August 4th, 2018


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The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England, by Ian Mortimer

Second paragraph of third chapter:
These prohibitions are not aimed at religion itself, but at Roman Catholicism, which is widely considered as unfit for purpose. In fact, society is becoming more religious, not less. Naturally, the population occupies a spectrum of religious positions, but if you talk to those at the more spiritual end, you will see that they wish to commune with God more directly, without the distractions of so many statues, images and decorations, and certainly without the money-making and political interventions of the papacy. Yes, there is a secular element to the nationalism of the Church of England, but this is largely a by-product of the desire to eliminate anything that comes between the humble Christian and God. It is this desire that creates the reforming zeal of Elizabeth's ministers and their brand of Anglicanism. A heightened form of this passion gives rise to Puritanism and Calvinism. Conversely, for traditionalists, the sense that their spiritual values are under attack from these fanatics reinforces their commitment to the Catholic cause and their resistance to Anglicanism, Puritanism and Calvinism. Although most people are not prepared to risk their lives for the sake of a religious viewpoint, some are. They would rather die than deny what they believe to be the truth.
I had been warned that this might not live up to expectations, but it very much did - a survey of social and cultural conditions during the reign of Elizabeth I, presented as a travelogue for the time-travelling tourist. Lots of excellent detail on economics, religion, food, clothes, illness and medicine, the arts, and pretty much everything. I see that there was also a TV series which gets much less good reviews, but I will try to get hold of it anyway. Disappointed that there are very few references to Ireland, which of course is my major point of interest. Some intriguing references to poisoning, which also interest me. You can get it here.

This was the top unread non-fiction book on my shelves. Next is Byzantium, by Judith Herrin.

Aliénor, La Légende Noire, vols 5 & 6, by Arnaud Delalande, Simona Mogavino & Carlos Gomez

Second frame of third page of each volume:
Louis VII: Hahaha, the interest of France!Henry: Isn’t that right, darling?
Eleanor: Don’t you take credit for that too!
Henry: Hahaha! One by one, the last supporters of the House of Blois have surrendered their castles and paid me their tribute...

Conclusion to the six-part graphic novel biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine, my favourite medieval character. Volume 5 deals with the first years of Eleanor‘s second marriage to the future King Henry II of England. Volume 6 deals with the last half century of her life, telescoping five decades into 55 pages. The art and characterisation remain gorgeous, but I felt that the writers were a little less in control of their material than in previous volumes. Volume five has a weird subplot between Henry and one of Eleanor’s former lovers, and also gratuitously kills off Eleanor’s sister, when in fact she lived until the 1190s. There is also some nasty ableism around Henry’s younger brother, who is deformed and stutters, and therefore is evil. Volum 6 simply has too much material to cover in too short a space, though I did like the characterisation of Henry and Eleanor’s children, and the structure of telling the story through flashback from Eleanor’s old age in Fontvrault. Overall it’s been a solid series, and I will in particular look out for more work by Simona Mogavino. You can get volume 5 here and volume 6 here.

This was my top unread non-English language comic. At present the only other comics in that pile are the last two parts of Marc Legendre’s Amoras.