Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review Tuesday No. 5

The golden age of England, underneath, was a time when secrets were a form of currency just a precious as gold.

Stephen Alford's "The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I" was an excellent book about one of my all-time favorite eras of history the Tudor Reign. I've read several books about the Tudors, and this book showed that Elizabeth's rule was a precarious and fragile thing; the Protestant monarch had many enemies at home and abroad, at times her network of spies was all that stood between rule and ruin.

First, you have to like a book with such detailed references. A good sign of a non-fiction book's character (or lack thereof) will be revealed if a book has a strong backbone of source material. I also thought the layout of the beginning of the book was excellent, the author set up the characters like that of a playbill, giving a brief description of the parts each person played-out in this game of spies. This was beneficial, since there was a number of players to keep straight, and having a quick guide to turn back to was helpful.

Although I was aware of Elizabeth's most trusted advisor William Cecil's cunning, and his web of information that was far-reaching, I did not know to what extent and how wide the network of underground information-gathering reached. Alford showcased the inner-turmoil of the country, where Protestants were once again in favor and Catholics fled the country for fear of persecution or worse. Catholics that left the country, however, were not safe for the ever-watchful eyes of England’s spies.

Alford’s book gave in detail a number of entertaining and well-documented accounts of how England’s spies went about procuring their information, and how these spies give evidence against men they had lived with ,worked for, and befriended. The book also described the Throckmorton Plot to overthrow Elizabeth, and place Catholic Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Elizabethan or Tudor history, or those interested in reading about the lucrative business of information-gathering. Alford's "The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I" was a well-written and thoroughly researched book that I found very entertaining and informative.

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