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Trusted Historians?
August 3, 2012
8:41 pm
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Louise
Hampshire, England
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Olga and I have been discussing David Loades’ book on the Boleyns and it got me wondering which historians are trusted as being the most accurate. Obviously everyone makes mistakes, but some more than others. My top for trustworthiness would be David Starkey, Eric Ives, Simon Schama, John Guy and James Carley. My bottom would be Joanna Denny, and obviously the Weir.
What are other people’s favourites and least favourites, purely on trusting the accuracy of their research?

August 4, 2012
1:09 am
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Olga
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Fantastic topic Louise. I’ll add Julia Fox to that list, I found both of her books well-researched. Others I have found a bit hit-and-miss so far. I’ll have to admit I don’t mind Fraser’s Six Wives considering what she had to work with at the time.

I still liked Weir’s book on Mary Boleyn. Except I kept getting a mental image of her shouting at me “Look I have NOTES! I have SOURCES! I keep saying PERHAPS!”

August 4, 2012
3:51 am
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boswellbaxter
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I’d add Hester Chapman’s, Mary Luke’s, and Carolly Erickson’s nonfiction to the bottom. Elizabeth Norton is pretty iffy too–in one of her books, she has Isabella (Edward II’s queen) being besieged in the Tower. Never happened.

August 4, 2012
11:13 am
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Olga
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I liked Norton’s book on Anne of Cleves but her book on Jane Seymour was pretty poor. She was throwing out some pretty silly statements in that one “Jane was interested in the environment” Really?
What do you guys think of Jospehine Wilkinson? I just finished her book on Mary Boleyn today, which, while it seemed to be well-researched, had some strange theories in it. I think she made a bit more of the relationship between Mary and Henry than what it was, then again she based her theories on the length of the relationship being longer than any of Henry’s other mistresses besides Anne. But she finished it with a bit of a romantic spin.
I don’t know, I am thinking of reading her Early Loves of Anne Boleyn but I’m not sure after the last few books I’ve read from that publisher (Amberley again)

August 4, 2012
2:20 pm
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Boleyn
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Top of the list has to be Dr Dave.. He’s a blunt and often brutal historian but he knows his stuff. Dr Dave’s books can at times make heavy going reading wise, but they are informative and straight to the point.
Bottom of the list would have to be SWMNBN. I think the woman enjoy’s wallowing in her own crapulance.

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

August 4, 2012
6:47 pm
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Louise
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At the risk of sounding like a toady, I think I can probably add Claire Ridgway to my list of trusted historians even though she doesn’t call herself one. I trust her research implicitly.

August 4, 2012
7:24 pm
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Neil Kemp
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Louise, I’m so pleased you mentioned Simon Schama. I put him on a par with David Starkey, with well researched information, yet he remains something of a mystery to a lot of people (perhaps too straightforward and non-confrontational to get himself noticed in popular circles?).

August 4, 2012
10:22 pm
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Louise
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I always think of Simon Schama as a more likeable and accessible historian than Starkey. I’ve got his three books on the history of Britain, which I think are wonderful, and I love his personality when he’s presenting. He draws me in in a way that Starkey fails to do. I think he’s massively underated. He does what he does, well, and doesn’t feel the necessity to be confrontational to make his point. Maybe we also need people like Starkey to provide a kick and make people sit up, but it’s sad that brilliant historians like Schama aren’t treated with the same respect simply because they don’t shout as loud.

August 5, 2012
2:53 am
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Olga
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I had those books for years and never read them, because I used to like buying history books and then admire how nice they looked on my shelf rather than reading them. I’ll have to dig them out and have a read of them. they did a series too didn’t they?

August 5, 2012
3:43 am
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Mya Elise
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I haven’t actually gotten around to reading any of Ives books although I really want to, it’s just my local libraries barely have anything on Tudor history and Barnes & Noble is 45 mins away and I barely ever have time to go. I also have a E-reader (a cheap-o version of a kindle) but it’s on it’s last leg so I don’t mess with it much. I’ve read a few of Weir’s books though like ‘The lady in the tower: the fall of Anne Boleyn’ and ‘The wives of Henry VIII’ and I wasn’t very impressed with Weir especially since I know her and Gregory are basically the same and tend to slander Anne’s name.
I’ve heard good things about Ives and that he’s basically most accurate with Anne info, Starkey is okay but I have my suspisions with him. I’m very guarded about which books I choose to read when it comes to Anne and the Tudor era, I want to read books that are accurate and books that aren’t out to ruin the history.

• Grumble all you like, this is how it’s going to be.

August 5, 2012
9:30 am
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Louise
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Schama did do a series based on his books. It was absolutely brilliant, and I credit him with my love of history as something which could be interesting and not just something which had to be studied at school.

August 5, 2012
11:22 am
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Neil Kemp
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Hear, hear, Louise. Schama is a brilliant presenter and has a real love of his subject which shines through to his audience. Unlike Starkey he comes across as a real man of the people and is very much undervalued as an historian.

August 6, 2012
4:39 am
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Anyanka
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Louise said

At the risk of sounding like a toady, I think I can probably add Claire Ridgway to my list of trusted historians even though she doesn’t call herself one. I trust her research implicitly.

Pah!…..she’s in a league of her own…

It's always bunnies.

August 6, 2012
1:50 pm
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Louise
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What do people think of Retha Warnicke? I personally think she’s more into going off on a frolick of her own than presenting facts. She has a nasty habit of making the evidence fit the theory rather than the other way around. Trustworthy? Mmmmmm!!

August 7, 2012
3:11 pm
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Olga
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That’s a good way to word it Louise, “making the evidence fit the theory”. She seems really popular, but in all honesty I don’t like her. Her writing doesn’t capture my interest and I just can’t get past that. I’m still deciding whether or not to read another book by her.

August 7, 2012
8:31 pm
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Neil Kemp
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Retha Warnicke? I could put forward a reasoned and well thought out argument to highlight her faults and justify my opinion of her works, but I’ll save time and sum up my viewpoint of her in one word. Rubbish!

August 12, 2012
2:42 pm
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Olga
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OK I think this list is depressingly short. I haven’t read these authors yet but I am accumulating books so, what do you guys think of Jasper Ridley,
Linda Porter and Robert Hutchinson?

August 12, 2012
9:51 pm
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Gill
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Louise said

What do people think of Retha Warnicke? I personally think she’s more into going off on a frolick of her own than presenting facts. She has a nasty habit of making the evidence fit the theory rather than the other way around. Trustworthy? Mmmmmm!!

I bought her book…must be twenty years ago. I thought back then she wrote nonsense and I’ve never re-read it since. I refuse to read any more Weir – another author who makes the ‘facts’ fit her pet theory. I’m currently reading Joanna Denny and she’s…interesting. And not in a good way. My family think I’m weird because I keep shouting things like “that’s not what happened!” and “how do you know?”

Ives is my favourite. I read his first book on Anne when it was first published, and I recently read the updated one – excellent. Very well researched and well thought out. Norton is ok for a fairly superficial overview but she’s a bit too prone to ‘probably’ and ‘may have’. Starkey is very good and as someone else pointed out, Antonia Fraser is not bad for the material available to her when she wrote it.

August 13, 2012
9:21 am
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Olga
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I freaked out when I read Denny’s books. I also couldn’t put the damned things down, I think she would have made an awesome fiction writer. There’s some stuff in there I wanted to be true.

I forgot to add, has anyone read Derek Wilson? he seems to have a lot of books in print, I was eyeing one off the other day.

August 13, 2012
9:57 am
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Gill
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Olga said

I freaked out when I read Denny’s books. I also couldn’t put the damned things down, I think she would have made an awesome fiction writer. There’s some stuff in there I wanted to be true.
.

LOL, true, she’s very readable, but maddening. I read a line saying something like she viewed Henry’s sister Mary with cold disdain and I’m like “how the hell do you know that?”

What do you guys think of David Loades? I’ve just ordered his book on the 6 wives and am waiting for it to be delivered. (Alas, it’ll probably be a week or more before it arrives.)

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