HST247: A Protestant Nation? Politics, religion and culture in England 1558-1640

20 credits (semester 2)

Module Leader: Dr Tom Leng & Professor Anthony Milton



Pass in at least two of the Level One modules History Units HST112-121.


Module Summary

The accession of Elizabeth I brought with it a church settlement that ensured that England became an officially Protestant country. Yet this settlement could not guarantee that all English people instantly assumed a uniform set of Protestant beliefs and practices. Furthermore, members of the Church, state and laypeople often disagreed about the very nature of changes needed to accommodate the new religion. This is the 'struggle' which we will be charting throughout this course: a contest over the direction of the Protestant Reformation in England, in an era when politics and culture were permeated with religious significance.

Lectures will trace the development of England's contested reformation over the period 1560-1640, whilst seminars consider in more detail how the English people experienced and interpreted these contests. Seminars deploy both secondary reading (generally available electronically) and sources to be made available on the MOLE courseware. We begin by considering the impact of the Reformation in a variety of contexts, considering the power of iconoclasm, changing relations between the laity and the clergy, and the extent to which Protestantism reshaped the culture and beliefs of English people. We examine popular literature and beliefs about the activities of God and the Devil in this world. The second half of the course moves on to consider changing religious identities in post-Reformation England. How did English Catholics refashion their identities now that they belonged to a minority sect, and how do their experiences compare to Protestant separatists who also rejected the mainstream Church of England? How far did anti-Catholicism and anti-separatism define the identity of the Church of England (and indeed the English nation)? What was the nature of Puritanism? And did the Church of England itself ever possess a stable or essential religious identity in this period? We conclude by considering the conflicts within the Church in the decades leading up to the outbreak of the English Civil War.


Teaching and Assessment

One lecture and one seminar per week. Further guidance is provided in the module course booklet, available through MOLE.

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level2


Selected Reading

  • Peter Marshall, Reformation England, 1480-1642 (London, 2003) [recommended]
  • Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants, rev ed. (Oxford, 1982)
  • Patrick Collinson, The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (New York, 1988)
  • Alexandra Walsham, Providence in early modern England (1999)
  • Ronald Hutton, The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year, 1400-1700 (Oxford, 1994)


Intended Learning Outcomes
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