Monday, May 8, 2017

Stuart Britain: A Very Short Introduction (Review)




And so I am once more back reviewing yet another Very Short Introduction (VSI) title. This time it concerns Stuart Britain; now, this is not medievalism. Though I read through and reviewed The Tudors: VSI on the basis of understanding where the medieval period went after the Arthurian and Chaucerian hoopla, I can’t quite claim this for a period as late of Stuartism. But I can claim this: I love to learn and am always intrigued by how the modern emerged from the pre-modern (or in this case, the early modern). So, with that being said, how does this title factor in? In short, well.

                When I reviewed The Tudors VSI, one of the things I noted was the shift in tone, how the author infused his work with more of a playful and dramatic thread. For better or worse, this has been removed for this volume. Instead, what we see is a return to rigid formalism and an attention to detail. Though I did not read this as dry at any point in my consumption, I do concede that not everyone would see it that way.

                John Morill’s investigation of Stuart Britain is superb. He hammers in on the details needed to give the most basic overview, and yet, it feels as though he is building something humbler than a mere introductory primer; almost as though he is crafting a complicated thesis on the period itself. I felt this way because of Morill’s attention to facts and how the economic and religious played decisive roles in the Stuart epoch. Indeed, at times, Morill sounded as though his approach was Marxian due to his keen materialistic eye. Whether or not he is a Marxist if moot, of course, but if I feel that a text holds an in-depth approach normally reserved for the Marxian critic, within a non-Marxian text, then I am happy to say that this short text succeeds surprisingly well as an introduction.

                So, all that said, I do not have much else to say on this VSI. The author does his job well, it is edited professionally, and each chapter is built to accommodate the newcomer and the advanced in need of a refresher. I feel like a broken record or a parrot, but, if one is in search of a short introductory primer to the Stuart period, then this should be high on your list; if for nothing less, it will serve you well as a launching platform to other, grander, tracts of academic writing.

Stuart Britain: A Very Short Introduction
John Morill
99 pages. Published by Oxford U.P. $11.95 (Paperback). 2000.

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