Guy, John (Alexander) 1949-

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GUY, John (Alexander) 1949-

(J. A. Guy)


Born January 16, 1949. Education: University of Cambridge, M.A., Ph.D.


Office—Clare College, Cambridge CB2 1TL, England. Agent—Emma Parry, Fletcher and Parry LLC, The Carriage House, 121 East 17th St., New York, NY 10003. E-mail—[email protected].


Author, educator, and historical consultant. Selwyn College, Cambridge, England, research fellow, 1970-73; University of California, Berkeley, visiting lecturer in British history, 1977; University of Bristol, Bristol, England, lecturer in modern British history, 1978-82, reader in British history, 1982-90; British Academy, London, England, Mark Fitch research reader, 1987-89; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, John Hinkley visiting professor, 1990; University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, Richard L. Turner Professor of Humanities and professor of history, 1990-92; University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland, professor of modern history, 1992-2002, head of school of history and international relations, 1992-94, vice principal, 1996-97. St. Leonard's College, provost, 1994-97, honorary professor, 2002—; Lever-hulme Trust, research fellow, 1997-98; Clare College, Cambridge, visiting fellow, 2002-03, fellow, 2003—. London Public Record Office, assistant keeper of public records, 1973-78; consultant to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).


York Prize for published work in legal history; fellow, Royal Historical Society.


(Under name J. A. Guy) The Cardinal's Court: The Impact of Thomas Wolsey in Star Chamber, Rowman and Littlefield (Totowa, NJ), 1977.

(Under name J. A. Guy) The Public Career of Sir Thomas More, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1980.

((Under name J. A. Guy; editor, with H. G. Beale) Law and Social Change in British History: Papers Presented to the Bristol Legal History Conference, 14-17 July 1981, Humanities Press (Atlantic Highlands, NJ), 1984.

(Under name J. A. Guy) The Court of Star Chamber and Its Records to the Reign of Elizabeth I, H.M. S.O. (London, England), 1985.

Christopher St. German on Chancery and Statute, Selden Society (London, England), 1985.

(With Alistair Fox) Reassessing the Henrician Age: Humanism, Politics, and Reform, 1500-1550, Basil Blackwell (New York, NY), 1986.

Tudor England, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1988.

(With J. S. Morrill) Oxford History of Britain, Volume 3: Tudors and Stuarts, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1992.

(Editor) The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

The Tudor Monarchy, Arnold (New York, NY), 1997.

(Coeditor) Politics, Religion, and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1997.

(Coeditor) Dismembering the Body Politic: Partisan Politics in England's Towns, 1650-1730, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1998.

Politics, Law, and Counsel in Tudor and Early Stuart England, Ashgate Variorum (Burlington, VT), 2000.

Thomas More, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.

The Tudors, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.

My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots, Fourth Estate (London, England), 2004, published as Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, Houghton Mifflin Co. (Boston, MA), 2004.

Coeditor of books in the "Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History" series.

Contributor to books, including The Reign of Henry VIII: Politics, Policy, and Piety, edited by Diarmaid MacCulloch, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995. Contributor of articles and book reviews to numerous publications.


British historian and educator John Guy, who often writes as J. A. Guy, has produced many books about medieval and British history. While most of his books are about prominent figures in English history, including King Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scots, Guy also writes about politics, religion, and law in early England.

Guy edited and contributed to The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade, which contains thirteen essays presented at a 1991 conference at the Folger Shakespeare Library. The book's focus is on events that took place during the period considered the "second reign" of Elizabeth. Ben Lowe, writing in Historian, noted that Guy explains that "with the death of several council members in the 1580s and 1590s, we enter a second reign of Elizabeth, which is characterized by social and political strife, renewed faction, and a loss of control by the queen, even if the monarchy itself was moving toward an 'imperial supremacy.'" Notes and Queries contributor Andrew Hadfield commented that Elizabeth's first reign, prior to 1585, "was a time of relative success when the queen was able to use her feminine wiles at court and skill at diplomacy to good effect; the second, lasting from 1585 until her death in 1603, was the story of economic disaster, dearth, increasing censorship, unrest, religious intolerance, insularity and fear of the unknown, frustration, and near disaster in Ireland."

The Reign of Elizabeth I examines the drastic changes in royal patronage from rewards derived from the sovereign's own estate to commonwealth-financed rewards such as monopolies and export concessions. The book analyzes political life at Elizabeth's royal court and describes the realities of life for the majority of residents in Elizabethan England, including "years of faulty harvests [and] suspiciously corresponding upsurges in crime and capital punishment," noted Steven W. May in Renaissance Quarterly. The Reign of Elizabeth I also traces the decline of literary patronage at the end of the queen's reign. Guy's own essay examines how the clergy upheld Elizabeth's imperial theocratic power even when it conflicted with civil and canon law and the precepts of the Magna Carta. Diarmaid MacCulloch, writing in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, called the book "a well-rounded and remarkably homogeneous view" of the second reign period. Lowe commented that "the scholarship is impeccable throughout this volume," while Hadfield called it a "splendid—and timely—volume" with "a whole host of fresh insights" on Elizabeth's reign.

Thomas More is Guy's detailed study of the life, thought, and reputation of the famed sixteenth-century English statesman and author who was executed by Henry VIII and later canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Guy asserts that much of what has been accepted about More, from as early as More's own lifetime, is false. Guy "has scrutinized the layers of complex mythology surrounding this man, and systematically removed the prejudice and propaganda," commented Lucy Wooding in English Historical Review. Wooding also noted that "the precious image of Thomas More as the saintly but domesticated scholar dragged reluctantly into politics and martyred by a lustful tyrant is rocked on its pedestal." Robert Coogan, writing in Renaissance Quarterly, observed that Guy covers issues such as More's reluctance to become a member of Henry VIII's court, as well as his roles as "father, lawyer, social reformer, and politician; his hunting of heretics, and his beliefs on royal supremacy and papal power." Guy posits that More's life story has repeatedly been co-opted and exploited for political reasons. The depiction of More as a "Man for All Seasons" initiated the process of mythologizing More that began in the man's own lifetime—a process that More may have actually begun deliberately. "Thanks to Guy's incomparable knowledge of More and Tudor England, historians will now aim to dispel the confusion and tell the story of the man behind the myth," remarked Coogan. Guy's Thomas More is a "devastating illustration of how we construct history for our own purposes, and yet a superb example of how we might still try to get it right," Wooding stated.

In Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart—published in England as My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots—Guy explores in detail the history of the doomed queen of Scots. Library Journal critic Isabel Coates commented that the book "attempts to redress many long-held misconceptions about Mary" and to demonstrate that she was an able political opponent beset by plots hatched by Catholic and French powers.

Guy tracks Stuart's life as the wife, then widow, of the French dauphin. Returning to Scotland to take her place as queen there, she was eventually executed by Elizabeth I. Guy "delves deep into previously little-mined archival evidence," noted Brad Hooper in Booklist. "With forensic precision," Guy "disentangles Mary from the cords of contemporary controversy," remarked Derek Wilson in History Today. Wilson also praised Guy's depiction of the hostilities between Mary and Elizabeth I, remarking that "Guy leads the reader masterfully through the intricacies of the relationship between the two queens."

In Queen of Scots, Guy analyzes the so-called Casket Letters, which alleged a connection between Mary and the death of her second husband, Lord Darnley. Guy found transcripts missed by other historians and concluded that the letters were a patchwork forgery using fragments of genuine letters melded with fabricated epistles. A Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that ultimately, "it was not flaws in Mary's character but the entire constellation of circumstances that doomed her role in Scotland and led to her execution." A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that the book is "spirited and satisfying." Wilson declared the book to be "a work of considerable scholarship which reads like a popular piece of narrative history."



Debrett's People of Today, Debrett's Peerage, Ltd. (London, England), 2004.


Booklist, March 1, 2004, Brad Hooper, review of Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, p. 1129.

English Historical Review, September, 2001, Lucy Wooding, review of Thomas More, p. 948.

Historian, winter, 1998, Ben Low, review of The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade, p. 431.

History Today, February, 1996, C. S. L. Davies, review of The Reign of Elizabeth I, p. 57; May, 2004, Derek Wilson, review of My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots, p. 68.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History, October, 1996, Diarmaid MacCulloch, review of The Reign of Elizabeth I, p. 747.

Journal of Modern History, March, 2000, Michael Mendle, review of Politics, Religion, and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford, p. 186; March, 2001, C. B. Phillips, review of Dismembering the Body Politic: Partisan Politics in England's Towns, 1650-1730, p. 154.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2004, review of Queen of Scots, p. 164.

Library Journal, April 15, 2004, Isabel Coates, review of Queen of Scots, p. 95.

New York Times, April 11, 2004, Gerard Kilroy, review of Queen of Scots, section 7, p. 11.

Notes and Queries, September, 1997, Andrew Hadfield, review of The Reign of Elizabeth I, p. 390.

Publishers Weekly, February 23, 2004, review of Queen of Scots, p. 64.

Renaissance Quarterly, summer, 1998, Steven W. May, review of The Reign of Elizabeth I, p. 670; autumn, 2001, Robert Coogan, review of Thomas More, p. 980.


John Guy Home Page, (August 31, 2004)., (August 31, 2004).