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The University of Southampton

HIST3066 The Henrician Reformation 1509-47: Part 1

Module Overview

Henry VIII's break with Rome remains one of the most striking assertions of royal authority and national independence. In 1533 Henry repudiated the authority of the pope and secured his much-sought divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. These were crucially important years in English political and religious history. And this course has at its heart a study of the ‘high politics' of the break with Rome in the early 1530s.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

- To explore Henry VIII’s break with Rome, set in the context of early Tudor government and society, including an appraisal of the personal role of Henry VIII. - To assess the condition of the church on the eve of the break with Rome - To introduce and to familiarise students with the printed sources available for the study of early Tudor England.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The political and religious events of the reign of Henry VIII culminating in the break with Rome and the declaration of the king’s royal supremacy (1509-34).
  • The condition of the church on the eve of the break with Rome.
  • The printed sources available to historians of early Tudor England.
  • The recent historiography of the period.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Gather information, work out how useful that information is and synthesise it into clear and well-written reports.
  • Communicate effectively in group-discussions.
  • Identify and solve historical problems.
  • Display effective time-management in planning and completing all sorts of intellectual tasks.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse the relevance of a wide range of primary sources, appreciate the particular contexts in which those sources were produced and comment succinctly on their significance in a ‘gobbets’ exam and in a source-related assessed essay.
  • Engage critically with the many books and articles on this period that have been written by other historians.
  • Structure a coherent written argument based on an engagement with the primary and secondary literature that relates to this particular period.
  • Express your opinions, knowledge and understanding in class discussions with your tutor and your fellow-students.
  • Display an awareness of the broader epistemological issues involved in studying history.


In this unit, students begin with three detailed case studies - the Hunne affair, the fall of the duke of Buckingham in 1521, the Amicable Grant of 1525 - which at once raise questions about the condition of the late medieval church, the power of the nobility and the effectiveness of royal and ministerial government. An extended discussion of the ascendancy of Cardinal Wolsey leads on to a sharpened focus on the break with Rome, studied in depth, year by year. Henry VIII's desire for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the fall of Wolsey in 1529, pressures against the church, the timing and evolution of the royal supremacy, propaganda and counter-propaganda are all considered in the first unit. Topics to be covered in the first semester of the course include: - The Hunne affair - The fall of the third duke of Buckingham - The Amicable Grant - The ascendancy of Cardinal Wolsey - Henry VIII and the divorce - The struggle for the divorce 1530-32: the pardon of the clergy, the submission of the clergy - Divorce secured; the royal supremacy

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - Weekly three-hour classes. Each week a general topic is divided up into half a dozen over-lapping sub-topics; sub-topics are allocated to students who prepare a brief report. - Individual consultation in person and by email about assessed work on the unit. - Tutor-led guidance on the sources, on the preparation of assessed essays and gobbets (including practice session), on the conventions used in the presentation of written work. Learning activities include: - Reading set texts (editions/summaries in print of original sixteenth-century documents, notably in the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII) and recommended secondary literature. - Preparation of brief reports on particular questions as directed for classes - Discussion in class of set topics; informal discussion lasting well beyond the formal teaching hours.

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

General Resource. The basic source that students will be using is J.S. Brewer, J. Gairdner and R.H. Brodie, eds., Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII (21 vols. in 36, 1862 1932), supplemented by the Calendars of State Papers, Spanish for the imperial ambassador's letters. Another important source is Edward Hall, Chronicle (1809 edition).

C. Haigh (1993). The English Reformations. 

E. Duffy (1992). The Stripping of the Altars. 

A.G. Dickens (1989). The English Reformation. 

J.J. Scarisbrick (1997). Henry VIII. 

J.J. Scarisbrick (1984). The Reformation and the English People. 

G.W. Bernard (2000). Power and Politics in Tudor England. 

G.W. Bernard (1986). War, Taxation and Rebellion in early Tudor England. 

P.J. Gwyn (1990). The King's Cardinal. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Take-away exam 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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