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The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women (Hardback)

P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 16th Century P&S History > Medieval World > Medieval History P&S History > Royal History Women of History

By Amy Licence
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 288
Illustrations: 35 mono
ISBN: 9781399083829
Published: 13th March 2023



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This retelling of the sixteenth century introduces the reader to a gallery of amazing women, from queens to commoners, who navigated the patriarchal world in memorable and life-changing ways. Amy Licence has scoured the records from Europe and beyond to compile this testament to female lives and achievements, telling the stories of mistresses and martyrs, witches and muses, pirates and jesters, doctors and astronomers, escapees and murderesses, colonists and saints.

Read about the wife of astrologer John Dee, the women who inspired Michelangelo, the jester who saved the life of Henry IV of France, the beloved mistress of the Sultan Suleiman the Great, the wife of Ivan the Terrible, whose murder unleashed terror, set against the everyday lives of those women who did not make the history books.

Introducing a number of new faces, this book will delight those who are looking to broaden their knowledge on the sixteenth century and celebrate the lost women of the past.

This was such a fascinating read that I found hard to put down.. The author has clearly carried out extensive research and it clearly shows. What I found so interesting was the stories of ordinary women as well as the more famous ones that we know about. A great read that I know I will read again.

NetGalley, T B

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"So often, history is presented as a series of male events, with women as appendages necessary for the continuation of the dynasty..."

This is a great book for people who love history but are bogged down by literary biographies! I wasn't familiar with most of the women mentioned in the book and the biographies are short, digestible entries that scratch the surface of complex European history. It's a great way to learn about new historical figures and see whose lives you might actually be more invested in before reading a more in depth and academic nonfiction.

NetGalley, Lellie B

An interesting read about women in the Tudor dynasty. This covered a lot and it was well researched and written overall. This is a good introduction to this period in history and it would spark reader’s interest to find out more.

NetGalley, Sarah Keeler

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Amy Licence does an amazing job bringing history to life. This book was truly a treasure and a delight. It's a book I could definitely see myself revisiting in the future.

There were quite a few women written about that I hadn't heard of before. Some unknown or nearly forgotten to history, and it was wonderful learning about them. Many were women who were well known to me, and this brought a new perspective to their stories.

I enjoyed each and every chapter of this book and each and every woman's story told.

If you are at all interested in women's history, then this is a must-read.

NetGalley, Elizabeth McFarland

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Very interesting and informative book about early women. Not only was this a well written book but it delved into the lives and struggles of woman who were important and historically significant!

NetGalley, Donna Bruch

I thought this book was full of amazing women throughout history. It's beautifully written and incredibly detail oriented. I really enjoyed reading this book.

NetGalley, Annalisa Alberti

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I didn’t know most of the women in this book and I am so glad I was introduced to them. There were many from Europe but many also came from all over the world. They were rich, unnamed or famous. I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter as it showed me someone new who impacted her world and those around her. This was a surprise and a delight to discover.

NetGalley, Naomi Sutherland

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Amy Licence has done it again. A fabulous book, at the same time entertaining and educating.
The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women includes those you would expect, the six wives of Henry VIII, Mary I, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. But you will also find women you are not so familiar with, Caterina Sforza, a maid of honour at Eltham palace and the women of the Devonshire Manuscript. Amy Licence also stretches her reach further afield, to include women from Morocco, Japan, Nigeria and Chile.
The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women provides a snapshot of a wide range of women over one century, from lowly prostitutes to great queens. And it is a truly fascinating book.

NetGalley, Sharon Connolly


As someone who loves female history and has a passion for the Tudor dynasty, this book was right up my alley. Licence does a great job of bringing these amazing women back to life.

NetGalley, Maja Hansen

This book features 100 historical women, simplified to a couple of pages for each. A good book for those with an interest in history and want some quick lessons.

NetGalley, Belle Hart

This book perfectly captures the extraordinary lives of women across the 16th century. The short chapters made it really easy to read... I learned a lot and it definitely left me wanting to know more!

NetGalley, Eilidh McLean

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

‘The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women’ by Amy Licence is an impressive retelling of the stories of women from all walks of life in the sixteenth century. Some of the women were queens, some paupers. There were also witches, doctors, murderers and many more. Licence brings to light the lives of women who were ignored or forgotten. She also links those of political and royal importance, weaving their stories together and bringing new connections.

Amy Licence tied together threads of history that I had a vague awareness of before. I learned so much – and not just about English or European women, which was refreshing. The author told of how women’s lives were controlled and manipulated, but also of the women who fought back against this oppression.

It’s the kind of book to savour, not to read in one go. I jumped in and out, finding women I’d never heard of, but should have. Women’s history has been silenced to some extent, unless they were queens. But here the author has opened my eyes to the women from all walks of life.

NetGalley, Karen McIntosh

The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women is a unique and engaging historical work. The author gives short 1-2 page backgrounds of 100 Women who made up the 16th century. Some of these are very important women you may have heard of, such as Anne Boleyn or Catherine of Aragon. Others are lesser well-known, but I am very glad that I had the chance to read and learn about them. This book makes learning history very accessible - with short chapters that read like a novel, this book is a great way to learn history. I read one chapter each night, and I felt like learning was really fun and interesting.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about this subject in a fun and interesting way. The book is well-researched and well-written and I really appreciated the chance to get to learn history in this way.

NetGalley, Beth Kadechka

Such an interesting read, full of mini biographies of historical women. This book is a great addition to any library or classroom.

NetGalley, Tara Keating

'The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women' consists of bit sized snippets from the lives of 100 women. Licence takes you on a century long journey that is easy to read and enjoyable for any history lover. It is the first book I've been given by NetGallery to read, and I loved every minute of it. I often struggled to put it down, because I woman I wanted to read about was the subject for the next chapter.

Licence arranges the book chronologically by year. Many readers will have a favorite at the beginning, middle and end of the book. I also liked that some of the subjects were very famous like a few Tudor Queens and court women, others were commoners. There we subjects I felt were missed, but I understand to include lesser known figures, some more well known ones had to be cut-out. My biggest surprise was that women were included from all over the globe, not just European women. I loved reading about women from Asia and the Americas. I also enjoyed reading LGBTQ stories.

Licence also includes new research and approaches her subjects from a non biased perspective. Many of us have favorites, or figures we don't care for as much. She creates a balanced viewpoint on all the women.

Regardless of how much power the Women had, their lives were mainly written and controlled by the men around them. Here we can piece together parts of their lives and remember them and find what their roles were and remember their stories.

NetGalley, Traci Hoffman

Way cool! This book is filled with mini biographies of really old women. This book is a great addition to any home library or any classroom. I loved learning about famous women and the times in which they lived. The biographies themselves are short (only a few pages each) so they are a great, quick read for anyone.

NetGalley, Aubrey Kerr

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I’m not a big fan of the word “herstory” because of its grammatically and etymologically erroneous mirroring of “history.”. No one can believe that the Romans (and before them, the ancient Greek) from whom the word stems would know that centuries later “his” would be a male personal pronoun in English. And yet, if a book could be dubbed as a perfect and perfectly enjoyable example of how “herstory” should be written, this would be it. Of course, advocates of an unfeminist or anti-feminist stance for whom the male (cis het male, to be more precise) is the be-all and end-all of historical research shouldn’t open this book lest they want to risk having a heart attack. Not that one could find an attitude hostile toward men in any part, but hey, I prefer to issue this trigger warning nonetheless—it’s a woman writing extremely well about women and, between the lines, about the cis-het-male bias of most history books, after all.
Amy Licence takes a look at a small selection of historical figures of the 16th century who were women. That in itself is already a laudable endeavour, all the more so as one might naively believe she would be hard pressed to find sufficient source material to treat the hundred persons announced in the book’s title. And yet, when I had finished reading it, I had rather the impression she was hard pressed to select only a hundred. She could have chosen twice, even thrice as much. I for one wouldn’t have protested.
She did a very good job, too. Not only are we provided the life stories of famous figures such as Catherine of Aragon as well as other hapless and (probably) unhappy wives of Henry VIII, but also less well-known persons (a Sultan’s favourite wife, the “four Marys” who accompanied Mary Queen of Scots to the French court, an African queen, the wife of a Japanese samurai). Even some nameless women found their entry into this impressive list.
The difficult balancing act of the author wasn’t only to decide which names to include, but also how much to tell about each of them. As it were, the entries remained rather short, focusing on a major moment in their lives, the peaks of their existences, so to say. Those instants were told in a compelling, engaging way, with more details woven in to give the narrative depth and perspective. Would I have loved to read more about each woman? Heck, yes. Yet the focus of this book as I perceived it wasn’t to be as exhaustive as possible, but to pique the reader’s interest, maybe compelling them to explore the different stories on their own, and to give an overall view of how history could look if we delved deeper into those normally pushed aside or outright forgotten.
Each short piece was enjoyably written, in an easy, highly readable style, devoid of tedious pedantry, quoting of countless dates and data, or superfluous details. I didn’t rush through the book, but rather read it bit after bit, fascinated by the richness of atmosphere and the empathy I could feel throughout. An interesting and delightful read I can only recommend.

NetGalley, Dieter Moitzi

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was an absolutely fantastic read. I love the notion of anthologies about historical figures and these vignettes about everyone from Catherine of Aragon to a cross dressing actress at the turn of the 17th century to Roxelana were easy and fun to read and arose my curiosity about at least a dozen of the mini heroines of the book which is always good thing for a devoted reader like me.. this book is a great starting point for anyone interested in the 16th century and adequate female representation in history of the world.

NetGalley, Eugenia Austin

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The concept of this book is brilliant. These are not just brief biographies of 100 women from the 16th century. It is a century pieced together from events in the lives of individual women. For example, the medallion of the very first Anne of Brittany focuses on the time she married the King of France and thus changed the fate of her Brittany (1499). We continue with the year 1500 and what Catherina Sforza experienced. And so on, one year at a time.
Various women from different parts of the world are represented (Tudor queens, France, India, Turkey,...). I was a bit disappointed that the only representative of Central Europe unless you count the two foreign women in Poland and the German Katharina von Bora, is Elizabeth Bathory.
In contrast, I was very excited about the medallions of anonymous women - unnamed prostitute or maid of honour. These chapters show that even nameless women made history.

NetGalley, Magdalena Šejdová

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women is a well researched book with bite sized information about each of its subjects. There is a lot to love about this book. Each chapter is about a different woman, and their condensed histories are easy to read yet very well researched, with lots of footnotes and references. A lot of the more well known names are included, but there are also a lot of women here who were new names for me. The women included span a range of social classes and geographic locations (though most are from Britain and Europe).

Amy’s background as a novelist shows in this work, as her writing style is compelling and easy to follow. I was actually unfamiliar with License as an author before reading this, but now I’m interested in reading her historical fiction.

Because of the way this book is structured, I was able to pick it up and read a single chapter at time and feel fulfilled. I actually think a hard copy of this work would make a great coffee table piece for this reason — anyone can pick it up and start reading anywhere and get something worthwhile out of it. I plan to purchase the hardcover when it’s released.

I would love to see more volumes as follow-ups to this book, with the same style of coverage given to individuals from even more parts of the world (China had a lot going on during this time, for example).

I would recommend this book for any history fan, as anyone who loves historical fiction and would like a reference for some of the figures they run across in their favorite stories.

NetGalley, Kerry T.

A super informative and concise look at women from across the world. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about women I didn't know plus re-reading and familiarising myself with women from 16th-century history that I already knew.

The range of women included in this book is vast. From Queens to goddesses and all the way to unnamed poets and wives. What I loved most was the contextualising and viewing of these women from both a 21st-century lens but also in a 16th-century lens. Licence explains the reasoning behind historical decisions and 16th-century views/morals but also compares them to how we view the world and certain decisions now. In particular, the way marriage, pregnancy and women in power are treated.

Some of my favourite stories to learn were:

La Malinche
Elizabeth 'Blessie' Blount
Roxelana, aka Hurrem Sultan
Mary Boleyn
Women of the Devonshire Manuscript
Lady Nata, or Otomo-Nata 'Jezebel'
Susan Clarencieux
Amye Robsart

NetGalley, India Nye

I loved this book. The entries are around two pages each, and span the world. I've heard many of these women mentioned in history books, historical fiction, or on history podcasts but I also discovered some new histories to take deeper dives into. I love that the entries also include servants, the wives of kings, the victims of kings, and women whose names are unknown. Definitely Eurocentric, but entries range from Chile to Japan, and Spain to Burma. At first thought, one would not think that the 16th century held such interesting figures- but this book proves that assumption very wrong. This is an excellent assemblage of ladies of history. Worth the read!

NetGalley, Anna Wooliver Phillips

This is a comprehensive, well-researched book, which spreads light on both famous and unknown women who influenced the (mostly European) world in the sixteenth century. In perfect bite-sized (2-4 page) biographies highlight the most relevant events in our protagonists life, while also doing a great job explaining the culture, political temperature and other major figures of the time were doing.

I especially liked learning the history of Sophie Brahe, a Swedish astronomer who is usually forgotten in preference of her brother or husband. I was also thrilled to learn about Elena/Eleno de Cespedes, an intersex person who chose to live life as a man, became a respected surgeon but also had to endure scrutiny, legal charges and accusations of witchcraft.

This book is best read by flipping to a random page and enjoying whichever story you're lucky to find because they're all great.

NetGalley, Kay West

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

'The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women' is a very readable, accessible book for any history lover, whether academic or layperson. The book seeks to help redress the often patchy and somewhat skewed representation of women throughout history and, further, help augment our understanding from a social rather than political perspective. It is easy to fall into a trap of anachronisms in our judgments and bias in our summations not only due to our perception of feminism in a modern sense but also on account of the more widely available history of elite, white women deemed 'worthy' of recording. 'More than anything, I have tried to capture the humanity of all the women selected, and the pivotal roles they played throughout the century.'

Amy Licence has selected a diverse range of women transcending ethnicity, religion, and class. Each woman is summarised in a few pages, running chronologically over the century. Licence seeks to exemplify, through each short 'story', that woman's perception of power, respect, and worth regardless of class, and often juxtaposed to that of society's.

I really enjoyed reading this book, both in terms of generally enhancing my understanding of history but also being introduced to new 'characters', as well as the general political machinations of that era. As the book is made up of short, stand-alone chapters, it is easy to it pick up and put it down; leaving you plenty of time to ponder before diving into the next vignette. I would highly recommend it any history aficionado.

NetGalley, Christy Howl

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is the perfect book for your nightstand. 100 portraits of 100 fascinating women from the 16th century by an author who really knows what she is doing. After reading it, I am sure I know all members of the Tudor court and a lot of women outside of it, too. I am happy the author included women from different social settings, countries and women we almost never read about in the usual history books - e.g. Lady Nata from Kyushu or the Mexican La Malinche. Let's hopy Amy Lincence will follow up with the 17th century women.

NetGalley, Bettina Bergmann

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this book. There were so many fascinating mini biographies in it it would be difficult to name a favourite. It was very detailed, well researched and a pleasure to read. It also got me interested in a few other women I hadn't heard of before. Highly recommend if you enjoy the sixteenth century.

NetGalley, Leslie Hall

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fantastically interesting read. The Sixteenth Century in 100 women has a much wider perspective than most in that it brings in women from other cultures, races and classes. It's a riveting snapshot of these women's lives which is so often concentrated on white upper-class women, many of whom I've never heard of and am better for having read about them. Licence has a dramatic flair that was really enjoyable to read, breathing new life into these women. There is no doubt that this was a thoroughly researched piece and I will definitely be going off and doing further reading based off the author's footnotes. Highly recommended. I definitely want more books in this vein.

NetGalley, Emma Isola

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Loved this book, I got to dip into the pasts strong women, some I knew about but others I'd never heard about before. This book is a definite keeper for me!

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

In The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women, Amy Licence brings women across the world to life in brief yet detailed biographies. From Tenochtitlan to Japan, Licence provides insights into the lives of queens of Europe, a lady pirate, and the everyday women just trying to survive the sixteenth century. Licence notes the challenges of looking beyond Europe for records about women in the sixteenth century, but she does a great job in broadening the scope of her discussion of the role of women in the sixteenth century to include women in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Licence packs an impressive amount of information into each biography, organized chronologically, and draws the reader into the stories of these fascinating women. She challenges our understanding of the role that women played on stage and behind the scenes, and she does not shy away from discussing the less palatable experiences of certain women of note. Licence’s book is an excellent starting point for women’s history enthusiasts, as her book allows the interested reader to further explore these women themselves. Licence successfully achieves her goals outlined in the introduction and final chapters, highlighting the diversity of women’s lives in the sixteenth century.

NetGalley, Lily Amidon

Love the focus on women. The women that get to tell their story in this book is diverse... The stories are well chosen and give a glimpse of the life in the sixteenth century.

NetGalley, Kelly Van Moer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Here’s to authors who bring to the table the lives of women who have previously not featured in our history books! This is a fascinating read and the breadth of experience of the different women included makes it a real roller coaster in terms of keeping up with what the era must have been like. Really fascinating and well researched and written.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

This is a really interesting book that focuses on various women from the sixteenth century. I learned about a lot of new women and more about ones that I already knew. It only briefly explains each one, but this makes it to where it’s an easy book to pick up at any time. It’s a great book and I recommend it for fans of history.

NetGalley, Kaitlyn Parker

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Beginning in 1499 with Anne of Britanny - Queen of France, ending in 1600 with Mary Firth; Licence takes us on an intriguing & eye opening 100 year journey!

Each short chapter through out is dedicated to an individual woman, who has been thoroughly researched & brought to life by the author.

>From the highest ladies in the land - Queens, Duchesses, Machoinesses; to pirates, muses, holy women, warriors, fools, artists, witches, poets, wives, mothers, murderesses, prostitutes, martyrs & more

Every rank & position possible is represented in this book, focusing mainly in Britain & wider Europe.

Licence has done an excellent job of bringing these women to the fore, where as we know - the majority of women are lost to history, even the birth dates of noble ladies etc are not always recorded, let alone their day to day lives, activities, thoughts & feelings.

A very well researched and presented book, Licence is keen to point out that the sources are all written by men, therefore they may be representing these women in a biased & derogatory way, as was the norm back in the sixteenth century; many of the women featured have only been recorded as a footnote to a man's story e.g an abused wife, an accused witch, an artists muse etc.

It really dissectes the way that women in power such as Queens etc, we're recorded in their own right, spoken of respectfully when wielding the expected 'soft power' of a consort, or if leading on her husbands behalf - they may attain praise, at least begrudging acceptance; where as a woman who has power in her own right is often feared, alienated & torn down by these men & society, often accused of witchcraft, sourcery or even murder.

A thoroughly enjoyable read, with many of the subjects being well known to me, but also many new names & stories which have enticed me into researching some of these lesser known women of history myself.

In my opinion this should be a standard textbook in every history classroom.

Bravo, Ms. Licence👏

NetGalley, Clare Willmott

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a wonderful collection of stories about women who helped shaped the 16th century. Many of the woman are well known, but there were many I didn't know about. The author definitely did their research on these women. I liked that it was fast paced and didn't feel like a tedious read, filled with irrelevant information. Great to see known and unknown women celebrated from his time period.

NetGalley, Stacy Mawhorter

This book sounded interesting to me, as I expected a new look on women of the 16th century. Amy Licence describes Henry VIII.´s wives as well as many other women from the Tudor court we already know about, but besides those she also (later on) mentions other queens or partners of rulers from countries outside Europe, as well as female scientists, artists, writers, merchants, nuns, midwives, prostitutes or jesters. Included are also disabled women or those of the LGBTQ+ community. Besides women who just got famous because they brushed the life of a famous man for a short while, there are also mythical figures like Venus.
Each of the 100 women gets a short chapter with her importance in history. The text is well readable and based on historical works that are mentioned at the end of the book.

NetGalley, Michaela Dorninger

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

While many of these women may be recognizable to history buffs, I found each chapter to be quite enjoyable. The author excelled at humanizing these women even when there wasn't much known about some of them. Primary sources were used in a wonderful way – one chapter is based off of a letter an Italian visitor to London wrote where he describes the women walking nearby. This was a primary document I never would have encountered otherwise, and the inclusion of pieces of history like this took this work up a whole new level. I also appreciated the inclusion of footnotes throughout the work, making me confident in the amount of research the author put into this work.

This was an approachable and engaging way to read some bite-sized history focused on women of the sixteenth century. I highly recommend this work!

NetGalley, Abi McCoy

This was an entertainingly written collection of the stories of 100 women in the 16th century. I honestly have a hard time reviewing these types of books, but would definitely recommend picking this up if you have even the slightest interest. It is well researched (in my opinion) and the variety of stories will keep you interested.

NetGalley, Jessica Hartman

The history of the Sixteenth Century is overrun by men, written by men and taught through men. Amy Licence changes that by creating ‘The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women’.

Firstly, I loved the order of the book. Many history books of this type are set in themes and you have to search for a particular figure that suits your study (or as a history teacher myself your lesson). Instead it is written completely chronologically starting with Anne of Brittany, 7 Jan 1499 to The Four Marys, 7 August 1548 to Mary Frith 26 August 1600. It gives you that pure insight into the sixteenth century with flow.

Secondly, the use of ‘unknown’ figures really elevates this book. Many people may already know about Caterina Sforza, Margaret Beaufort and Mary I; but did you know about Alice Arden who murdered her husband and went to trial; or Fair Em. It allows you to finally have a broader understanding of this time period through a wider perspective lens and through the eye of ‘normal’ people.

Thirdly, we finally have a book that isn’t just British women... As an educator I will find this extremely useful in lessons with all ages.

NetGalley, Sharn Giddings

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This wonderful book is like a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle, with each chapter building towards a picture of life for women in the sixteenth century.

The 100 women featured include Queens, Queen Consorts, noblewomen, ordinary women and nameless women who were captured in paintings and written records. They come from the United Kingdom, Europe and beyond. Through thorough research, the Amy Licence has included women who usually only feature on the fringes of court life.

In particular I was interested to learn more about the following women, amongst others. Honor Grenville, Lady Lisle, who tried to get her daughters accepted as ladies in waiting at the English court, Maria de Salinas who had accompanied Catherine of Aragon to England from Spain and Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, who was imprisoned in the Tower after the downfall of her husband.

As the book moves from woman to woman and forward through the century, the links between some of these women become clear. What makes this book particularly fascinating is that as well as general information about each woman, Amy Licence offers a snapshot of their lives by focusing on a particular event.

We see Lady Jane Grey on the day she took possession of the Tower of London as Queen of England, Catherine of Aragon marry Prince Arthur at St Paul's Cathedral, a group of women on a street in London, Margaret Tudor waiting for her husband to return from the Battle of Flodden and Mildred Cooke preparing for her wedding to William Cecil.

This is a must read to learn more about women in the sixteenth century.

NetGalley, Tamise Hills

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

So this book tells the history of the 16th century but it does this through the eyes of a hundred different women. We all know the 16th century and everything we know about it was pretty much written by the accounts of men so it was very interesting and refreshing to get a woman's point of view on all these things.

There was actually quite a few stories that I found interesting and even made me laugh out loud and it really makes you see how today's problems were also relevant even in the 1500s. If you love history or learning about women in general please give this book a try.

NetGalley, Courtney Bryans

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What an amazing biographical book! Every time I picked up "The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women", I was whisked back in time, and learned something new about those included in this book, as well as about the 16th Century in general.

Amy Licence is an absolutely brilliant author, who makes history jump right off of the page before the reader's eyes! I found myself gripped thinking "just one more chapter!" time and time again. I can only imagine the amount of research the author must have done for this book. While the sections themselves are short, the author brilliantly connects them together and I never felt that this book was jumping around too much. I simply could not put it down.

Throughout this book, I learned so much about so many historical figures from all over the world; both things about those historical figures I am more familiar with, and some, less so. I look forward to doing research on my own time as well.

The only thing: I wish this book could have been longer!! I would so love for the author to write more books like this as well!

If you enjoy reading non-fiction, I highly recommend this book! I absolutely could not put it down, and so look forward to reading what Ms. Licence writes next!

NetGalley, Ashley Maimes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Such a fabulous way to talk about history and women. More books like this please. License does a great job discussing both well known and completely obscure women and using that frame work to describe an entire century on the cusp of modernity. Incredibly thought provoking.

NetGalley, Rebecca Fachner

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I'm not one to read non-fiction, but I will definitely read a history book about women. Many important female figures have largely been overshadowed by their male counterparts in the majority of historical texts. The fact that I didn't know a lot of those mentioned in this book should be a pretty solid proof of that. I am really glad I got to learn about them through this book. It was very informative and I made want to find more history books to read some.

NetGalley, Evi Tsokkou

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is cleverly woven to show us the lives of one hundred Sixteenth century women.. It is amazing in detail. well researched and very readable. The ladies lived on their wits. Be prepared for some nice surprises and some some awful shocks. I enjoyed reading it immensely.


I've loved the selection the author has made. I was deeply moved by the few occasions when she talked about unnamed and ordinary women.

My favourites where the Tudor ones, though I also learned a lot of new names, like Queen Idia.

It's written in short individual chapters that are easy to understand and that got me hooked on the book.

Conclusion: Women were and will always be awesome.

NetGalley, Sira Barbeito

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

There were lots of famous women in the sixteenth century: the six wives of Henry VII to start with, Elizabeth I, 'Bloody' Mary, Mary Queen of Scots., Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare's wife that is, not the actress). And those are just ten of the more obvious ones. Amy Licence's book also includes thumbnail sketches of Medicis, Borgias and minor Tudors while also playing tribute to all the assorted lesser known and even unknown figures who inspired great works of art, conducted love affairs and generally played their part.

NetGalley, Chris Hallam

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I was surprisingly impressed by Licence's The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women. I know that the study of women is an up-and-coming area of history. After reading this, I am so glad to see that Licence has done this area justice and it's finally getting the attention it deserves.

I learnt about some of these women during my degree. I recognised quite a few women and was delighted to find a lot of people who were also unknown to me.

The academic side

The first thing I noticed is the range of references. Licence has thoroughly researched each woman and took into consideration the limitations of the evidence. She does this by stating what's unlikely and doesn't give any absolutes.

The argument is well-balanced and flows nicely from one woman to the next. Licence err's on the side of caution in each conclusion too. This is good because we weren't there and we will never know 100% what happened.

I really enjoyed Licence's interpretation of sources. Not only do you learn about the women, but also about the culture and period they lived in. Where applicable, she also states the level of scientific knowledge they would have had for the case too. It was really intriguing!

I particularly liked that Licence points out the differences between morality now and back when these women lived and that the norm back then may not be the same as it would be now.

Writing style

Licence is very informative about each woman. History books can be very dry, but this is not the case here. It's both informative, shocking, and entertaining. The pacing is very good and there was a smooth transition between the chapters.

The writing style makes you want to keep reading. She's has struck the perfect balance between thoroughness and being concise.


I was surprised to discover the range of people covered in this book. Firstly, although the title clearly states "women", it covers trans, intersex, and asexuals too. LGBTQIA+ is another area of history that has very little research, so I was very pleased to see this has been taken into consideration too.

Finally, I was expecting The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women to only cover European women (and only the most notable!). This is because that's what's traditionally been written about. Surprisingly, it covers African, Russian, Mongol, Hindi, and even fictional women.

The diversity in this book is amazing. The care and research Licence put into the book are clear. Each case specifically states why it was important in its own right, and how it may have affected other women too. The steps every woman took, however small, had an impact on what we're able to do as women today. It also made me have an appreciation for the struggles each woman and LGBTQIA+ had within their social limitations and cultures.


As a sweetener, there are also pictures in the back of the book. I felt that this really helped me connect with the people whose stories they were about.

In conclusion

Licence is an amazing author. I'd love to read another book by her. This would be a brilliant start to a series with a book on each woman if she wished it.

I think the way Licence has written this book would make it relatively easy for future historians to continue her work. I would also feel comfortable using this as an academic book on women's history.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely, without reservation. If you have an interest in global women's or LGBTQIA+ history, I'd highly recommend it.

NetGalley, Amy Heaney

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

When we think of the phrase "16th-century women," we often consider those from royal or noble houses throughout Europe. We tend to think of women like the six wives of Henry VIII, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary Queen of Scots, and others associated who made an impact during the Renaissance and the Reformation. However, the 16th century did not stop at the borders of Europe; it extended all over the globe. There are many stories of women from all over the world and from different social classes that can help us understand how the world changed in the 16th century. Amy Licence took this concept and decided to write her latest book about a variety of women from around the world who lived in the 16th century, "The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women."

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. When I heard that Licence was writing this book, it intrigued me. I wanted to know more stories from the 16th century from all around the world.

"The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women" is a collection of 100 mini-biographies of women from every walk of life and every corner of the globe. Licence has decided to organize this particular book in chronological order, with the date emphasis on the significant events of their lives. Staying true to her word, she writes about women from different countries, like Japan, Nigeria, Russia, Mexico, Poland, Chile, Morocco, and Burma, to name a few.

What I loved the most about this book is the diversity of figures that Licence chose to include in this journey from 1500 to 1600. They were not just queens, princesses, and noblewomen. Licence included women who would have been seen as outsiders in everyday society, such as prostitutes during the Banquet of Chestnuts, Margaret Drummond, Ellen Sadler, and La Malinche. There were those whose appearance made them outsiders, like Aura Soltana, Elena/Eleno de Cespedes, and Tognina Gonsalvus. Some women stood up for what they believed was right, such as Cecily Bodenham, abbess of Wilton Abbey, Lady Nata of Japan, Margaret Cheney, Sayyida al-Hurra, and Beatriz de Luna.

Some women suffered horrendous tragedies beyond their control, like Suphankanlaya, whose husband was killed in an angry rage, Amy Robsart, and an unknown woman who dealt with a tsunami in Chile. Others were women who had nasty reputations associated with their lives, such as Elizabeth Bathory, Mary Frith, and the Irish pirate Grace O'Malley. We also see female artists, authors, fictional figures, and those who sat for portraits.

Licence has painted a colorful picture of the 16th century with the 100 miniature biographies she chose to include in this book. This book may highlight only a select few stories of the century, but they were new and enthralling tales of women I had never heard of, which broadened my understanding of the era. An informative, refreshing, and unique approach to the 16th century, "The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women" by Amy Licence is a breath of fresh air for anyone who wants to discover new tales from the past.

NetGalley, Heidi Malagisi

A brief but enough information on women, from all over the world, that will make you want to learn more about those you never heard about. Yes, the famous women are included - Queen Mary, Anne Boleyn, etc., but the best are the women who little is written about. Well researched and has pictures. A truly interesting and important book.

NetGalley, Christine Cazeneuve

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

First and foremost, Licence does an AMAZING job here stressing that time is NOT geography. When she says women of the 16th century, she means women who were alive in the 16th century all around the globe.

Yes, there are a LOT of Tudor women here - but we also read about the lives of women in Mexico and Japan and Chile and Thailand and Russian and North Africa and more. The world is a big place and its important to remember that history took place in more places than just Europe.

A fascinating look at women of all walks of life who lived in the 16th century, further rounding out our perception of the past and showing how many other people were there all along.

NetGalley, Kara Race-Moore

Im a huge fan of Pen & Sword Publishing!

And this was a very interesting read!

Many, many women I now want to do more research on and read books on them.

My TBR will be even higher now!

The perfect book for non-fiction and historical readers.

NetGalley, Georgi B

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

While there are countless books about historical women such as Queen Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Anne Boleyn, I often find myself wondering about the lesser-known women of this period. Not just the women from the United Kingdom, but the women around the world. What was happening in their lives? What was their role in history? While most women in history have left little to nothing to posterity, it is possible to gain glimpses of them through the historical records. The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women by Amy Licence provides readers with a snapshot of the lives of 100 sixteenth century women from around the world. A huge thank you to NetGalley and Pen and Sword Books for an advanced copy of this book.

This latest book by Licence opens in the year 1499, with Anne of Brittany, Queen of France. Licence sets the scene for this short yet detailed glimpse back in time. From here, the book continues to move forward chronologically. Through our journey we meet well-known historical figures at significant moments in their life. For example, we travel to 1501 to witness the marriage of Catherine of Aragon to Prince Arthur Tudor. In 1533, we travel to London to witness Anne Boleyn at the height of her power, on the day of her coronation. In 1541, we are observing the brutal execution of Margaret Pole. While in 1553, we are in London, watching Mary Tudor ride through the streets to claim the throne. But what Licence captures so brilliantly in this book is the lives of the lesser-known women of the sixteenth century.

In 1501, we meet the Unnamed Prostitute at the Banquet of Chestnuts. A moment in time that was captured in the diary of the Master of Ceremonies in Rome. Then, in 1513, we travel to London as a visitor, and witness the interactions between a group of London women. We might only be there briefly, as though it is a dream on a restless night. But we bear witness to what these women do, and how they interact on this cold January day. In the year 1520, we travel to Turkey to meet Roxelana, Suleiman the Magnificent’s favourite mistress. While in 1560, we are greeted in Russia by Anastasia Romanova. Or even more curiously, the Unknown Woman who we meet in Chile in 1570, a tsunami survivor.

The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women by Amy Licence is a brilliant snapshot of women throughout this period. Licence’s writing style is highly accessible. Each chapter is dedicated to one of these women, or group of women. As such, the book has great momentum. Rather than viewing the women as isolated characters in history, Licence connects them with one another, powerfully linking these women on a global scale. What I particularly loved about this book, is that it wasn’t simply a short biography of 100 women of the sixteenth century. Instead, it made you part of the journey. You become a time traveller. A witness to 100 moments in time from 100 women in history. If you have an interest in women’s history, or the history of the sixteenth century, then I highly recommend going on this journey with The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women by Amy Licence.

NetGalley, Lucy Menadue

Casual readers of history and historical figures might only know the names of a few sixteenth century women. Most people have heard of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, and Catherine of Aragon, but what about the many others throughout this period?

Amy Licence presents a thoughtful, brief account of 100 women for readers to learn details about their lives. Some of these women are less famous (or infamous)/well-known or documented than others, but are all interesting to read about.

NetGalley, Christina Childers

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

After wishing for this book on NetGalley, I was randomly selected to receive it, and I was thrilled! “The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women” by Amy Licence is a real gem.

License takes the reader on a 100 year journey, focusing on the lives of individual women from the years 1500 through 1600. The entire time that I was reading this book, it felt like I was watching a BBC series special hosted by Lucy Worsley—no kidding! Licence is an engaging writer, so much so that I felt like I was reading a well-written novel. So when I discovered that License, in addition to being an historian, is also a novelist, I wasn’t surprised.

Instead of arranging each biography in chapters, the author included the name of each woman and a date, with dates being sequential (e.g., 1510, 1511, 1512, etc.). The descriptions the author provided were almost Foucaultian, reminiscent of “The Order of Things.” Not all subjects are named. In a few cases, some women just sat for portraits and their names are lost to history; others, like the painting of Medusa, are fictional. However, the author included valuable insight as to why she chose them. What I really appreciate is that instead of each biography being completely separate from the others, the author referenced previously covered subjects.

One of the most interesting stories that I read was about Elena/Eleno de Céspedes who may, or may not, have been non-binary. Céspedes, an intersex Afro-Spanish, was married to both a male and a female, gave birth, worked as a self-taught surgeon, and wore men’s clothes during a time when it was actually illegal to dress in men’s clothing. Prior to reading about them, I’d never even heard their name before. This is just one example of the fabulous list of individuals that the author has compiled.

Although a heavy portion of the book was dedicated to British women, Licence’s subjects were from countries around the world: Eastern and Western Europe, Turkey, Nigeria, Morocco, Mexico, Japan, Chile, Burma, and India. While reading, I was curious as to why the author chose the individuals that she did, and I was grateful that Licence discussed her reasons for the inclusion of the subjects at the end of the book. Given the innumerable women that existed during that time, she stated that she, “…could easily have filled five volumes…”

I have to admit it: I wish she would! This book should be on every high school history teacher’s desk to read to students as supplementary material for the woeful lack of women’s history in modern-day textbooks.

The history of the world from 1500 through 1600 was written by men of that era. Even today, with the exception of women of high status, women of that era are almost universally overlooked because their lives weren’t recorded for posterity. With this book, Licence offers readers an, “…alternative narrative of the sixteenth century…” where people can learn not just about women and their lives during this era, but will also rediscover how women were viewed and subjugated because the author pieced their lives together.

This book, incorporating 35 photographs, notes, and a bibliography, is a definite must-read for everyone. My only regret is that I wish that the author had written several more sister volumes to accompany it.

NetGalley, Matal Baker

Loved learning about these 100 women. Especially in a time when most of history was focused on men and written by men.

NetGalley, Carissa Miller

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

100 hundred women, some at the pinnacle of power, some ordinary women. Some you’ll remember and know their stories, others will be brand-new.

NetGalley, Caroline Palmer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed getting to know these 100 women in the 16th century. I enjoyed that it included women that I already knew and had new stories from women I hadn't heard of. It was written really well and I enjoyed the way Amy Licence wrote this.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

This is a book that has defiantly increased my TBR!!! So many women I want to read more about!

Perfect for historical readers.

Georgi Lvs Books !!

About Amy Licence

AMY LICENCE is a best-selling author and historian of the medieval and early modern period, specializing in the lives of women, from queens to commoners.
Amy has written for The GuardianThe Times Literary SupplementThe New StatesmanBBC HistoryThe English ReviewThe Huffington PostThe London Magazine and other places. She has been interviewed regularly for BBC radio, including Woman's Hour, and appeared in Philippa Gregory's BBC2 documentary The Real White Queen and Her Rivals in 2013 and Yesterday Channel's Private Lives of the Tudors in 2016. Amy is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
Her website can be found at amylicence.weebly.com.

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