Last night the team at Yale University Press attended the book launch of one of the most exciting titles of the season. John Goodall’s The English Castle: 1066-1650 is a towering achievement. Goodall’s book is both a vividly illustrated architectural study and a sumptuously written account of English history in the context of its most iconic buildings. As the editor of Country Life Magazine stated, ‘it is not a book on the English Castle, but THE book on the English Castle’.
The event was held at the Tower of London, in full view of the magnificent White Tower, which served as a perfect setting for a launch of such a comprehensive study of these historic buildings. Indeed, walking through the grounds it was hard not to feel a sense of awe at the significance of the surroundings. Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, was tried and executed here, on Tower Green. Sir Thomas More was imprisoned in the Tower for refusing to accept the king as Head of the Church. From William the Conqueror onwards, the Tower has served as the impregnable stronghold where the most important figures of British history lived, reigned and in numerous cases, died.
It is an excellent example of what a building can tell us, not just about the lives of those important figures that came before us, but of the context of those lives. In The English Castle John Goodall illustrates how this context altered over six centuries, describing the changing roles of castles from the Norman Conquest in 1066 through to the civil wars of the 1640s, whether in warfare, politics, domestic living, or governance.
The book launch itself was an enormous success, with a packed house of guests including Vikram Seth, Jools Holland and Lloyd Grossman.
We will be posting an exclusive article by John Goodall on this blog soon, where he will discuss the inspiration and challenges of undertaking such an ambitious project.
The English Castle is published this month by Yale University Press.