Written by Ellis Ian Fields

Monday, 13 September 2010

image for History Review: Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham and the birth of modern espionage, by Stephen Budiansky. A Tudor house. Like Walsingham would have know. (sack the picture researcher - ed.)

Can we trace our modern MI5/6 back to this puritan statesman?

Ken Lucid writes:

I'll be straight… they wanted me to review this new book about German cultural progress in the 18th to 20th centuries, The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution and the 20th Century, by Peter Watson. But if you think the title's a mouthful well get this - it's nearly a thousand pages long!

Well, mush, I only got it last Wednesday and if you think I can spend all my time just reading one book, you've got another think coming. I'm one busy geezer.

I'll review it when I'm good and ready.

(Phew - catching up with these reviews can be tough. This one's a couple of years old.)

So, anyway. Walsingham. He's great, isn't he?

Did you see him in that movie with Cate Blanchett about Elizabeth I? What was it called? Oh yeah… Elizabeth.

Anyway, the Machiavelli-quoting Walsingham was played by that Australian actor… not Russell Crowe, no… Geoffrey Rush - that's him. Him out of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Tailor of Panama. Dead good. (Also in Tailor, James Bond guy Pierce Brosnan being an absolute bastard!)

Anyway, it's not often you can knock off a biography in a couple of sittings. You can with this - it's not a long book, which makes a change around here, I can tell you. You should see the book about the 30 Years War I had to read recently. Bloody Huge!

Budiansky (a Yank, I guess from reading his sleeve note - I don't know him) makes a good fist of evoking the paranoia surrounding the Queen (you know, Mary Queen of Scots, Catholic plots, Spanish Armada...) and how Walsingham managed to keep her safe with his secret service. Yeah, it's not half bad.

So. I'm off for a couple of weeks before all the nonsense starts round here again. Maybe I'll do that Germany book when I get back.


Ken Lucid is Professor of Modern History at the University of Thames Valley East.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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