Hilary Mantel’s coup in winning her second Man Booker Prize last week speaks not only to her distinction as a writer but also to how literature can illuminate history; Mantel’s novels about Henry VIII and his adviser Thomas Cromwell brings us into the era in which our own sensibility was forged, and hints at dangers that still lurk today. That era was a cultural watershed in the English-speaking world. For the subsequent British settlement in “New England,” and the nation it begot, the consequences were huge.
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