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The Tudor Regime: Power, Propaganda & Faith, 1485-1603 - HIS00048I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. John Cooper
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

Sixteenth-century England was a place of vivid contrasts. The Tudor monarchy cultivated magnificence on a European scale, yet lacked the military power to dominate its people or to pursue an aggressive foreign policy. Protestant reforms and conversions were met with an equally passionate defence of the Catholic faith. The re-assertion of royal power by the Tudors was countered by theories of resistance to tyranny on both sides of the religious divide. Add in the constitutional significance of the break from Rome and the rise of Parliament, the drama of court politics and the unique situation of women ruling England, and it is not difficult to see why the Tudors occupy such a central place in the national memory.

This module covers the full span of the period from the victory of Henry Tudor at Bosworth to the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. Historical landmarks include the Reformation under Henry VIII and Edward VI, the attempt to return England to the Catholic faith under Queen Mary, the cult of the Virgin Queen and the coming of the Spanish Armada. Within this chronological framework we pause to examine themes across the whole of the period, including popular rebellion and resistance theory; the importance of royal ministers such as Cardinal Wolsey and Francis Walsingham; problems of poverty and vagrancy, and the idea of the commonwealth; and England’s relationship with Ireland and Wales. Particular emphasis is placed on the structures by which royal power was sustained, including art and propaganda as well as the formal institutions of government. We conclude by assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the Tudor regime, and why it is that this period of history continues to have such a strong grip on the public imagination.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to important specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological or geographical focus;
  • To enable them to work on those topics by combining access to the specialised expertise of staff through lectures with their own close study and discussion of issues and reading;
  • To deepen students’ understanding and appreciation of a range of historical subjects and issues; and
  • To support students’ progression from the broad chronological and conceptual work undertaken at Stage 1 of their programme to more detailed and rigorous study of particular topics.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have a broad overview of specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological and geographical focus;
  • Be able to evaluate different interpretations of the subject matter and approaches to it;
  • Gain a critical awareness of the primary material and secondary works used in these interpretations and approaches; and
  • Be able to synthesise information from lectures, discussion groups and reading to make evidence-based arguments both orally and in writing.

Module content

Teaching Programme:

This 20-credit module consists of sixteen twice weekly lectures delivered in weeks 2-9, plus one round-up session in week 10 and eight 90 minute discussion groups.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Henry Tudor’s inheritance: England in 1485

  2. Two Princes and a Cardinal: Arthur, Henry and Wolsey

  3. The break from Rome, or was Henry VIII a Protestant?

  4. Structures of power I: monarchy, court and Parliament

  5. Structures of power II: royal propaganda and magnificence

  6. Edward VI and his governors

  7. Rebellion, riot and popular politics

  8. Bloody Mary?

  9. An English Utopia?Poverty, vagrancy and the commonwealth

  10. Elizabeth I: church, state and the art of queenship

  11. The Virgin Queen, or why did Elizabeth never marry?

  12. Imperial kingship in Ireland and Wales

  13. Catholic missionaries and the Elizabethan secret service

  14. Defence of the realm, or what if the Spanish Armada had landed?

  15. Sidney, Shakespeare and the idea of the monarchical republic

  16. The Tudors in myth and memory


Task Length % of module mark
2,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will be required to write a 2,000-word procedural essay for formative assessment, due in either week 5 or week 7 of the autumn term. They will then complete a 2,000-word essay for summative assessment, due in week 1 of the spring term.


Task Length % of module mark
2,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their discussion groups and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work with their tutor (or module convenor) during student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Brigden, Susan. New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors, 1485-1603. London: Penguin Books, 2001.

Sharpe, Kevin. Selling the Tudor Monarchy: Authority and Image in Sixteenth-Century England. London: Yale University Press, c2009.

Williams, Penry. The Tudor Regime. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.