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Fatal FictionsCrime and Investigation in Law and Literature$
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Alison L. LaCroix, Richard H. McAdams, and Martha C. Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190610784

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190610784.001.0001

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A Man for All Treasons

A Man for All Treasons

Crimes By and Against the Tudor State in the Novels of Hilary Mantel

Chapter:
(p.65) 4 A Man for All Treasons
Source:
Fatal Fictions
Author(s):

Alison L. LaCroix

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190610784.003.0004

Chapter 4 discusses the crime of treason as depicted in Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which complicate the standard view of Thomas Cromwell as, at best, a Tudor-era fixer and, at worst, a murderer and torturer. LaCroix claims that Mantel’s Cromwell is instead the industrious creator of the modern administrative state. In this characterization Mantel follows the scholarly path of Geoffrey Elton, who argued that Cromwell reformed English government by replacing personal rule with modern bureaucracy and systematizing the royal finances. Both accounts rebut the simple image of Cromwell as criminal. But LaCroix argues that Mantel’s Cromwell continues to represent two modern species of crime and perpetrator: crimes against the state, in the form of treason, and crimes by the state, in the form of espionage and torture. Because the crimes depicted presuppose the existence of the modern administrative state itself, Mantel’s and Elton’s modernizing Cromwell may not be as distinct from Bolt’s devious Cromwell as the competing accounts would suggest.

Keywords:   Hilary Mantel, Thomas Cromwell, Tudor England, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, treason, administrative state, torture

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