Controversy has rarely been far away. Had the original party of monks accompanying St Augustine in the Summer of 596 had their way, they would have turned back in France and never set foot in England. But once established, the Archbishops soon began what was to be a fatal partnership with the Crown. Dunstan and King Edgar, Lanfranc and William the Conqueror set the pattern, and things soon went wrong. William Warham lost the battle to keep the English Church out of Henry VIII's greedy, destructive fingers, Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake, and William Laud beheaded. The office was far from a sinecure. But after the excitements of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the eighteenth and nineteenth lapsed into navel-gazing, while the twentieth took to travel. Cosmo Lang hated trains and expected the world to come to him, but Geoffrey Fisher, whose personal brand of sarcasm did not go down well with the press, traveled extensively. "The Archbishops of Canturbury" is not so much a history of the Church of England as a personal survey of the men who have led it for fourteen hundred years - the decisive, the weak, the admirable, and the odd.
P. G. Maxwell-Stuart is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of St. Andrews. His other books include The Chronicle of the Popes, Wizards: A History, Witchcraft: A History, and Witch Hunters and An Abundance of Witches: The Great Scottish Witch-Hunt. He is currently writing a history of Roman Catholicism, also for Tempus. He lives in St. Andrews