Semester II, 2017

This course will explore a decisive period in the making of modern Britain, and of the western world today. Though the social, economic and intellectual aspects of the period will not be neglected, the main focus of the course will be on political and constitutional change. The course will begin with a broad introduction to early-modern Britain. Then we will examine how the turbulent period of the Wars of the Roses was ended, and how the Tudor monarchy broke the independence of the "over-mighty magnates" of late-medieval England.
The Tudors succeeded in introducing far greater unity and centralization than had existed earlier, and this will be the main theme of the first half of the course. Topics discussed will include the Reformation, the so-called "Tudor Revolution in Government," the bitter factional politics of the court of Henry VIII, the Marian Reaction and the "mid-Tudor crisis," and the re-establishment of royal power in the reign of Elizabeth - when an unprecedented flowering of English culture took place, and when English sea-power staved off conquest by Catholic Spain.
The succession of James, King of Scots to the English throne in 1603, united the Scottish and English monarchies but the new Stuart dynasty was soon faced with grave problems. The second half of the course will examine the ways in which financial, constitutional and religious issues combined to lead to civil war and to the execution of the King and the introduction of a republic in England in 1649. We will also see how the advent of a military despotism and the proliferation of radical ideas led the English to reintroduce monarchy in 1660.



Johann Sommerville

Email: jsommerv@wisc.edu

Office: Mosse Humanities 4127.

Office Hours: Mondays 12-1, and by appointment.

Tel: 608-263-1863 (Office.)

Mailbox: 4001 Mosse Humanities.


The Course schedule gives an outline of this course's content, summaries of the lectures, additional relevant information, and links to other internet sites.

This is a three credit course for undergraduates and graduate students.

An Honors credit is available for undergraduates. See below for requirements.




  • attend lectures (MWF 8:50-9:40A.M. 1217  Humanities)
  • do the required course reading.
  • and explore the material on this site by clicking the hyperlinks (starting with Course schedule.)

There are two midterms (in class on 3/3 and 4/12,) and a final (10:05AM, Wednesday 5/10, place to be announced)

Honors students will do a term paper of 5-6 pages, double-spaced, 10-12 point font; include a list of books and articles you use (due 5/3); the paper should cite at least two sources (books or articles) in addition to the course reading (you could try here for reading suggestions; and/ or use this search engine) You can arrange a topic with me, or else write on one of these questions: (1) "The Reformation under Henry VIII was forced on a reluctant population by a greedy and unscrupulous government": what can be said for and against this thesis?: (2) was there a "mid-Tudor Crisis" between about 1540 and 1560?; (3) What problems faced Queen Elizabeth I and how successful was she in overcoming them?; (4) Why did Civil War break out in England in 1642?

Graduate students:

Do 2 term papers (12-15 pp. including notes and bibliography; due 3/27 and 5/3; worth 50% each.) Topics by arrangement.



Required Texts:

(1) Susan Brigden, New Worlds, Lost Worlds: the Rule of the Tudors 1485-1603; Paper; Penguin; 2002 (ISBN-10: 0142001252 or ISBN-13: 978-0142001257.) This is the main textbook for the first half of the course.

(2) Mark Kishlansky, A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603-1714; Paper; Penguin; 1997 (ISBN-10: 0140148272 or ISBN-13: 978-0140148275 .) Read the first nine chapters. This is the main textbook for the second half of the course.

NOTE ON READING ASSIGNMENTS: for detailed reading assignments see the course SCHEDULE below.

Also read the material and follow the links in the pages on this site, beginning with the Course schedule. Those who are interested could also consult the much larger book list here - - and this search engine . A good collection of biographies is available online through Memorial Library in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography .

How much are the exams (etc.) worth:


3 credit: each midterm 25%; final 50%.

3 credit Honors: 25% Honors paper; 37.5% final; 18.75% each midterm





Introduction: (01/18-01/23)
(i) Basic factors
(ii) Economy and society
(iii) Government

READING: Brigden: Prologue and ch. 1.

The foundation of Tudor England: (01/25-01/30)
(i) The Wars of the Roses and their aftermath
(ii) Henry VII

READING: Brigden: ch. 2-3.

Henry VIII and Wolsey (02/01)

Henry VIII and the Reformation: (02/03-02/10)
(i) from above
(ii) from below
(iii) the monasteries

READING: Brigden: ch. 4.

Henry VIII - government and society (02/13)

READING: Brigden: ch. 5.

Edward VI and: (02/15-02/17)
(i)  Somerset
(ii) Northumberland

READING: Brigden: ch. 6.

Mary (02/20-02/22)

The reign of Elizabeth (02/24-03/01)


READING: Brigden: ch. 7-8.

Elizabethan: (03/06-03/17)
 (i) Government
(ii) Parliaments
(iiI) Puritanism
(iv) Catholicism

READING: Brigden: ch. 9-10.

SPRING BREAK: 03/18-03/26

Elizabethan exploration and foreign policy (03/27)

READING: Brigden: ch. 11; Epilogue.

Stuart England 1603-1642 (03/29-03/31)

READING: Kishlansky ch. 1.

Jacobean England: (04/03-07)
(i) the age of Salisbury
(ii) the rule of the Howards

(iii) James and Buckingham

READING: Kishlansky ch. 2-3.

Charles I and the crisis of 1625-9 (04/10-14)


READING: Kishlansky ch. 4.

Charles I: the personal rule 1629-40  (04/17-19)

READING: Kishlansky ch. 5.

The Civil War and its origins 1640-2 (04/21-24)

READING: Kishlansky ch. 6.

The first Civil War, 1642-6 (04/26-28)

READING: Kishlansky ch. 7.

The English Revolution, 1647-9 (05/01)

The Commonwealth and Protectorate 1649-58 (05/01)

READING: Kishlansky ch. 8.

The end of the Protectorate and the Restoration, 1658-60 (05/03)

Science, thought, religion and culture in mid-seventeenth century England (05/03)


READING: Kishlansky ch. 9.

(Kishlansky ch. 10-13 is not required reading; it takes the story up to 1714.)