There is a piece of comparative / journalistic history in The Independent here. In it Professor Kevin Dutton argues that “Henry scores 174 on a “psychopathic spectrum” which starts at 168 (the “average” male scores 112). In The Wisdom of Psychopaths, out in paperback this autumn, Dutton looks at 10 historical figures, including Winston Churchill and Charles Darwin. The Tudor king is his only “bona fide” example: Henry scores highly for emotional detachment and cold-blooded ruthlessness, which Dutton says are characteristics of “dangerous psychopaths”.
Perhaps, and the key point for this research is that there is criteria for this comparative analysis. By instinct however the historian should always be careful when drawing judgements across time and culture. It is a great tool to develop analysis, but as the History Society found out last week when we looked at Ivan the Terrible, it has plenty of pitfalls.
A classic Early Modern example of this is how we should judge the burnings of “Bloody Mary”. Revisionist work on the reign of Mary (such as The Stripping of the altars by Eamon Duffy – I have a copy you can borrow if you want) present avery different picture of the English Counter Reformation.
Read the article and see what you think for yourself.