A deeply researched and endlessly fascinating account of what it was like to live as a Tudor. The narrative is rich in period detail and based upon a thorough review of the contemporary sources, but what makes it unique is the fact that Goodman has put it all into practicesleeping, eating, washing and dressing like a Tudor. As a result, How To Be a Tudor is one of very few books which can justifiably claim to bring every aspect of this enduringly popular period dazzlingly to life.”
Immersive, engrossing…a reminder that while we believe we see the past from a detached, enlightened perspective, our view is often blinkered, and so is our notion of what constitutes human needs and nature.… The revelatory truth behind the sumptuous gowns and palaces of Wolf Hall isn’t how badly those kings and princesses smelled but just how hard everyone else was working in the rest of their world.”
[Goodman’s] enthusiasm is exhilarating and contagious.
Kate Tuttle - Boston Globe
Goodman’s latest foray into immersive history is a revelation…This fascinating book shows us commoners at their patriotic Sunday afternoon archery practice and Henry VIII playing tennis in a crimson satin doublet, with evening prayers for all. It’s the next best thing to being there.
Sarah Ferguson - New York Times Book Review
[How to Be a Tudor] presents a vivid, fascinating era of British history and reminds us that we’re never as far from the past as we like to think.”
Genevieve Valentine - NPR.org
Utilizing substantial research and her own experiences as an occasional historical re-enactor, Goodman (How to Be a Victorian) delves into the nuances of the daily lives of the average English person living during the era of the flashy, fraught Tudor court. She matter-of-factly starts and ends the chronicle with the sleeping area, but includes surprising details about clothing, food production, education, and more as she navigates the course of one 24-hour period. Goodman offers simple but thorough explanations of how things work—whether rope-strung beds or common, reliable hygienic practices—while still entertaining readers, making note, for example, of how her knowledge of the era’s linguistics heightens her own enjoyment of Shakespeare’s bawdiness. In fact, her participation in 15th-century bread-baking and other period activities offers specific insight on where previous historians and popular depictions have erred, especially regarding long-held notions of poor hygiene and invariably sedate dancing scenes. Although there’s some discussion of the English Reformation’s impact or other court-led legal changes, the emphasis remains on the ordinary and very practical people often overlooked by other Tudor-centric historical examinations. Throughout, Goodman’s palpable enthusiasm and clear appreciation for the resourcefulness of the era’s people make these men and women entirely relatable and yet full of surprises. Illus. (Mar.)
Goodman (How To Be a Victorian) is well known to lovers of BBC series such as Tudor Monastery Farm. Instead of kings and queens, this book focuses on the lives of ordinary people, from those in gentlemen's households to tenant farmers. Goodman leads readers through a typical day but manages to squeeze in quite a bit about children's education and the theater despite these experiences being uncommon to all people in the period. Chapters on men's and women's work explain in depth an everyman's trade or two, and while cheese and beer making are perhaps appealing topics to modern readers, the detailed instructions on how to prepare a field for plowing are perhaps less so. Later sections on washing and dressing are also particularly intriguing. Surprisingly, descriptions of food take up little space and are saved for the end. VERDICT Goodman describes lifestyles she's lived herself; that personal commentary is something readers will not find in other histories. This book will be of special interest to fans of the miniseries Wolf Hall, in which the author served as a consultant.—Cate Hirschbiel, Iwasaki Lib., Emerson Coll., Boston
An intimate look inside the 16th-century household. In this natural follow-up to How to Be a Victorian (2014), historian Goodman mines advice manuals, poems, letters, Shakespeare's plays, and even cookbooks to etch in captivating detail a portrait of life in Tudor and Elizabethan England. The majority of the population lived in the countryside, toiling from the cockerel's crow to sunset. They rose from bed in a drafty room, emerging, if they were lucky, from a curtained four-poster and feather bed, keeping them warm even in winter; from a ruder wooden bedstead and wool mattress; or, if they were servants or laborers, from a hay mattress on the floor. Goodman has tried them all. "I can confidently state," she writes, "why so many Tudor people gave beds a central position in their thoughts." The author has also donned typical linen underwear, confidently debunking the myth that medieval people reeked of body odor. Even without daily baths (proscribed to prevent pores from opening to "evil miasmas or foul air"), she "remained remarkably smell-free" after three months. Goodman has also eaten Tudor food: with many farm chores begun at dawn, dinner was served as early as 10:00 or 11:00. Bread was the staple, served at every meal, taking the place of rice, pasta, potatoes, and, often, vegetables. Goodman offers recipes for breads and porridge, describes all varieties of ovens, and discloses the proper way to roast temptingly succulent beef or lamb. Tudor food, she writes, is "fresh and seasonal and cooked over wood or peat fires whose smoke is a pleasant flavor addition." As to daily labor, the author has done enough ploughing with unwieldy ploughs to attest that it is exhausting. She has also made cheese, fashioned ruffs, shot Tudor-style bows and arrows, and learned to make silk braids, a skill at which her daughter became so expert that she was a hand double on Wolf Hall. Fresh and illuminating history.