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Politics and the nation is an easy going political narrative of the period from about 1450 to 1660 in English history. There is a big social change at the root of Loades’ story. In the beginning English households did not merely have the right to own weapons, they were obliged to do so to be able to serve at the monarchs pleasure in war or against rebels and criminals. Given the background level of distemper due to ill health and the absence of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, quarrels easily turned violent, arguments were cutting and rebuttals pointed, more than feelings were hurt. Great Lords would retain numbers of men, provide them with suits of clothes, or badges, to attend them and be ready to fight, equally the Lord would defend his retainers against insult or injury. These retainers were not simply tall or muscular fellows, Handy with swords, but were of all sorts, including merchants or legal officials, and they would use their influence to prevent the courts from taking action against them. Eventually over decades monarchs ground down on these practises through intensive interest in the courts, criminalising the keeping of retainers and generally striving to provide good lordship and protection to everybody. This had the affect of increasing costs of warfare, but also Loades argues as the countryside became more peaceful and less used to violence they also became somewhat jittery and prone to overreact to fears of bloody-thirsty Catholics taking up arms.There is a tendency of this account to be London-centric, even Parliament-centric, which is a problem when the Lordship ran eventually over three kingdoms: England, Ireland and then Scotland, however some attention is given to the particular issues of the Welsh marches and the border region with Scotland. On the otherhand since about ten percent of the population lived in London during this period and no other town had more than 15,000 inhabitants ( give or take) this is perhaps not wildly unreasonable.The other main theme is money, specifically the inadequacy of medieval levels of income and administration relative to the modern needs of a self- respecting Renaissance Prince, partly this is because being seen to be a good lord required giving away valuable assets partly because being King or Queen was inherently expensive.On the downside this part of a series of histories of England which deliberately split the social and economic history from the political, this is the pure politics volume and fairly one can doubt if this is a reasonable project, religion and enclosures do not recognise such divisions in this period. Amusingly we end were we begin with a restored monarchy, expect there is now a new conception of nationhood, shaped by carving off those who were perceived as not belonging ie everyone who wasnt a member of the Church of England -(Linda Colley is more through going on this). Sadly the enforced separation of state and society in this volume means that we miss out on Caxton, Hans Holbein, blind John Milton, wild Bill Shakespeare and all the rest of the luminaries of that period, still as an accessible volume on the Tudors and early Stuarts, it rattles along at a fair pace.

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