Eric Ives

Not So Gloriana?

The Elizabethans


Hutchinson 432pp £25.99 order from our bookshop

At a state banquet in Dublin in May of this year, the Queen remarked: ‘With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.’ Her speech was warmly received as a formal British admission of past mistakes and the painstaking ‘loosening’ of ‘a knot of history’. A N Wilson, too, sees the drawing of a line under the past, but argues in The Elizabethans that it is something even more. He believes that settlement in Ireland means that we can never see British – and specifically English – policy towards Ireland as we used to. He makes the same point about the slave trade. The inhumanity we now recognise must, he believes, alter the way we see the maritime exploits of Hawkins, Drake and the Elizabethan ‘sea-dogs’. According to Wilson, modern history started with the reign of Queen Elizabeth but the myth that grew up and made sense of it – nationalism, Protestantism, the Church of England, overseas exploration and expansion – no longer has any credibility. That posed the fundamental problem he faced in writing this book. How could he write about the Elizabethans without being ‘unimaginatively judgemental’? That is ‘the Difficulty’ – of which more anon.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,
    • 'You are interested in a particular subject; basic research hardens this interest into an obsession, after which th… ,