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Winner of the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History, 2015

Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction  2014

Shortlisted for the Longman-History Today Book Prize, 2015

Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Observer and BBC History Magazine Book of the Year

This vivid, minutely researched and brilliantly original history is a much-needed look at the dark side of the Elizabethan age.
Dan Jones, Sunday Times …read full review

Scholarly, absorbing, even-handed and relevant.…read full review
Ben Macintyre, The Times

A fine book: extraordinarily learned, exciting…beautifully written…What a story it tells: plots and counterplots, assassinations and Armadas, horrendous torture and unspeakably gruesome executions, stinking prisons, secret messages written in orange juice (invisible until heated), spies and traitors and clandestine printing presses. Hollywood could not have made it up…Jessie Childs is not Roman Catholic, but she is remarkably fair and astute in her judgments…the gifted Jessie Childs.
Professor JJ Scarisbrick, The Weekly Standard (US)…read full review

Never has the actual experience of the recusants been rendered with such a wealth of searing detail…richly packed, absorbing…It is a parade of extraordinary characters and a banquet of Elizabethan and Jacobean prose.
Simon Callow, The Guardian … read full review

A superb account of cloak-and-dagger religious intrigue in Tudor England... crisp prose and punctilious scholarship, brilliantly recreates a world of heroism and holiness…as a mainstream history it is little short of a triumph.
Ian Thomson, Financial Times …read full review

Truly excellent..her research is really very thorough…God’s Traitors crosses the divide between popular and academic history. It raises issues of some real historical importance, not least of how much archival material, more often glimpsed than analysed, might still be out there which has things to tell us about the period but which is often excluded from mainstream versions of it.
Professor Michael Questier, The Spectator …read full review

Detailed and absorbing…compelling…God’s Traitors is both a dramatic and thrilling story of fear, faith, courage and deceit and an important exposé of the terror of life as a Catholic in Elizabethan England.
Anna Whitelock, New Statesman …read full review

We are delighted to award this year’s Hessell-Tiltman to Jessie Childs for her gripping book on Catholic dissidents in the reign of Elizabeth I. It is revelatory, wonderfully readable, and — without ever forcing the contemporary parallels — topical as well. Tom Holland, Chair of judges for the 2015 Pen Hessell-Tiltman Prize for history.

In the quality of her research and sensitive handling of issues that remain raw to this day, Jessie Childs succeeds in evoking ‘the lived experience of anti-Catholicism’ as few have done before…Childs’s language is lively and inventive…By picturing Elizabethan recusants in all their complexity, Jessie Childs has enabled them to speak for themselves at last.
John Cooper, Literary Review

A triumph of story-telling, backed by first-rate research
Antonia Fraser

Henrik Bering, Wall Street Journal … read full review

In considering the fundamentalisms of today, it’s as well not to forget our own gruesome and intolerant past, and Childs has employed her impressive research skills and storytelling verve to bring that past vividly to life.
Virginia Rounding, Daily Telegraph (5 stars) …read full review

Ingenious…A great story – of plots, intrigues, gracious stately homes, and dire prison cells – which Jessie Childs tells with consummate narrative skill.
John Ure, Times Literary Supplement

Something close to a thriller…Childs conveys the conflict and tension of the times with palpable style. It’s not often that history books get the balance of expert research and storytelling with chutzpah just right but Childs has managed it with this informative and entertaining book. Doug Johnstone, The Big Issue

Jessie Childs is the best historian we have. 
Charles Spencer, Sunday Times Magazine

Jessie Childs’s moving historical account of a family’s struggle against the tide of Protestantism…a vivid, sometimes even humorous picture of devout Catholics keeping up appearances. …read full review
Daisy Dunn, Daily Mail

Fascinating…What makes Childs’s book different is that she concentrates not on the derring-do of the foreign diplomats and priest-adventurers – who invariably ended up hung, drawn and quartered – but on the stay-at-home English Catholics who were obliged to negotiate their divided loyalties in these trickiest of times.
Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

Excellent…Childs has written an engaging history of English papists, filled with memorable episodes. It poses a number of good questions about liberty and security.
The Economist …read full review

Splendid book…Childs does a splendid job of explaining this unenviable situation and of putting it in the wider context of Elizabethan Catholic life. There are many fruitful digressions.
Jonathan Wright, The Tablet …read full review

Thorough research coupled to a vigorous, readable style…dramatic…even-handed…This colourful saga of a downwardly mobile family on the losing side of national events reminds us that history is not all about winners.
Derek Wilson, History Today

This superbly researched and vividly narrated account conjures a lost world of exorcisms, priest’s holes and miracle-performing relics.
David Gelber, Country Life

A riveting account of resistance in an age of intolerance, God’s Traitors brings alive the story of the men – and remarkable women – of a defiant family.
Leanda de Lisle

Superb and groundbreaking…It isn’t possible in the space of a review to do justice to the breadth and depth of Childs’ research and insight; but they illuminate the entire landscape of English life…a superlative, flawlessly written book…Childs’ description of an exorcism at Lord Vaux’s house in Hackney…is one of the most extraordinary things I have ever read..This is a book about saints and traitors, certainly; but above all it is about the strengths and frailties that made these people human. They have had to wait a long time, but at last they have found a historian who offers them both justice and dignity.
Mathew Lyons …read full review

Impressive popular history… follows in the footsteps of Antonia Fraser in producing a popular yet scholarly work on the familial context of the Gunpowder Plot… What sets this work apart from much popular history (and indeed some purely academic literature) is its recourse to manuscript sources… a brilliant story.
Katie McKeogh, History of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland …read full review

An insightful study of the plight of Elizabethan Catholics using the extended Vaux family as a lens through which to view the heroics and heartaches of being a religious minority in the late 16th century. This expansive case study tells us a lot about both ‘terror and faith’ in Elizabethan England.
Robert E. Scully, S.J., America Magazine

A rich slice of Tudor/Stuart history…a tale of plots and priest-holes, networks of spies, torture chambers, and of a remarkable family…It’s a testament to the bravery of Catholic families living under persecution; and a salutary reminder of how lucky we are to live in a liberal, secular age.
Independent on Sunday (Paperback)

Gripping and superbly written…A terrible reminder of the human cost of intolerance.
Mail on Sunday (Paperback)


A vivid, highly original history that sheds light on the sufferings of Catholics under Elizabeth I.  BEST SUMMER READS, Sunday Times

The story of a single, colourful recusant Catholic family in Elizabethan England, God’s Traitors is scholarly, absorbing, exciting and relevant. BEST SUMMER READS, The Times

An impressive history of a persecuted religious minority in England ready to die – and kill – for their faith.  BEST SUMMER READS, Daily Telegraph

In her fast-paced and well-researched book, Childs focuses on one family, the Vaux of Northamptonshire, to recount the broader story of England’s Catholic minority from Elizabeth I’s accession in 1558 to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.  BEST SUMMER READS, Financial Times

Jessie Childs looks at Catholic persecution through the experiences of the aristocratic Vaux family, and what a gruesome picture she paints.  BEST SUMMER READS, Mail on Sunday


A gripping tale of spies and skulduggery, of casuistry and unshakeable belief, of torture, martyrdom, courage and the ferocious collision and confusion of politics and religion. God’s Traitors is thought-provoking and timely, at a moment when the British state is once again beset by fear of religious fanaticism. Ben Macintyre, The Times Books of the Year

A splendidly evocative portrait, not just of a family, but of an anxious, even paranoid age. Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times Books of the Year

Jessie Childs shakes off a sense of Reformation familiarity by focusing on one family, the Vauxes, who will not forsake their Catholic faith; with this concentrated human dimension, the suffocating fear, the concealment, the imprisonment and torture, is given fresh life, and makes the dilemma even more acute… All the way through, you ask: just how far would I go to protect and express my faith? Sinclair McKay, Telegraph Books of the Year

Jessie Childs’s account of cloak-and-dagger intrigue in Tudor England…conjures a John le Carré-like underworld of political double-dealing and ‘spiery’. Ian Thomson, Observer Books of the Year

Childs’s nuanced account of the the Vauxes of Harrowden Hall in Northamptonshire convinced me there is still new ground to explore or, at least, revisit with fresh eyes. Jonathan Wright, Herald Scotland, Books of the Year

Jessie Childs’ God’s Traitors…is wonderful, both scholarly history and Tudor espionage thriller exploring Elizabeth I’s secret war against the Catholics. Simon Sebag Montefiore,  BBC History Magazine Books of the Year

Superbly written. Helen Castor,  BBC History Magazine Books of the Year

There’s micro history and macro history – and then there’s the rare book that takes a seemingly small subject and lets it lead to wider issues. Minutely researched and vividly readable…manages to explore big questions still relevant today: belief and politics, security versus liberty. Sarah Gristwood, BBC History Magazine Books of the Year

It’s been eight years since Jessie Childs’s last book, and her latest…was worth the wait. A clever refashioning of the story leading up to the Gunpowder Plot, told through the actions of the Vaux family, the work demonstrates what can be done with sources to present new perspectives. Chris Skidmore, BBC History Magazine Books of the Year