Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London.
Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London. Nigel Jones. Hutchinson. [pounds sterling]20.00. [vii] + 456 pages. ISBN 978-0-091-93665-5. The Tower of London dates back to 1066 when the victorious Normans started building a fortification to serve as a royal residence and a castle to awe the defeated English. Since that time it has served as a centre of government, an armoury, prison, mint, home of the Crown Jewels (since 1230) and zoo. It has also been one of the great foci of English history and to give its history the author has divided his text into two parts. The first traces the Tower's building and history up to the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh in 1618: his imprisonment there reflects the importance the Tower had gained because of its impregnability. Needless to say, Mr Jones has much on the Peasants' Revolt, the Wars of the Roses, the reign of the Tudors and the savagery of Henry VIII whom he rightly describes as 'England's Stalin, a murderous monster'. In the second part he backtracks in the Tower's history to discuss great escapes over the centuries and then resumes his chronological approach with the rest of the seventeenth century, by which time the building was mainly a prison and home of the Crown Jewels. Because of the building's role as royal prison and site of state executions, the text sometimes slides into being a history of England although the nineteenth and twentieth centuries get fairly short shrift. Having said this, the book still remains a good introduction to a fascinating and enduring part of English history. (R.G.C)