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Summary: in this seminar we look at one of Henry VIII’s policies in detail: the process (between 1536 and 1540) of closing all of the religious houses in England and Wales. We will discuss whether the causes of the dissolution were primarily financial, religious or political, and we will look at the impact and consequences of the dissolution, for the former monks and nuns, and for society as a whole.

Seminar and essay questions:

a) What motives lay behind the Dissolution of the Monasteries?

b) ‘Its impact on religious life was limited; on social and economic life, immense.’ Is this an accurate assessment of the effects of the dissolution?


D. Knowles, The Religious Orders in England vol III, part 3. chs 30-33 esp useful for b)

G W Woodward, The Dissolution of the Monasteries, section ii (ch 4 useful for a; chs 9-11 for b)

J. Youings, The Dissolution of the Monasteries, introduction.

G W Bernard, The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church (2005), pp. 243-76, ch. 5

--------------, ‘The Dissolution of the Monasteries’, History (2011)

RW Hoyle, ‘The Origins of the Dissolution of the Monasteries’, Historical Journal, vol 38 (1995) - important for a)

J. G. Clark (ed), The Religious Orders in Pre-Reformation England (2002), chs. by Logan and Cunich

P. Marshall, Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation (2017), index, under ‘Dissolution’

M Heale, ‘Training in Superstition? Monasteries and Popular Religion in Late Medieval and Reformation England’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History (2007)

E H Shagan, Popular Politics and the English Reformation (2003), ch. 6

S Jack, ‘The Last Days of the Smaller Monasteries in England’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History (1970) (a)

G A J Hodget, ‘The Unpensioned Ex-Religious in Tudor England’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, (1962), (b)

K. Cooke, ‘The English Nuns and the Dissolution’, in J Blair and B. Golding (eds) The Cloister and the World: Essays in Honour of Barbara Harvey (b)

H J Habbakuk, ‘The Market for Monastic Property’, Economic History Review, (1958), (b)

P Marshall, ‘The Dispersal of Monastic Patronage in East Yorkshire’, in B Kümin (ed) Reformations Old and New (b)

-----------, Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England (2002), pp 81-92 (b)

C Haigh, The Last Days of the Lancashire Monasteries, esp. chs 7-10

W G Hoskins, The Age of Plunder, pp 128-38 (b)

G R Elton, Reform and Reformation, ch 10 (a)

S Lehmberg, The Reformation of Cathedrals, p. 76ff (on dissolution of monastic


A G Dickens, The English Reformation (2nd ed), ch 8

J J Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English People, ch 4

J H Bettey, The Suppression of the Monasteries in the West Country, chs 7, 8

B Thompson, ‘Monasteries and their Patrons at Foundation and Dissolution’, Trans. Royal Historical Society 4 (1994), 103-25.

J G Clark, ‘Reformation and Reaction at St Albans Abbey 1530-58’, English Historical Review, 115 (2000).

S Field, ‘Devotion, Discontent, and the Henrician Reformation: The Evidence of the Robin Hood Stories’, Journal of British Studies, 41 (2002), 6-22.