Great Courses: A History Of England From The Tudors To The Stuarts: Part 1, by Professor Robert Bucholz
Although the history of the Tudors is one I am pretty familiar with , this first part of a four part epic course on the Tudor and Stuart dynasty is still a winning one. The professor is an American who spent many years studying and researching abroad, and so he brings to this course a mixture between an outsider’s approach to English history (and the history of the peripheral regions of what is now Great Britain and Ireland) as well as a great deal of research knowledge and expertise on that history. Likewise, the professor blends an interest in biographical history–focused here on such figures as Henry VII, Henry VIII, Cardinal Wosley, and a few others–as well as an interest in total history that focuses attention on people who are peripheral for reasons of geography or class, which makes for an intriguing class that blends together approaches of history from the top down as well as from the bottom up. The combination is definitely a worthwhile one and the course is definitely an enjoyable one.
The twelve lectures (and six hours) of this course are organized in a somewhat unconventional way that demonstrates the professor’s complicated purposes. The professor begins by introducing himself and his own background and looking at the purpose of showing how the Tudor and Stuart periods made England the first modern country in our world. Three lectures follow that show the land and its people in 1485, when the Battle of Bosworth made Henry VII ruler over a divided and marginal country. The author then goes back in time for two lectures to cover the late medieval period first from the death of Edward III to the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses and then the Wars of the Roses themselves. The next two lectures briefly cover the establishment of the Tudor dynasty through the sober and wary policies of Henry VII, an able but not particularly beloved monarch. The last four lectures look at the reign of King Henry VIII, looking at his early reign, the king’s great matter in the search for a legitimate male heir, the gradual break from Rome, and the question of whether the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII served as a Tudor revolution in terms of culture and the role of the state.
There was a great deal of value in this particular set of lectures, and those who want to know how Tudor history is relevant to our contemporary world would do well to listen to these lectures and to ponder over the historiography of the author. Of particular value was the way that the author compares the charismatic reputation of Henry VIII with the way that his reign served as an introduction to the contemporary welfare state where the government seeks to replace the church and other institutions in providing aid to the poor and in controlling the economic resources of the state and its territory. This book provided a bit of ominous understanding about some of the origins of the conflict over the role of government and the legitimacy of its authority that exist within the United States, showing how long the roots of this conflict go back into late medieval and early modern history. There are many other useful insights this course provides, such as the fateful division of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland when it came to the growth of English power and dominion over those areas, and also the way that the author has a deft grasp of many types of historical investigation. Here’s a class I look forward to continuing.
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