Review: A Great and Terrible King, Marc Morris

Rating: 3 out of 5

I like what Marc Morris writes — his style is readable, his thoughts proceed in an orderly manner. The last is especially important as unlike his book on John, the story of Edward proceeds in a clear chronological sequence. This is both a blessing and a curse: the overarching thesis seems to be that Edward wasn’t as bad as history makes him out to be. And, yet, the older he gets, the more absolute he wants to reign and the more tyrannical he comes through as well.

I think that the emphasis could have been somewhere else though of course the sub-title, “A Great and Terrible King” was actually chosen for this reason. It is also really good to see a picture from the time of Edward’s father and to see how that must have affected the child when he grew up — the person of the king would not be something to made fun of!

What I found most infuriating was how Mr Morris breached some topics (such as the king using Papal funds for finishing civil wars) and yet never seemed to finish with them: what happened, were there any repercussions? That’s a lot that is implied and I generally prefer my narrative history a bit clearer. This wasn’t true for a lot of the topics, and the author had managed to include several I didn’t think belonged (such as medieval economics and interest rate theory) yet others were not covered in the same depth. I think, however, that this is also a good reflection on the author as his newer histories have definitely been better than this, the first, of his works.


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