There is no more haunting, compelling period in Britain's history than the later middle ages. The extraordinary kings - Edward III and Henry V the great warriors, Richard II and Henry VI, tragic inadequates killed by their failure to use their power, and Richard III, the demon king. The extraordinary events - the Black Death that destroyed a third of the population, the Peasants' Revolt, the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Agincourt. The extraordinary artistic achievements - the great churches, castles and tombs that still dominate the landscape, the birth of the English language in The Canterbury Tales. For the first time in a generation, a historian has had the vision and confidence to write a spell-binding account of the era immortalised by Shakespeare's history plays. THE HOLLOW CROWN brilliantly brings to life for the reader a world we have long lost - a strange, Catholic, rural country of monks, peasants, knights and merchants, almost perpetually at war - but continues to define so much of England's national myth.
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Miri Rubin is Professor of History at Queen Mary, University of London
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