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People, Power & Plots: Britain, 1587-1714 - HIS00065I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Hannah Jeans
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

The ‘long’ seventeenth century is one of the most controversial periods in British history. This was an era of profound anxiety and uncertainty for the British peoples. At the end of the sixteenth century, England was a minor kingdom on the margins of Europe, severed from Catholic Christendom by the Protestant Reformation, ruled by an aging and childless Queen, at war with Spain, and struggling to contain a violent rebellion in Ireland. Within a generation, England was torn apart by a devastating civil war that ended with the execution of King Charles I, a republican government, and the military conquest of Ireland and Scotland. Monarchy was restored peacefully in 1660, only to be thrown into crisis within another generation. The outcome was a ‘revolution’ that dragged Britain into years of Continental warfare. Yet on the death of the last Stuart monarch in 1714, England had become the dominant component of a new British state, the metropolitan core of a nascent transatlantic empire, and a European military power. How had such a transformation occurred? It was once taken for granted that this was a ‘revolutionary century’: the emergence of a capitalist society, religious toleration, and a ‘constitutional monarchy’ had made Britain into the first ‘modern’ society. Intense historical debate has largely dismantled these frameworks. This course invites you to take part in these debates and to explore the fundamental questions about the exercise of power, religious belief, and the representation of politics that historians continue to find so exciting about this century.       

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

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 16 twice weekly lectures delivered in weeks 2-9 plus one round-up session in week 10, and eight 90 minute discussion groups.       

Provisional list of lectures:

1. Introduction: a revolutionary century

2. Protestant nations

3. Queenship and kingship: image and rhetoric

4. Plots and conspiracies

5. The first king of Britain: James VI and I

6. Britain at war

7. Monarchy in crisis, 1629-1642

8. Civil war(s)

9. ‘Our just freedom’: political and religious ideas

10. ‘Commonwealth and free state’

11. Restoration unsettlement

12. Plots and ‘public opinion’

13. 1689 and all that

14. Party on: Tories and Whigs

15. War and the succession

16. Power, people, and parliaments: the new British state


Topics for discussion groups may include:

Week 2: Puritanism and anti-popery

Week 3: The rising sun: Elizabeth I and James VI

Week 4: Parliaments, ‘popularity’ and war

Week 5: The English civil war

Week 6: ‘For the good of the people’: Commonwealth and Protectorate

Week 7: Charles II and the ‘popish plot’

Week 8: Neither ‘glorious’ nor ‘revolutionary’? 1689

Week 9: State power and the early British empire


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2,000 words
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
Essay 2,000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

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

Work will be returned to students in their seminars 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 during their tutor’s 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 unless submitted in week 5 of the summer term, in which case these are available within 25 working days. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement on Assessment.

Indicative reading

Hirst, Derek. England and its Island Neighbours 1500-1707. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012. .

Purkiss, Diane. The English Civil War: A People’s History. London: Harper Collins, 2006.

Smith, David L., A History of the Modern British Isles, 1603-1707: The Double Crown. Oxford; Blackwell, 1998.

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students