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Richard II (The English Monarchs Series) Paperback – May 11, 1999

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Product Details

  • Series: The English Monarchs Series
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (May 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300078757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300078756
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Saul (medieval history, Univ. of London) has written several books on the medieval period (e.g., England in Europe, St. Martin's, 1994). His latest work stays close to primary sources, which means it is a biography of the reign of Richard II but not necessarily a biography of the man. Saul does provide a chapter at the end on Richard as an individual, with supporting evidence for his theories. The author assumes some knowledge of the era but writes clearly except when, at times, he refers to an individual by a variety of names. Still, all audiences will be able to enjoy this work.?Julie Still, Rutgers Univ., Camden, N.J.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Only in discussion of religion and Lollardy do we get anything like an analysis of the background.
John Cragg
It is not the best-organized book I have read; there were several times I had to re-read for 4-5 pages to make sure I was following the narrative properly.
Nigel Saul's book is an excellent read in those sections that narrate the historical flow of events.
Daniel Putman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By chefdevergue VINE VOICE on April 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you are not well-versed in this period of English history, then reading this book could be a struggle at times. It is not the best-organized book I have read; there were several times I had to re-read for 4-5 pages to make sure I was following the narrative properly. Also, the author assumes that the reader knows the subject thoroughly. Do you know the difference between the Great Seal, the Privy Seal and the signet? The difference between scutage and amercements? That the names Duke of Lancaster, Prince John, John of Gaunt and Gaunt all refer to the same person (sometimes several being used on the same page)? The difference of a "grant in fee simple" and a "grant in tail male?" The author assumes you do, for he offers no details. If you are in the dark about this, you will remain utterly confused at times with what appears to be meaningless terminology.

Also, echoing another reviewer, the author bases a number of assumptions on some rather sparse documentation. He may make an assertion and in the next paragraph observe that there is virtually nothing in the historical record to indicate one way or another what exactly was going on. Is the author then simply guessing at times? This is a little troubling for the reader.
The narrative can get unnecessarily tangled at time as the author gets bogged down in what seems to me to be minute details. This was a compelling period of English history, a prelude to the War of the Roses, where one witnessed a struggle for power between Parliament and the King, as well the struggle within the royal family itself, a struggle that would erupt more violently two generations later. This story would seem to provide a gripping narrative, but at times the prose is positively leaden. Be warned, the words do not flow gracefully from Saul's pen.

If you are able to stick with it, you will find this book to quite informative, but I cannot believe that this book could not have been a bit more accessible.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By John Cragg on November 16, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard II was a fascinating and enigmatic character, whose reign was marked by his being dethroned not once, but essentially twice. This in addition to Richard's being faced with that oddity, a nearly successful popular uprising. Thse two losses of power constitute about as disastrous a pattern as any ruler can produce. What the sources of the turmoil were and why Richard was so spectacularly unsuccessful at dealing with them should make for an absorbing tale. Unfortunately, Nigel Saul is good neither at telling the events of the reign nor in laying out the nature of Richard's character.
It may be no easy task to build up a character on the basis of the fragmentary and often very dry records left by medieval English society. However, as some fine volumes in this series illustrate, this task can be accomplished with aplomb, even by authors working with even weaker material than Saul has and with a less gripping tale that they might tell. Saul falls into a number of traps. The most blatant of these is his repeated failure to distinguish trivia from significant facts. He also fails to distinguish speculation from well-supported fact and makes little attempt to eschew the former as much as possible. Furthermore, Saul repeatedly presumes detailed knowledge of certain aspects of the individuals and situations under consideration to a quite unreasonable extent for anything purporting to be a book for anyone other than an expert. At other times he belabors matters that need little exposition for anyone with much familiarity with the subject.
The presumption of knowledge is most annoying when Saul is discussing taxation. Saul never explains what a "fifteenth and tenth" was; though he has Parliament grant it to the King repeatedly in the early going.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Frank Wiswall on May 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
Richard II has been a controversial figure from his deposition from the English throne in 1399 to our own day. Like his later fifteenth-century namesake Richard III, interpretations of him and of his motives have varied widely, and were dominated for much of the twentieth century both by Shakespeare's play and by the image of the mad autocrat first painted by Anthony Steel in his "Richard II" (1941). Now Professor Nigel Saul has given us what will deservedly be the standard life for at least the next half-century. This work, first published three years ago, forms part of an outstanding series of lives of the English kings, and is every bit the equal of the best of them, from Warren's "Henry II" (1973) to Barlow's "William Rufus" (1983). Saul presents Richard as a man thrust, at the tender age of ten, into an office and a domestic and international situation which he could not fully grasp, and forced to do the impossible: fill the gargantuan shoes of both his grandfather, Edward III, and his father, the outstanding warrior Edward the Black Prince. The uncertainty of Anglo-French relations during this stage of the Hundred Years War, and the expectations of Richard's magnates and subjects - that he would be a military leader and vigorous defender of the English position in France like his predecessors - bedeviled the king during his minority and placed constraints upon his behavior which he found unbearable.Read more ›
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