- Primary position:
My earliest research interests were into the role of the nobility in Tudor England, presented in The Power of the Early Tudor Nobility: a study of the fourth and fifth earls of Shrewsbury (1984). My second book, War, Taxation and Rebellion in Early Tudor England: Henry VIII, Wolsey and the Amicable Grant of 1525 (1986), dealt with the impact of the huge financial demands made to support war, not least the refusals and resistance in 1525. In my Power and Politics in Tudor England (2000) I brought together studies of politics (including the fall of Wolsey and the role of Thomas Cromwell), further analysis of ‘the continuing power of the Tudor nobility), as well as a paper on ‘Architecture and politics in Tudor England’ and reflections on ‘History and Postmodernism’. In recent years my principal interests have been in the interplay of religion and politics in Tudor England.
English Historical Review
As Editor of the English Historical Review, I welcome the submission of articles. Full details may be found on the English Historical Review website.
The University of Southampton's electronic library (e-prints)
Conference or Workshop Item
My most recent publication is a substantial study of religion and politics in the reign of Henry VIII, entitled The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the remaking of the English Church (Yale University Press, 2005, Paperback 2007). Henry VIII's break with Rome remains among the most striking and important, but also much misunderstood, events in English history. The distinctiveness of the account and analysis offered in my book lies in an emphasis throughout - against the fashionable concentration on ministers and factions - on Henry VIII’s leading personal role. Not only was Henry a king who ruled as well as reigned, but what Henry sought is, I contend in an exploration of the making of religious policy from the mid-1530s, more consistent and, in certain respects, more radical than has generally been allowed. My book also gives due weight, for the first time in a single volume, to those who would not accept what was imposed upon them, notably Bishop John Fisher and Thomas More, and to those who tried, at different times and in varying ways, to deflect the king from his purpose, especially those involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, seen here as a counter-revolutionary protest against religious change, notably the dissolution of the monasteries. My book concludes with an assessment of the lasting legacy of the Henrician Reformation and troubling reflections on Henry's methods of securing compliance, seen as approaching tyranny.
I have just completed, thanks to an award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, a study of Anne Boleyn. My aim is to shed fresh light on the life, and especially the circumstances of the fall, of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's queen, and through a book-length political biography to offer a striking reinterpretation of the political and religious history of a crucially formative period in English history. In the mid-1520s Henry VIII fell in love with Anne Boleyn, younger daughter of the courtier-diplomat Sir Thomas Boleyn. Kings often took mistresses and such affairs usually had little wider significance. But Henry's infatuation with Anne coincided with his growing conviction that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon had always been invalid. And then Henry embarked on what proved to be a long journey that ultimately led to the repudiation of papal authority and to the coronation of Anne Boleyn as his queen. Yet just three years later Anne Boleyn was destroyed - convicted and executed for treasonously committing adultery with five men, including incest with her brother. It is the purpose of this study to explore what lay behind such dramatic events. The novelty of my argument is that careful scrutiny of the sources suggests that Anne may not have been wholly innocent of the adulteries with which she was charged.
In 2003-04 I held a British Academy Senior Research Fellowship and drafted a study entitled 'Vitality and vulnerability in the late medieval church', which I aim to complete in the current academic year. Long seen as riddled with abuses and thus an easy and inevitable target of critics, the late medieval English church has recently - and often movingly – been presented as still cherished by an overwhelming majority of laypeople. The difficulty with that approach, however, is that it makes the subsequent Reformation inexplicable. How could so popular a church be overturned, even allowing for the threats and pressures that rulers could impose? The fashionable emphasis on the vitality of the late medieval church, while in many ways convincing, can nonetheless distort. Instead I aim to see the late medieval church from a fresh perspective, one that balances an emphasis on its vitality (shown here especially through a consideration of churchbuilding) with - crucially - an exploration of its vulnerability to criticism. An enriched understanding of the late medieval church, valuable in itself, also has profound implications for our understanding of the religious and political history of Tudor England, and the subsequent very distinctive and persisting character of the church of England.
Future research plans include a study of Hans Holbein the younger, development of a paper entitled ‘When did England become a protestant country?’, and, over the medium term, an exploration of churchbuilding in late medieval and early modern England.
- Special Subject: The Henrician Reformation 1509-1547
- Alternative History: History and Literature in Early Modern England
- Option: Power, Politics and Patronage in Early Modern England 1509-1660
- Group Project: The dissolution of the monasteries
- Cases & Context: A Revolution in Tudor Government?
For full details of these courses, including course handbooks and reading lists, see my webpages.
Areas where I can offer postgraduate supervision:
Sixteenth-century English political and religious history; architectural history of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Professor G.W. Bernard
School of Humanities
University of Southampton
All English Historical Review postal correspondence, including the submission of articles, should be sent to me at English Historical Review, Faculty of History, The Old Boys’ High School, George Street, Oxford OX1 2RL.
Professor G.W. Bernard's personal home page
Room Number: 65/2049
Telephone: (023) 8059 2241
Facsimile: (023) 8059 3458