Thursday, December 10, 2020

In the Minds of Tudor England

I am currently reading Hilary Mantel's fantastic historical novel Wolf Hall, which explores the plots and intrigues of the court of Henry VIII, told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell. I am in awe of Mantel's skill in being able to bring to life (in the minds of her readers) the lives of people from half a millennium ago.

The only other way I know of gaining such an insight into the minds of the Tudors is by reading their letters. Something you can now easily do using the impressive Tudor Networks of Power visualization. Tudor Networks is a fascinating visualization which allows you to explore and read thousands of letters written during 100 years of the Tudor dynasty. 

The Tudor Networks Project includes a network visualization, which allows you to view the interpersonal networks of Tudor England as emerges from the letters sent and received by prominent members of the time. The letters are those sent and received by members of the Tudor government and are part of the State Papers, many of which are held by the National Archives. The Project also includes an interactive map view which allows you to visualize where individuals in the Tudor court were sending letters within the UK and throughout Europe.

The map is probably the least interesting part of this visualization. It is very interesting to view the geographic spread of letters being sent across Tudor England and between England and the rest of Europe. However it is much more interesting to read the actual letters themselves.

For example you can read Henry VIII's letter to the Duke of Norfolk and George Boleyn (the uncle and brother of Anne Boleyn) in which the King asks them to consult "by what ways and means we can best annoy the Pope". Or you can read the letters of Eustace Chapuys (the ambassador of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V). On the very day of Anne Boleyn's beheading Chapuys wrote to inform the Emperor that he thinks "the Concubine's little bastard (the future Elizabeth I) will be excluded from the succession".

The project's collection of letters includes thousands of these political missives and intelligence reports sent by members of the Tudor court and by foreign diplomats and spies. It is a truly fantastic resource for any lover of history and for anyone with any interest in Tudor Britain.

No comments: