by Nigel Jones
New York: St. Martin's Press, 2012. Pp. viii, 456.
Illus., maps, appends., biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 9780312622961
British historian Jones, better known for his work on Nazism and British authors, takes up what really is an “epic history,” the tale of the Tower of London, certainly among the most famous castles in the world.
Jones begins with the Roman defenses of Londinium, on part of which the Tower was erected by William the Conqueror. So he traces the story of the Tower from well before the Norman Conquest, with particular attention to its most important era, under the Plantagenets and the Tudors, then down to the present. Jones weaves, in a very effective manner, many threads. There is the physical evolution of the structure, and its role in English history. He also touches upon subjects as diverse as zoo keeping, Reformation ideological wars, the often bloody succession to the crown, gun founding, royal madness, maladies and mistresses, riots and wars, and right through World War II and down to the present, in which the Tower is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. Naturally, there’s along list of executions, including several kings and queens, and a number of Axis spies, and, in consequence, the place is supposedly haunted, a subject to which Jones also devotes some attention. Along the way Jones gives us many often insightful thumbnail biographies of some of the most famous, and infamous people in English history.
An entertaining read for the layman, Tower offers an excellent introduction to the history of England and will also be of interest to the more serious student of the subject.