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Module Details

Aims and Objectives

This module is an option available to second-year students, part-time degree students at Honours level, and 2 + 2 students. Like other early modern options, it aims to complement the second-year core module by providing the opportunity for greater depth of study in particular regions and themes. This module explores the social, cultural and political context of religion in England between the late-fifteenth and mid-sixteenth centuries.

Context: This module builds on the knowledge of early modern Europe acquired through the second-year core module, and complements other departmental options on early modern Germany, society and culture in France, and the social history of early modern England. It provides a sound foundation for students going on to take third-year special subjects and advanced options in early modern English social or cultural history, as well as for the MA in Early Modern History.


This option introduces students to a range of important themes in the field of late medieval and early modern English religion, not so much from a theological, as from a social and cultural perspective. Its main focus is the impact of the early Reformation (under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I) on religious belief and practice in England, though it approaches this from the long view of the later fifteenth century. The module commences with a detailed examination of strengths and weaknesses in late medieval Catholicism, focusing both on institutions (clergy, monasteries) and on structures of belief (saints, sacraments, purgatory). The significance of unorthodox religion, Lollardy and early Protestantism, is explored and related to the reform policies of the Tudor monarchy. Equal attention is devoted to those who opposed and to those supported the religious changes of the sixteenth century, and throughout there is a particular focus on parishes, and parish churches, as centres of religious culture and social organisation.

Intended Learning Outcomes

a) the further development of study, writing and communication skills

b) a broad knowledge and understanding of why religion mattered in the period and of what it meant to its practitioners

c) a greater awareness of the connections between religious history, and other branches of historical study, particularly social and political

d) the development of critical analytical skills through the assessment of historiographical approaches which are frequently at variance with each other

e) the opportunity, through writing a 4,500 word essay, to develop a greater facility with the skill of extended writing, an improved ability to evaluate

critically a range of secondary and (where appropriate) primary sources, as well as an enhanced capacity for individual and self-motivated study.

Module Requirements

Teaching and Learning

The module will be taught through a weekly lecture and seminar. Students will be expected to prepare for seminars by reading a minimum of three items from the suggested list, and to think about the issues raised by the seminar questions. They will also be expected to take turns in instigating seminar discussion by making a presentation, or other agreed method. All items on the reading list are in the library, though all are encouraged to contact me directly if there are problems getting hold of materials.


Formative Assessment (non assessed work)

Students are expected to write two short (c. 2000 word) essays, using seminar questions of your choice (these are to be submitted via Tabula on or before 5.00 pm of Friday of Week 6 in Term 1 and Friday Week 4 in Term 2. There is also the option of writing a practice exam paper in the summer term.

Summative Assessment (assessed work)

  • 2-hour, 2-question exam (50%). The exam will be scheduled in the summer term on a date to be ascheduled nearer the time.
  • 4500 word essay (50%).

There is no set list of long-essay questions. Seminar questions may provide a suitable starting-point in some cases, but you are expected to develop your own theme and title and to agree it with me (individual time will be set aside for this).

More information regarding examinations, assessment & submission can be found on the Department website.

Lecture time: Wednesdays 10-11.00, OC1.03