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  • Writer's pictureClay Anderson

Review of Dan Jones The Plantagenets

Dan Jones's The Plantagenets is a gripping work of narrative history that explores the colorful medieval dynasty of the Plantagenets. The book traces the history of the royal dynasty, beginning with the rise of Henry II in 1154, and covers the subsequent centuries of alternating triumph and disaster visited upon the Plantagenet family. In this book review, we will explore the strengths and weaknesses of The Plantagenets, as well as its contribution to the field of medieval history.


The main argument of Dan Jones's The Plantagenets is that the Plantagenet dynasty was a brilliant, brutal, and bloody-minded dynasty that made England what it is today. Jones traces the history of the dynasty, beginning with the rise of Henry II in 1154, and covers the subsequent centuries of alternating triumph and disaster visited upon the Plantagenet family. Jones argues that the Plantagenets were responsible for many of the political and social developments of medieval England, such as the rise of the middle class and the development of the English language. Jones also argues that the greatness of England was an accidental occurrence, rather than a planned evolution, and that the Plantagenets played a significant role in this accidental occurrence. Overall, Jones's main argument is that the Plantagenets were a crucial and fascinating dynasty that had a profound impact on the history of England.


One of the strengths of The Plantagenets is Dan Jones's skill as a storyteller. Jones is able to carry the reader along in a strong narrative and chronological vessel, making the book an engaging and entertaining read. The book offers unforgettable characters, and it's always clear whether Jones loves or hates the people that he writes about, describing key figures such as Thomas Becket or Piers Gaveston as "splendid" or "insufferably arrogant". Jones's writing style is accessible and engaging, making the book an excellent introduction to the Plantagenet dynasty for general readers.


Another strength of The Plantagenets is its focus on the political and social developments of medieval England. Jones provides a detailed account of the Plantagenet family's rise to power, as well as their struggles to maintain that power in the face of internal and external threats. Jones also explores the social and cultural changes that occurred during the Plantagenet era, such as the rise of the middle class and the development of the English language by placing the Plantagenets in their historical context, Jones is able to provide a nuanced and comprehensive account of the dynasty's impact on medieval England.


One of the weaknesses of The Plantagenets is its tendency to flit away from important figures too soon, leaving the reader keen to find out more about such marginal but important men as the mystic Peter of Wakefield and the historian Geoffrey of Monmouth. While Jones provides a detailed account of the major figures of the Plantagenet dynasty, he sometimes neglects the lesser-known figures who played an important role in the family's history.


Another weakness of The Plantagenets is its focus on the political and military history of the dynasty, to the exclusion of other important aspects of medieval life. While Jones does touch on the social and cultural changes that occurred during the Plantagenet era, he does not provide a comprehensive account of these changes. For example, Jones does not explore the role of religion in medieval England, or the impact of the Black Death on the Plantagenet dynasty. While these omissions do not detract from the book's overall quality, they do limit its scope and depth.


The Plantagenets makes a significant contribution to the field of medieval history by providing a comprehensive and engaging account of the Plantagenet dynasty. Jones's focus on the political and military history of the dynasty is particularly valuable, as it provides a detailed account of the family's rise to power and their struggles to maintain that power in the face of internal and external threats. Jones's accessible writing style and engaging narrative make the book an excellent introduction to the Plantagenet dynasty for general readers, while his detailed research and nuanced analysis make it a valuable resource for scholars of medieval history.


Dan Jones's The Plantagenets is a gripping work of narrative history that provides a detailed and engaging account of the Plantagenet dynasty. While the book has some weaknesses, such as its tendency to neglect lesser-known figures and its focus on political and military history to the exclusion of other important aspects of medieval life, it makes a significant contribution to the field of medieval history. Overall, The Plantagenets is an excellent introduction to the Plantagenet dynasty for general readers, as well as a valuable resource for scholars of medieval history.

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