Life of Thomas More, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Thomas More is one of the great figures in English history.

Pre-eminent as a courtier and as a humanist, a friend to Henry VIII and the author of Utopia, More's life and career epitomise the great transformation of England in the space of 35 years.

Ackroyd investigates the paradox of this 'man for all seasons': the man of the world who travelled across Europe to negotiate on behalf of his king, and the unworldly man who's careful silence on the matter of Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn would lead to his disgrace and execution.

A magnificent achievement, The Life of Thomas More gives us a rich portrait of the man and the social and cultural world in which he lived.


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This is a rich and erudite biography, replete with literary and theological references. As would be expected from this author, the theme of More as a Londoner is brought out quite clearly. The overriding theme, however, is of More as essentially a man of his time, the last great representative of late Medieval Catholicism, with a deeply ingrained belief in order, harmony and peaceful uniformity as represented by the collective piety of his religion, still at this early stage shared by the great bulk of the population of London and most of the country. That explains his hatred and violence towards the heretics whom he saw as disturbers of all order and civilisation in the world, not just of the Catholic church; it is the aspect of his life that is most disturbing to the modern reader, seeming to conflict harshly with his great conscience and the heroic nature of his death. But he must be seen in the context of his time when many great educated men on all sides of the religious divide believed in causing the deaths of their opponents to save those opponents' souls. A great, if not easy read, though I felt it lost its way a bit in the middle.

Review by

A good biography, placing in the man in his own context, and dispelling some of the myths regarding the reasons for More's execution. Robert Bolt's play "A Man for all Seasons" is far more to the modern taste of a man defying the tyrant in defence of liberty. Ackroyd has replaced the controversy with its real terms.

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