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Books of the Year

Posted on 21 November 2011

Edward III and The Queen's Agent nominated as Books of the Year


Two books by York historians have been recognized as books of the year.

Professor Mark Ormrod's stunning new biography of Edward III has been nominated by Simon Sebag Montefiore as one of the Telegraph's Books of the Year 2011, with Montefiore describing it as "majestically compelling."

In this illuminating biography, W. Mark Ormrod takes a deeper look at Edward to reveal the man beneath the military muscle. What emerges is Edward's clear sense of his duty to rebuild the prestige of the crown, and through military gains and shifting diplomacy, to secure a legacy for posterity. New details of the splendour of Edward's court, lavish national celebrations and innovative use of imagery establish the king's instinctive understanding of the bond between ruler and people.

With fresh emphasis on how Edward's rule was affected by his family relationships - including his roles as traumatized son, loving husband and dutiful father - Ormrod gives a valuable new dimension to our understanding of this remarkable warrior king. Michael Bennett, author of Richard III and the Revolution of 1399, describes it as "a magnificent study of Edward III and his reign, a broadly conceived, richly textured and deeply humane evocation of the king and his age."

Meanwhile, John Cooper's ground-breaking new biography of Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I's Principal Secretary and "spymaster", has been named one of's Books of the Year in the History category.

Walsingham ran a network of agents in England and Europe who provided him with information about invasions or assassination plots. He recruited likely young men and 'turned' others. He encouraged Elizabeth to make war against the Catholic Irish rebels, with extreme brutality and oversaw the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.

The Queen's Agent is a story of secret agents, cryptic codes and ingenious plots, set in a turbulent period of England's history. It is also the story of a man devoted to his queen, sacrificing his every waking hour to save the threatened English state. "With lucid scholarship and vibrant storytelling," comments Helen Castor, "John Cooper has created an engrossing portrait of the most subtle of Elizabeth's statesmen."

Mark Ormrod is a Professor in the Department of History and Academic Co-ordinator for the Arts and Humanities at the University of York. His research interests lie in the political structures and ideas of later medieval England.

  • For more information about this book, including how to get a copy, please visit the website of Yale University Press.

John Cooper is Lecturer in Early Modern History in the Department of History and the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies. He works on the political, religious and literary history of sixteenth-century Britain.