The Wolfson History Prize Shortlist 2022. #BookReview Devil-Land: England Under Siege, 1588-1688 by Clare Jackson
A ground-breaking portrait of the most turbulent century in English history
Among foreign observers, seventeenth-century England was known as ‘Devil-Land’: a diabolical country of fallen angels, torn apart by seditious rebellion, religious extremism and royal collapse. Clare Jackson’s dazzling, original account of English history’s most turbulent and radical era tells the story of a nation in a state of near continual crisis.
As an unmarried heretic with no heir, Elizabeth I was regarded with horror by Catholic Europe, while her Stuart successors, James I and Charles I, were seen as impecunious and incompetent, unable to manage their three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. The traumatic civil wars, regicide and a republican Commonwealth were followed by the floundering, foreign-leaning rule of Charles II and his brother, James II, before William of Orange invaded England with a Dutch army and a new order was imposed.
Devil-Land reveals England as, in many ways, a ‘failed state’: endemically unstable and rocked by devastating events from the Gunpowder Plot to the Great Fire of London. Catastrophe nevertheless bred creativity, and Jackson makes brilliant use of eyewitness accounts – many penned by stupefied foreigners – to dramatize her great story. Starting on the eve of the Spanish Armada’s descent in 1588 and concluding with a not-so ‘Glorious Revolution’ a hundred years later, Devil-Land is a spectacular reinterpretation of England’s vexed and enthralling past.
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2022, Devil-Land: England Under Siege, 1588-1688 (Allen Lane) by Clare Jackson is a momentous book covering the period from the defeat of the Spanish Armada by Elizabeth I to what has become known as the Glorious Revolution. The years that are covered from 1588 to 1688 was nothing short of tortuous period in English history.
There is so much history from this period to pack into a book of 700 pages, England was known by foreign observers as ‘Devil-Land’. It is not difficult to see how England was seen as a nation that was failing when you consider what happened in this period. Seventeenth-century England from the perspective of foreign countries such as France, Spain, the Dutch Republic and even closer to home within our own shores from Scotland and Ireland. They viewed this nation from civil war to the Gunpowder Plot and then the Great Fire of London, let alone a Queen that was unmarried viewed in horror by Catholics across Europe and then there is her successors such as Charles I who was then executed, and England became a republic as Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector until the monarchy was restored in 1660 as Charles II became King and his reign was turbulent. England was being viewed as a failed state.
It is hard to put into words the sheer amount of research that Clare Jackson has put into a book that is packed with historical facts and the author deserves real credit for this alone. As the book reaches its climax with the ‘Glorious Revolution’ as William of Orange invaded England.
A powerful and I found a really engaging read, for what was a traumatic period in English history. Readers should not be put off by the fact the book is about 700 pages. If you enjoy reading about history, then I would really recommend Devil-Land.
My thanks to Midas PR and Allen Lane for the review Copy of Devil-Land: England Under Siege, 1588-1688 by Clare Jackson. Published on 30 September 2021 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org
On Wednesday 22 June the winner of The Wolfson History Prize 2022 will be announced at 7.15pm and you can watch the announcement live via www.wolfsonhistoryprize.org.uk/2022
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