf Hall, so the Cromwell’s character and motivation is glimpsed and not expanded upon. It is a fine balance for an author of historical biography between academic rigour and kindling the interest of the lay reader. Personally I would have liked a little more on his loyalties and the reasons for his actions. A bit more speculation to accompany the information.
It is an excellent book, I enjoyed it and it is well worth the reading.

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Accessible Tudor History without gore

Most Tudor histories become fascinated by the execution and the axe, this biography concentrates on Cromwell’s considerable achievements in religion, administration, politics that amazingly remain unaltered for centuries.
Religious controversy usually incomprehensible to the modern eye is explained in simple unpatronising language

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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superb. enjoyed emencely.

narrator great
story great
a must for Tudor enthusiasts
I really enjoyed this historical audio.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful