When Emperor Charles V was elected Holy Roman Emperor in June 1519, his influential position became incredibly important for the strength of his family. Only three years before, he had inherited the vast lands of the Spanish Empire, which already spanned the far ends of the globe, and within Europe itself, he personally ruled over Spain, the Low Countries, Austria, and Naples. Charles’ aunt, Catherine of Aragon, had married into the Royal House of Tudor in England, one of the few rival monarchies to Charles’ Habsburg power. At first, she married the eldest prince, Arthur, but after his untimely death, King Henry VII arranged for Catherine to marry his new heir, the eventual Henry VIII, as his first wife.
We all know the legends of Henry VIII and his six wives, but I always found a sad spot in my heart for poor Catherine. Call me an Hispanophile, but she was in no easy position. After six pregnancies, only Princess Mary survived, and Henry would stop at nothing to have a male heir. By 1525, Catherine, already five years Henry’s senior, was over forty and seemed unlikely to become pregnant again. When Henry tried to pressure the Pope into granting an annulment, his envoy was prevented from gaining access because the Pope was Emperor Charles’ prisoner. Naturally, he was on his aunt’s side, but Henry was determined to prevail. Enter: the English Reformation.
So it’s no wonder that these events are the background for a chapter called “Dysfunctional Family” in John Edwards’ new biography, Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen. The conflict between Mary’s parents framed the most significant events of her life, and with a particular focus on Mary's religious faith, which was at the heart of everything she did, Edwards works to bring this controversial Queen into perspective. Most often remembered for her attempts to reverse the rise of Protestantism in England, Mary’s reign saw the persecution and execution of religious dissenters. After thoroughly and exhaustively researching the Spanish archives, attempting to sympathize with Mary’s Catholicism, Edwards applies his knowledge to casting Mary in terms of religious rather than exclusively personal decisions. It’s not that he exalts Mary—you don’t get the name Bloody Mary for nothing—and there is little that can be done to overturn nearly five centuries of bad opinion, but he gives a new way of how we can see the violent burnings and actions of her reign. He focuses more on Mary’s short marriage to Phillip II of Spain, Charles V’s son, the clergy, and the nature of her Catholic rule. After all, Mary, Phillip, and her administrators did truly believe that what they were doing was right in the name of God and their Christian faith.
The book is coming out in September, so enjoy your summertime Bloody Mary before you give pause to think about its namesake. Oh, who am I kidding?: Tomato, Tomato.
(On a final note, Henry VIII’s birthday was the same as Charles’ election: June 28. Just how intertwined could these two families be?)
Ivan Lett is Online Marketing Coordinator for Yale University Press.
Books, often carriers of cultural history, also have
a cultural history of their own. The book has played a different role in each
culture and era. The Book
in the Renaissance, by Andrew Pettegree, examines the first 150 years
after the invention of print. As it were, books played more than just a role in
pleasure, but were deeply interwoven with politics, religion and economics of
the time as well.
Nor was this a unique
phenomenon, for even now, the importance of books is up for debate. There has
been a lot of talk about how the digital age will affect the future of books
and publishing, with the BBC
News recently weighing in. Although it takes the stance that books in print
may be faced with a grim future, others believe that the art of reading still
Criticisms about reading
since the advent of the internet have also emerged, lamenting that the internet
has ruined people’s attention spans. This has generated a movement called “slow
reading”, one that values the idea of taking time and reading thoughtfully. The Guardian
discusses how for the true “slow reader”, nothing can replace a real, bound
Pettegree’s first chapter talks about the book before print, during a time when
we may be worrying about the book after print. After discussing the invention
of the press, he moves on to talk about consolidation – how the book became a
part of the culture. But that’s not all, for the next sections discuss conflict
and the new world that evolved from books.
Print technology may be
rendered obsolete in a matter of years, but books have survived even before the
dawn of printing. The Book in the
Renaissance offers up a unique history on an invention that some have often
taken for granted.
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Writing for the New York Times Book Review, Lewis Hyde reviewed The Craftsman by Richard Sennett. He explains the book's ideas, saying that he enjoyed "the companionship of its inquiring intelligence." Hyde goes on to tell the readers, "There is much to learn here." Read the entire review here.
Defining craftsmanship far more broadly than "skilled manual labor," Richard Sennett maintains that the computer programmer, the doctor, the artist, and even the parent and citizen engage in a craftsman's work. Craftsmanship names the basic human impulse to do a job well for its own sake, says the author, and good craftsmanship involves developing skills and focusing on the work rather than ourselves. In this thought-provoking book, one of our most distinguished public intellectuals explores the work of craftsmen past and present, identifies deep connections between material consciousness and ethical values, and challenges received ideas about what constitutes good work in today’s world.
Click here to listen to an interview with Richard Sennett on the Yale Press Podcast. View the table of contents, or read an excerpt from The Craftsman.
In an article on Wall Street-bound graduates and their nervousness about the recession, Louise Story of the New York Times asked Yale Press author Steve Fraser. Fraser, author of Wall Street: America's Dream Palace, also teaches an undergraduate seminar on Wall Street at the University of Pennsylvania.
In the beginning of the semester, Mr. Fraser noticed that students seemed to think the housing crisis was unrelated to their goals in finance and was caused mostly by irresponsible borrowers. But after the collapse of Bear Sterns, he said, they had "a great deal more sympathy for people who have already been affected by this crisis.
"There’s a sense in the class now that things are more worrying, that this may affect them."
Read the entire New York Times article here. Click here to listen to an interview with Fraser on the Yale Press Podcast.
Wall Street recounts the colorful history of America’s love-hate relationship with Wall Street. Steve Fraser frames his fascinating analysis around the roles of four iconic Wall Street types—the aristocrat, the confidence man, the hero, and the immoralist—all recurring figures who yield surprising insights about how the nation has wrestled, and still wrestles, with fundamental questions of wealth and work, democracy and elitism, greed and salvation. Spanning the years from the first Wall Street panic of 1792 to the dot.com bubble-and-bust and Enron scandals of our own time, the book is full of stories and portraits of such larger-than-life figures as J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Michael Milken. Fraser considers the conflicting attitudes of ordinary Americans toward the Street and concludes with a brief rumination on the recent notion of Wall Street as a haven for Everyman.
Tuesday's episode of NPR's Planet Money features an extended piece on the booming spice economy of the Middle Ages, which seems to hold some of the earliest lessons in global economics. Always in high demand in the West, spices were not only used to enliven the bland European cuisine of the time, but were also held as status symbols by royalty, who consumed them as ostentatiously as present-day moguls might quaff Cristal.
The introduction to Paul Freedman's Out of the East describes such displays of indulgence by referencing the series of lavish banquets that marked the marriage of Duke George “the Rich” of Bavaria with Princess Jadwiga of Poland in 1476. According to official records, the proceedings required "386 pounds of pepper, 286 of ginger, 207 of saffron, 205 of cinnamon, 105 of cloves, and a mere [sic] 85 pounds of nutmeg." Rich, indeed.
To read more about how spices became symbols of beauty, affluence, taste, and grace, click here to read the full introduction from Out of the East.