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Early Modern England and Wales - 20 credits (HS1106)

Module Tutor: Dr Garthine Walker Walker, Writing early modern History

Course Description

This module is an introduction to the history of early modern England and Wales. As it was in this period that the two countries were united as a political unit, the module offers a comparative perspective not only on the nature and scope of the early modern state but also on the lives and beliefs of the people – both rich and poor – who lived within it. We do not focus on any particular strand of historical writing but rather draw on a range of social, cultural, economic and political history. This approach allows you to deepen your understanding of why things happened the way they did and to explore the differences and similarities between the experiences of various social and cultural groups. Topics covered include the family, class relations, life in the countryside and in towns, local and national identities, oral and print culture, legends and prophecies, order and disorder, popular politics in the form of  news and riots, as well as seminal events and processes such as the Acts of Union, the Reformation and the British civil wars. Certain themes run through these topics and will be considered throughout the course: the extent to which the early modern period experienced a transition from ‘tradition’ towards ‘modernity’; the extent to which a process of social and cultural polarisation occurred in which the better-off became separated from their poorer neighbours; and the nature of political, cultural, linguistic, and ethnic relationships within the British Isles.

Credits: 20

Availability of module: Every year

Prerequisites: N/A

Necessary for: N/A

Teaching methods

A range of teaching methods will be used in each session of the course, combining lectures and seminar discussion.

The aim of the lectures is to provide a brief introduction to a particular topic, establishing the salient features of major course themes, identifying key issues and providing historiographical guidance. The lectures aim to provide a basic framework for understanding and should be thought of as useful starting points for further discussion and individual study. Where appropriate, handouts and other materials may be distributed to reinforce the material discussed.

The primary aim of seminars will be to generate debate and discussion amongst course participants. Seminars for each of the course topics will provide an opportunity for students to analyse and further discuss key issues and topics relating to lectures.


Students will be assessed by means of a combination of one 2,000 word assessed essay [50%] and one two-hour unseen written examination paper in which the student will answer two questions [50%].

Course assignments:
The Assessed Essay will contribute 50% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 2,000 words (excluding empirical appendices and references).

The Examination will take place during the second assessment period [May/June] and will consist of an unseen two hour paper that will contribute the remaining 50% of the final mark for this module. Students must write 2 answers in total.

Summary of course content

  • Introduction
  • Early modernity & periodisation
  • The Early Modern Family
  • The State: the Acts of Union
  • The Reformation in England
  • The Reformation in Wales
  • Puritanism
  • Iconoclasm & Religious Cultures
  • Print & Oral Culture
  • Legends & Prophecies
  • Magic, Maths & Maps
  • Identities: Britishness
  • Place & Local Identities
  • Politics & the Public Sphere I: news, libels & rumour
  • Politics & the Public Sphere II: crowds & riot
  • Governance in the Borderlands
  • ‘A World Turned Upside Down’: The Civil Wars 1642-49

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a broad knowledge and an understanding of the nature of early modern English and Welsh society and culture
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of a range of historical approaches used to analyse early modern Welsh and English society and culture.
  • Demonstrate, as a necessary foundation for more detailed analysis in the second and final years of the degree, an understanding of concepts such as ‘modernisation’, ‘social polarisation’, and cultural, linguistic and ethnic differentiation.
  • Skills that will be practised and developed

Students will extend their ability to:

  • Acquire a broad knowledge of early modern England and Wales.
  • Communicate ideas and arguments effectively, whether in class discussion or in written form.
  • Formulate and justify arguments and conclusions in seminar discussions.
  • Modify as well as to defend their own position.
  • Think critically and challenge assumptions

Suggested preparatory reading

Garthine Walker (ed.), Writing Early Modern History (London, 2005).
Patrick Collinson, The Sixteenth Century, 1485–1603 (Oxford, 2002).
Philip Jenkins, A History of Modern Wales, 1536–1990 (London, 1992).
Jenny Wormald (ed.), The Seventeenth Century (Oxford, 2008).
Glanmor Williams, Recovery, Reorientation and Reformation: Wales, c.1415–1642 (Oxford, 1987).
Keith Wrightson, English Society, 1580–1680 (London, 1982).
Robert Tittler and Norman Jones (eds.), A Companion to Tudor Britain (Oxford, 2004)
Barry Coward (ed.), A Companion to Stuart Britain (Oxford, 2003).