The English Reformation

King's College London

Course Description

  • Course Name

    The English Reformation

  • Host University

    King's College London

  • Location

    London, England

  • Area of Study

    British Studies, Religion, Theology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • UK Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    The English Reformation
    Module code: 6AAT3025
    Semester: Semester 2 (spring)
    Module description:
    The history of the English Reformation has always been a polemical battleground. Ever since the sixteenth century, argument has raged over whether it began principally as a jurisdictional act of state, engineered for Tudor dynastic reasons, or whether it was a religious revolution, inspired by Martin Luther?s teaching, but perhaps also indebted to the ideas of John Wycliffe (d. 1384) and his Lollard followers of the later Middle Ages. Until relatively recently, it was mostly presented as a story of inevitable Protestant triumph, predicated upon a conviction that the Roman Catholic Church had been intellectually moribund and morally corrupt, its clergy discredited and its laity disenchanted. But an interpretative movement labelled revisionism, which began in the 1970s and reached its apogee in the 1990s, has shattered an account that was based upon confessional bias. Using many neglected sources, revisionists have demonstrated that late medieval religion was alive and well, that anti-clericalism has been exaggerated, that the influence of the Lollards has been overplayed, that much was due to chance and political factionalism, that the restoration of Roman Catholicism under Mary I was not doomed to failure and that Elizabethan efforts to Protestantize England were a huge uphill struggle. Revisionism, however, has generated a problem: if almost nobody was looking for a Reformation, then why did this Reformation ?succeed?? Or rather, why was there not more opposition to it? Post-revisionists have now taken up the challenge, questioning all interpretations built upon a ?conversion model? and raising the possibility of widespread pragmatic collaborations between governors and governed. This one-semester module explores selected episodes and themes in sixteenth-century English religious history in the light of the lively historiographical scene. Taught through a combination of lectures and seminars, it uses a wide variety of documentary sources to introduce students not only to key issues, but also to some of the major figures ? such as William Tyndale, Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, Hugh Latimer, Elizabeth I and John Gerard ? who make the Tudor period one of such perennial fascination and controversy. To study English Reformation history at KCL is to study it close to many of the sites, like Lambeth Palace, Smithfield and the Tower, where a good deal of it was made.
    The purpose of this module is essentially three-fold: firstly, to give students a detailed understanding of crucial facets of religious change in England during the sixteenth century; secondly, to introduce them to recent debates about some of those facets; and thirdly, to enable them, through exposure to printed primary sources, to evaluate those debates and to formulate their own opinions. Since this is an advanced module, available at Level 6, particular stress will be placed upon scrutiny of these primary sources.
    Most teaching sessions will be divided into a lecture and a period of discussion, the latter either initiated by short student presentations or structured around the analysis of a prescribed source. Some discussions might take the form of a semi-formal debate on a set motion, with proposers, seconders etc. All students will be encouraged to participate in these discussions, having prepared for them by reading some of the relevant literature recommended on this module syllabus. Each student will be offered constructive feedback on the assessed essay in a tutorial.
    Study abroad entry requirement: None
    Credit level: 6
    Credit value: 15
    Teaching pattern:
    Two-hour weekly classes over ten weeks.
    Assessment: written examination/s; coursework;
    One 2,500-word essay (40%) and one two-hour exam in May /June (Period II) (60%)

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