–by Michael Pierce
THOMAS CROMWELL – A REVOLUTIONARY LIFE by Diarmaid MacCulloch. Published by Viking, October 30, 2018.
Historians have longed for a comprehensive biography of Thomas Cromwell for centuries. Diarmaid MacCulloch has finally satisfied that longing with his new book Thomas Cromwell – A Revolutionary Life.
Most people are familiar with Cromwell thanks to the recent Wolf Hall series of novels, and the recent BBC series of the same name. Thanks to this, most people have been given an idea of Cromwell the man, and the political machinations that abounded in the court of King Henry VIII.
Diarmaid MaCulloch has provided readers with the first comprehensive biography of Cromwell, following from his birth in Putney around 1485 until his execution, by order of Henry VIII, for treason and heresy on July 28, 1540.
Thomas Cromwell came into the world the son of a blacksmith, and he once confided to a friend that he had been a bit of a ruffian as a young man. By the time he was around thirty years old he had become an agent for the Archbishop of York, acting as his liaison to the high court of the Catholic Church in Rome.
Cromwell also developed a series of important contacts that would help him as he progressed through his life and his rise to power, at the same time becoming fluent in several languages. He also became a highly respected and sought after attorney, and by 1519 he had become an adviser to Lord Chancellor Thomas Cardinal Wolsey.
By 1530, Cromwell was in high favor with the king, and he held more than two dozen offices during this period until his execution in 1540.
Cromwell also made many enemies during his life, and it was these enemies who conspired against him, beginning around 1536, and ultimately leading to his falling out of Henry’s favor. In June 1540, Cromwell was arrested, and he was ultimately beheaded as previously described.
Author Diarmaid MacCulloch has written a masterful, massive biography of Thomas Cromwell. His use of primary sources is really beyond description. As a church historian in England, MacCulloch demonstrates a thorough mastery of his subject and his influence on the world in which he lived. Whether you’re a fan of Cromwell, a fan of English history, or a fan of church history, you need to read this book. You’ll come away well versed in the life and times of Thomas Cromwell and the world in which he lived and moved.