Books

Top 5 books on Jacobean life

Historic novelist Lucy Jago chooses the best books that illuminate what it was like to live in the early 17th century

Top 5 books about Jacobean life

"Macbeth" by irisdescence is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Award-winning writer Lucy Jago got the idea for her debut novel A Net for Small Fishes from a brief mention in a book from the London Library.

It took her on a journey of discovery, not just around the shocking 17th century public murder of the Overbury Scandal but the women surrounding it.

The book a decade to read and write, meaning the author knows a thing or two about the time surrounding the novel’s plot.

Here she outlines the best places to start if you’re keen to read up on some Jacobean history yourself.

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Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Elizabeth I was a tough act to follow and James I has suffered in her shadow. But the bisexual, peace-loving, witch-hating monarch is fascinating. For the language and preoccupations of the time, read Macbeth. Written to welcome the new monarch, Shakespeare fully indulges the king’s obsession with witchcraft and puts a positive spin on his ancestor, Banquo.

The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street by Charles Nicholl

This book creates a vivid portrait of London (and of the great bard) through meticulous detective work using every source imaginable.

A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits by Tarnya Cooper

Reveals what the better off were wearing and who was who among James’s jewel-encrusted nobility.

The Survey of London by John Stow (revised edition, 1603)

A Jacobean A-Z to the third largest capital in Europe. With his commentary, often funny, on changes or strange incidents he witnessed in his long life, the guide also includes details such as how much milk cost from the abbey of the minoresses near Aldgate – one ha’penny for three pints.

A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago is out now (Bloomsbury, £16.99)
A Net for Small Fishes
A Net for Small FIshes

Women of Fortune by Linda Levy Peck

The Jacobean era, with its plagues, scandals and tragedies, is peculiarly resonant for today’s challenges. To know how life was lived, read Women of Fortune, a compelling story of mercantile wealth, arranged marriages and heiresses who asserted their rights despite loss, imprisonment, and murder. Make way Tudors, with your Golden Age; it’s time for the darkly intriguing Jacobeans.

A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago is out now (Bloomsbury, £16.99)

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