Book Review: How to be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Everyday Life by Ruth Goodman

Genre: History,  nonfiction
Publisher: Penguin
Pub date: 7 July 2016
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Tudor era encompasses some of the greatest changes in our history. But while we know about the historical dramas of the times – most notably in the court of Henry VIII – what was life really like for a commoner like you or me? To answer this question, the renowned “method historian” and historical advisor to the BBC Ruth Goodman has slept, washed and cooked as the Tudors did – so you don’t have to! She is your expert guide to this fascinating era, drawing on years of practical historical study to show how our ancestors coped with everyday life, from how they slept to how they courted. Using a vast range of sources, she takes you back to the time when soot was used as toothpaste and the “upper crust” of bread was served to the wealthier members of the house. Exploring how the Tudors learnt, danced and even sat and stood according to the latest fashion, she reveals what it all felt, smelt and tasted like, from morning until night. The real Wolf Hall – a time traveller’s guide to daily life in Tudor England

I’d heard such good things about this book that I really wanted to read it.

We all know the stories of the Tudors whether it is the basic fact that Henry VIII had six wives or knowledge of ‘Bloody’ Mary and Gloriana but what about the regular people?

Whilst we may be able to read about what people did for a living, food and drink this book has the unique added bonus that Goodman has actually experienced these things! It is wonderfully refreshing to read someone’s actual experience of Tudor life such as sleeping on straw, cleaning the rushes and trying the food etc to give a personal opinion as well as the wealth of information Goodman portrays through her writing.

The prose is easily read and there is humour throughout from Goodman’s experiences, making this a wonderful book to learn about everyday life in the Tudor period. It made me very grateful for the comforts and technology we currently have.

The book is told in the form of a day from dawn to dusk leading us through a day of a normal person, giving alternate options depending on their vocation and gender.
It is easy to see that the people did not have an easy life, worked extremely long hours, had their clothing dictated to them according to rank but there was also the opportunity for fun. It is interesting to note that a lot of the pastimes are shared across all ranks from royalty to common people including bloodsports, card games and sports. The chapters are very clear so if you were only interested in one aspect e.g. dinner or education then you can easily do this but I’d recommend reading the whole book as it’s brilliant and is very clearly the result of much research and experiments by Goodman.

The bibliography has given me much more reading material, I am always happy to see a good bibliography.

For anyone wishing to learn about the lives of the ordinary people in the Tudor era I would very much recommend this book. Although it gives a lot of information it is fun to read which I found made it very enjoyable to read.

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