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Richard III: England's Black Legend Paperback – May 1, 1998

3.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Rev Sub edition (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140266348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140266344
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,168,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While Seward makes some convincing arguments and successfully rebuts some Ricardian explanations, he does so in a horribly pretentious manner. He makes the constant claim that Richard was unpopular, which may have been so, but he does not bother to use reliable sources to prove it. He is also guilty of using the words 'obviously' and 'plainly' while not giving the reader any inication why he thinks these things are so obvious and plain. An example of this is found when Seward states, "When speaking of Richard, Commynes uses the word 'proud' more than once. Plainly he employs it in the sense of vain glory or self delusion. Had he known the word 'hubris' he would have used that too." Be that as it may, Seward does not offer any proof as to why he believes the word 'proud' is used to mean self delusion, and his assumption that the writer would have used 'hubris' hints of Seward's own pride and arrogance. This neglect to explain basic charges runs throughout the entire book, which makes it an almost unbearable read to one simply trying to find out the truth, rather than wallow in anti-Ricardian sentiment. Almost all historians of Richard III are guilty of writing from bias, but it is not usually so suffocating as this.
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Format: Paperback
There is no more controversial subject in English history than the character and supposed crimes of Richard III. This book ultimately fails because it offers little support and the writer is not nearly objective eneough to be considered a serious historian. A historian needs to take into consideration any bias his sources may have, something Seward didn't do. All of his sources are Tudor or Lancastrian (his opponents in life), which are naturally hostile.
I actually believe Richard did kill his nephews, though I also believe he has been slandered against too much and is accused of actions he had no part of. There is too much emotion on the subject, and it is difficult to have a real debate when there are unsubstantiated polemics on the subject such as this one.
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By A Customer on March 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Innumerable books have been written about Richard III, yet there are new ones popping up almost every year. This one is unusual since it takes a hostile view on the King (otherwise most books about Richard III nowadays tend to portray him as a near saint, too kind for this world). The book is interesting and well-written. However, the author seems to be content with merely listing Richards supposed crimes; he fails to provide any sort of psychological profile. He also exaggerates a lot, for instance by stating that Richard was the worst tyrant that ever ruled England (what about Henry VIII???). The lack of proper references for numerous statements is also very irritating. Overall, a book worth reading for people interested in Richard III and the Wars of the Roses - although by no means the last word on this controversial subject.
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Format: Hardcover
I have studied numerous books on this period of history, including biographies of Richard III which paint him black, white, grey, and everything in between. I have to say that I found Desmond Seward's freely aired opinion refreshing. I disagree with him on many things (within and outside this book), and any historian's word must be taken with a few grains of salt (especially when it comes to emotionally inflammatory issues like Richard of Gloucester), but I appreciate his worth as a historian.
In the preface to this book Seward admits that he is intensely hostile to Richard. He also gives his respectful regrets to Ricardians, understanding their beliefs (from personal experience) to be truly held, though he has come to see matters differently. I find this far less disturbing than authors who swear up and down that they are unbiased, yet spend the entirety of their work manipulating the facts.
There is clear bias, a good dose of speculation (even on details like the cause of Edward of Middleham's death), and more of More and Mancini than most Ricardians enjoy. However, if you are striving to thoroughly understand the Five Hundred Years' War over Richard III, this is a fine modern portrait of the Black Legend.
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By A Customer on April 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is too one sided, and it reflects badly on the writer, rather than on the subject. As a trained historian, this book is hard to read because it is not even handed. Henry the VII would approve.
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Format: Paperback
I got this as a result of seeing Ian McKellen's film version of the Shakespearean play. It left me wanting more History as well as more Drama. I had heard that Shakespeare was essentially writing anti-Richard propaganda, since the man who defeated him, Richmond, went on to become Henry VII grandfather of Queen Elizabeth. But while the truth is no doubt more complicated than the play suggests, Seward convincingly shows that Shakespeare got the essentials right even if he did take a few liberties. He doesn't merely elucidate the character of Richard himself, but of those around him. The Woodvilles, Ann, Catesby, Tyrell, Brackenbury, the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Stanley were all real players in Richard's rise and fall, well known at the time for their victimizations through or their contributions to his tyranny. (Catesby for example was known as the Cat in a popular rhyme of the day.) Seward gives an in depth though not necessarily complete view of the constraints and shared assumptions they were operating under which eventually leads to the characterization of the King himself. It's difficult to tell how much of Richard's tyranny stemmed from the bloodthirstiness of the times he lived in, or if good really triumphed over evil at Bosworth field, and Seward makes no assertions to that effect. But he does throw into sharp relief the flaws that earned Richard his bloody reputation, and they aren't saintly ones. He is also very clear cut about which primary sources he is drawing from, Thomas More, Dominic Mancini and the Croyland Chronicler, how they culled their information, and how he reads them. I'm sure there's a wealth of information on this subject, yet I found this book to be a very satisfying introduction.
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