Appreciating an icon: the Tower of London

Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London

Exclusive interview with author Nigel Jones and a review of his book covering the history of the Tower of London

Rating: 4 stars

By Gabrielle Pantera

“I always wanted to write about the Tower of London – the most iconic place and the oldest inhabited secular building in all England,” says Tower author Nigel Jones. “It was built by William the Conqueror after he captured England in 1066, and its still in use today.”

Historian Nigel Jones writes a gripping account showing the historical importance of the Tower of London. Jones uses many sources for his facts. There are 16 pages of photographs. As you read you can see the evolution of the Tower and all the different uses it had. This is perfect for any Anglophile who loves the architectural history of Britain. Jones writing is smooth and it almost reads like a novel the way he weaves the history of the Tower together.

“Encapsulating 1,000 years of history in the covers of a single book isn’t easy,” says Jones. “And the Tower has such a rich history – it’s the story of all England in a nutshell really. It’s harder knowing what to leave out than what to put in. But I’ve been fascinated by history from an early age, so it was a labor of love and I knew quite a lot before I started.”

“The Tower itself has surprisingly few original documents,” says Jones. “There’s more at the National Archives in Kew, London, an amazing amount now on the Internet, (early chronicles and so forth), and there’s a wonderful American publisher named Kessinger who print a huge range of hard-to-find books on demand. I got two rare early histories of the Tower, one written in 1830, from them.”

Jones was surprised by how many people are as fascinated with the Tower as he is. “With three million visitors a year its the UK’s top tourist attraction, bar none,” says Jones. “It’s been a prison to the elite, torture chamber, castle, armoury, jewel house where the Queen’s Crown Jewels are kept, observatory, record office, London’s zoo, a Royal Mint and much more. Kings and queens have been murdered there. It’s full of ghost and mysteries, the scene of great escapes; and the last person to die there was shot as recently as WW2 – he was a German spy called Josef Jakobs. Almost anyone who’s anyone in English history has been associated with this one building.”

I have written six previous books,” says Jones. “All history or biography ranging from WW1 to Nazi Germany, and lives of the writers Rupert Brooke and Patrick Hamilton. My problem is that I have such a wide range of interests that I’m hard to pigeonhole, but basically modern European and US history and literature.”

“I’m working on 1914 a study of the year World War One broke out and changed the world,” says Jones. “I’m also planning a sort of sequel to Tower titled Palace: an epic history of Britain’s Royal residences.”

Jones was born in Woking, Surrey – a few miles south-west of London and currently lives in Lewes.

Jones is slightly techno-phobic. “I rely on agents and publishers for internet stuff,” says Jones. “I am the founder, director and guide for a small firm that takes clients on historical holidays in Europe. Our wonderful website not built by me is www.historicaltrips.com

Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London by Nigel Jones . Hardcover, 464 pages, Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (October 2, 2012). Language: English, ISBN: 9780312622961 $35.00