History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts

Course No. 8470
Professor Robert Bucholz, D.Phil.
Loyola University Chicago
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Course Overview

During the 229-year period from 1485 to 1714, England transformed itself from a minor feudal state into what has been called "the first modern society," and emerged as the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world. Those years hold a huge story. The English people survived repeated epidemics and famines, one failed invasion and two successful ones, two civil wars, a series of violent religious reformations and counter-reformations, and confrontations with two of the most powerful monarchs on Earth, Louis XIV of France and Philip II of Spain.

But they did much more than survive. They produced a marvelous culture that gave the world the philosophy of John Locke, the plays of Shakespeare, the wit of Swift, the poetry of Milton, the buildings of Christopher Wren, the science of Isaac Newton, and the verse of the King James Bible.

And despite the cruelty, bloodshed, and religious suppression they visited on so many, they also left behind something else: the political principles and ideals for which we—and so many of them—would work and die, and on which we Americans would build our nation.

"A Terrific Story"

Professor Robert Bucholz presents a sweeping, 48-lecture course on one of the most intriguing times in modern history. England's changing social, economic, religious, and political structures unfold while first the Tudors (1485–1603) and then the Stuarts (1603–1714) establish their monarchies, and you hear the facts behind dramatic stories:

  • Henry VIII's wives and his fear that a woman would rule
  • The reigns of Henry's three children: Edward VI, "Bloody Mary," and popular Elizabeth I
  • James I's insistence that the monarchy be stronger than Parliament
  • Charles I in his best attire, walking to his own beheading
  • James II believing Britain couldn't live without him
  • William III, invited by the British to invade their country
  • Queen Anne's War and her immense popularity
  • The great, tumultuous city of London
  • Continuing religious persecution and change, including the Reformation and the relationships between the royalty and the pope
  • Change through the onset of the printed word
  • Problems of law and order, witchcraft, the Poor Law, and the rise of Puritanism
  • The blossoming of Elizabethan and Jacobean culture in art, music, and literature.

You learn about great works of art, important discoveries, castles, and coronations. And with the rich history of England's monarchs you also learn how the English people were born, worked, played, worshipped, fell in love, and died.

You also discover answers to intriguing questions such as:

  • Why have all Britain's glory days been under women monarchs?
  • Why did experimenting with a Republic lead to the monarchy's return?
  • Why was Thomas More executed?
  • Why do rebellion and war continue in Ireland and Scotland?
  • What has been England's ongoing relationship with Wales?

Professor Bucholz presents this history in an intimate way that draws you into unfolding events, weaving quotes from parish records, diaries, letters, newspapers, and the political press into his own narrative.

"This is," he says simply, "a terrific story."

AudioFile© magazine comments: "Professor Bucholz intertwines descriptions of court intrigue with portrayals of its effects on those governed, from the merchant to the tenant farmer to the beggar. Bucholz's lecturing style engages his students in the realities of the time with empathy, data, and humor. … The listener will find no dry history here, but a colorful album of real peoples' memories."

Professor Bucholz—whose work has been solicited and commented upon by His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales—is a noted expert on the English court and royal household, and a frequent media commentator on British history and the Royal Family.

Two Strong Queens and an Execution

This is a course filled with drama.

With Professor Bucholz, you find yourself in the hallway outside the bedchamber of Queen Anne on the night of July 27, 1714, next to the loyal servants who clearly hear the sounds of their beloved monarch weeping.

That day, the queen had been left with no choice but to demand the resignation of her Lord Treasurer, Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, the greatest politician of his era and the last of the original ministers she had chosen when assuming the throne.

It is a frankly stunning moment and a vivid portrait of Queen Anne. This plain and sickly woman lacked the star quality of Elizabeth. Little had been expected of her when she took the throne 12 years earlier; yet she nevertheless forged the most successful reign of any Stuart monarch, becoming a strong and effective queen with an instinctive love for and understanding of her people.

Professor Bucholz explains that the two most successful reigns of this period were those of women, Queen Anne on the Stuart side, and, on the Tudor side, Elizabeth—the "Virgin Queen." Moreover, they did this in the face of a century of belief in the Great Chain of Being, the immutable hierarchy in which every person at birth had a clearly defined and accepted rank, To challenge it in any form was a grave sin.

Professor Bucholz takes you to the floor of Parliament during the contentious debate over the fate of Charles I, with Oliver Cromwell thundering, "I tell you, I will cut off his head with the crown on it!"; then to the king's final meeting with his youngest sons where he asks them to preserve the monarchy; and, finally, to the execution itself, the march to the block taking Charles directly underneath a painting of James I on the ceiling of Whitehall Palace—his own father portrayed as a deified monarch.

This was far more than great theater. For England had, for the first time, "judicially and publicly murdered" its monarch, literally "lopping off [Earth's] highest link in the Great Chain of Being" and created, for the only time in its history, a Republic.

Repercussions across the Ocean

It was during this time England became a world power and, in the process, established its American colonies. That culture of early-modern England is our root culture, and many of our institutions, laws, customs, and traditions can be traced back to that time and place.

In particular, the civil wars, revolutions, and parliamentary and legal battles described in this course led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, rule of law, the rights to trial by jury and habeas corpus, the first modern political parties, and a kind of popular participation in politics that would lead, ultimately, to democracies on both sides of the Atlantic.

"For these reasons," states Professor Bucholz, "this is not only an interesting course in its own right, it is also one with direct relevance for 21st-century Americans."

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48 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    England 1485–1714, the First Modern Country
    A look at the scope of the course, the significance of English history, and why this Early-Modern period was crucial not only to the development of England, but to transatlantic civilization itself. x
  • 2
    The Land and Its People in 1485—I
    This lecture examines England's so-called "island mentality" and its complicated relationship to both Europe and the Celtic lands of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. x
  • 3
    The Land and Its People in 1485—II
    The discussion of the physical world of the English people in 1485 continues with this look at the material and social topography of the English town, manor, and village, from the wealthiest residents to the poorest. x
  • 4
    The Land and Its People in 1485—III
    The focus switches to the mental landscape of the English people, and especially to the concept of the "Great Chain of Being" and the unyielding social hierarchy it implied. x
  • 5
    Medieval Prelude—1377–1455
    Beginning with the end of the reign of Edward III, the English monarchy and constitution undergoes more than a century of instability prior to the accession of the Tudors. This lecture begins the explanation of why this happened. x
  • 6
    Medieval Prelude—1455–85
    Over a 30-year period, the Lancastrian and Yorkist claimants to the throne fight three different Wars of the Roses and produce a short-lived line of Yorkist kings, including Richard III, whose reign ends in the successful rebellion that begins the Tudor Dynasty. x
  • 7
    Establishing the Tudor Dynasty—1485–97
    This lecture examines the steps taken by Henry VII to secure the crown after his victory over Richard III, the failed Yorkist rebellions that follow, and Henry's subsequent efforts to secure alliances that will deprive future rebels of allies or secure bases. x
  • 8
    Establishing the Tudor Dynasty—1497–1509
    This lecture examines Henry's efforts to make England's government more efficient, less expensive, and more responsive to his wishes by following three old principles of medieval kingship: the king must be strong, he must govern with consent, and he must live "of his own" (within a budget). x
  • 9
    Young King Hal—1509–27
    A look at the larger-than-life personality of Henry VIII and the early years of his reign, years dominated by Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, one of the most hated government officials in English history. x
  • 10
    The King's Great Matter—1527–30
    This lecture examines Henry VIII's attempts to secure from the Roman Catholic Church a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and the complex implications that surround it. x
  • 11
    The Break from Rome—1529–36
    With the Catholic Church weak and divided at the top, Henry and his new leading minister, Thomas Cromwell, are able to break England's allegiance to the Pope, secure the king's divorce, and initiate the Reformation in England. x
  • 12
    A Tudor Revolution—1536-47
    An examination of what some historians have seen as a Tudor plan to increase the power and efficiency of the monarchy, not only in religion, but in all areas of English life. x
  • 13
    The Last Years of Henry VIII—1540–47
    An aging king attempts to avoid invasion by the Catholic powers, balancing the demands of Protestant reformers with his own desire for a traditional Church—under his command—that would retain many Catholic practices. x
  • 14
    Edward VI—1547-53
    Two successive advisors to the boy-king (only nine when he takes the throne) increasingly push the country toward Protestantism, including an attempt to alter the succession. But when Edward dies, the country still rallies to the Catholic heir, Mary Tudor. x
  • 15
    Mary I—1553-58
    Failing to realize that her people have rallied to her only because she is the rightful heir and not because she is Catholic, "Bloody Mary" attempts to ally with the Spanish Empire and undo the Reformation—at tremendous human cost. x
  • 16
    Young Elizabeth—1558
    As Queen, Elizabeth uses her superb political skills to balance off both competing court factions and potential suitors. Rejecting marriage, she cultivates the image of "Gloriana," the Virgin Queen symbolically wed to the people of England. x
  • 17
    The Elizabethan Settlement—1558–68
    Bitter religious divisions are tearing at England as Elizabeth takes the throne. This lecture examines those divisions and how the Scottish Reformation, the rebellion against Mary Queen of Scots, and Mary's flight into Elizabeth's protection place in grave peril not only both women, but also the prospects for peace in the British Isles. x
  • 18
    Set in a Dangerous World—1568–88
    Increasing tensions between England and Spain over trade and the Protestant Revolt in the Netherlands mark a period of plots against Elizabeth, the assembling of the Spanish Armada, the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and the defeat of the Armada by a newly strengthened Royal Navy. x
  • 19
    Heart and Stomach of a Queen—1588–1603
    The beginning of a world war with Spain has a devastating effect on England's economy and makes for a stormy relationship with Parliament. In the end, it is the cult of "Gloriana" that keeps Parliament and the people loyal and allows the smooth succession of the Stuarts to the throne. x
  • 20
    The Land and Its People in 1603
    The start of an eight-lecture intermission from the political narrative to address the economic and social changes experienced by the English people since 1485—beginning with unprecedented stresses on the Great Chain of Being. x
  • 21
    Private Life—The Elite
    An examination of how members of the landed aristocracy (i.e., nobles and gentry) lived their lives circa 1603. x
  • 22
    Private Life—The Commoners
    The same topics dealt with in the previous lecture—education, courtship, marriage and day-to-day living—are dealt with as they are experienced at the other end of the "Chain." x
  • 23
    The Ties that Bound
    A look at the institutions, habits, and attitudes designed to promote meaning and community in England, including popular religion, paternalism, extended family ties, and the support of one's neighbors. x
  • 24
    Order and Disorder
    Toward the end of the sixteenth century, English men and women are convinced that disorder, poverty, and crime are on the rise. This lecture examines whether they were right and how the system functioned to address these issues. x
  • 25
    Towns, Trade, and Colonization
    England begins its movement out of the countryside—not only into towns, but to fledgling colonies that form an alternative for those who cannot make a go of it in England or conform to its rigid religious and social structure. x
  • 26
    London
    A guided walk through what is, by far, the largest city in the realm, as well as its capital, greatest port, and center of culture and fashion. x
  • 27
    The Elizabethan and Jacobean Age
    A look at the tremendous flowering of English culture at the turn into the seventeenth century, including what is possibly the greatest achievement of the age—the development of the English language itself—and the reaction of authorities to this powerful and thus dangerous tool. x
  • 28
    Establishing the Stuart Dynasty—1603–25
    The problems that James I inherits from the Tudors will eventually overwhelm the early Stuart state and produce the British Civil Wars. This lecture introduces five enduring areas of tension—sovereignty, financing the government, war and foreign policy, religion, and local control—with a focus on the first two. x
  • 29
    The Ascendancy of Buckingham—1614–28
    A look at the 14-year dominance over English politics and government of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, who rises to be the principal favorite of both James I and his son, Charles I. x
  • 30
    Religion and Local Control—1628–37
    This lecture examines the impact of the different and problematic religious settlements reached in each of the three kingdoms ruled by the Stuarts: England, Scotland, and Ireland. x
  • 31
    Crisis of the Three Kingdoms—1637–42
    In 1637, Charles I attempts to impose an Anglican liturgy on Presbyterian Scotland, unleashing a chain of crises that ultimately leads to the complete breakdown of understanding between king and Parliament and a resulting declaration of civil war in England. x
  • 32
    The Civil Wars—1642–49
    A look at how the wealth controlled by Parliament eventually wears away Charles I's advantage in experienced fighting men and leads to an event unprecedented in English history: the execution of a king on a charge of high treason against the people of England. x
  • 33
    The Search for a Settlement—1649–53
    This lecture examines the first part of England's 11-year period without a king, including the flowering of a period of relative political, social, and religious freedom, and the conquests of Ireland and Scotland. x
  • 34
    Cromwellian England—1653–60
    Parliament and the army ask Cromwell to administer England as Lord Protector of the realm. But after five years of effective rule, Cromwell dies—unleashing a period of instability that leads to the negotiated restoration of the Stuart monarchy. x
  • 35
    The Restoration Settlement—1660–70
    The restoration settlements in Church and State seem to turn the clock back, with the king dependent on Parliament, the Church of England reestablished and Puritans made outlaws, and defeat at the hands of the Dutch plunging the nation into crisis. x
  • 36
    The Failure of the Restoration—1670–78
    Charles II and his new ministry—the Cabal—begin a bold attempt to solve all of his problems by signing the Treaty of Dover with France, England's ancestral enemy. x
  • 37
    The Popish Plot and Exclusion—1678–85
    An alleged "Popish plot" to kill the king and establish his Catholic brother, James, Duke of York, on the throne leads to the rise of the Whig and Tory parties, a failed effort to bar James, and the pursuit by Charles of what comes to be known as the Tory Revenge. The Revenge culminates in a deathbed conversion to Catholicism and the peaceful succession of James. x
  • 38
    A Catholic Restoration? 1685–88
    A look at the short and unpopular reign of James II and his attempts to restore toleration for Catholics. Unpopular though he is, no one contemplates rebellion, until the surprise birth of a Catholic heir leads seven prominent noblemen to invite invasion by the Protestant William, Prince of Orange. x
  • 39
    The Glorious Revolution—1688–89
    James flees in the face of William's invasion, and a compromising Parliament declares his abdication, placing William on the throne and marking England's final break with the Great Chain and her entry into the modern world. x
  • 40
    King William's War—1689–92
    The necessities of the war with France bring about a fundamental shift in the respective roles of England's two political parties, and irrevocably extend the reach of Parliament's power and role in the constitution. x
  • 41
    King William's War—1692–1702
    An examination of the economic strategy that enabled victory over France; the Act of Settlement that solved England's succession question—at least on paper—and moved the nation closer to constitutional monarchy, and the two royal deaths that brought England to the brink of yet another war with France. It is a war that will have to be fought by a new ruler after a hunting accident claims William's life. x
  • 42
    Queen Anne and the Rage of Party—1702
    A close look at a Queen greatly underestimated in both her own time and by historians, yet whose strong common sense and identification with her people's hopes and dreams would make her the most successful of the Stuarts. x
  • 43
    Queen Anne's War—1702–10
    The War of the Spanish Succession decides the thrones of Spain and Britain and settles the balance of power in Europe and North America for a generation. But even after a series of major victories, it is the queen's subtle political maneuvering that paves the way for peace. x
  • 44
    Queen Anne's Peace—1710–14
    Though the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 ends the war and lays the groundwork for the British Empire and England's commercial and military dominance of Europe for the rest of the century, issues of religion and succession are still in play when Queen Anne's lifelong fragile health finally fails, and the last of the Stuart monarchs dies. x
  • 45
    Hanoverian Epilogue—1714–30
    A look at how the peaceful accession of George I, combined with Britain's victory in the War of the Spanish Succession, solves or pacifies most of the tensions that have wracked England under the Stuarts, and allows Great Britain to become the richest and most powerful country in Europe during the eighteenth century x
  • 46
    The Land and Its People in 1714—I
    An examination of the social and economic state of the country as the reign of the Stuarts ends. x
  • 47
    The Land and Its People in 1714—II
    As England turns into the eighteenth century, the face of artistic and intellectual life is changing as primary patronage of the arts passes from the Church and court, replaced by noble and popular sponsorship of architecture, literature, music, and painting. x
  • 48
    The Meaning of English History—1485–1714
    A summary of what twenty-first-century Americans should take from English history under the Tudors and Stuarts: a time when ideas and concepts that still lie at the heart of our notion of democratic civilization were pioneered. x

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Your professor

Robert Bucholz

About Your Professor

Robert Bucholz, D.Phil.
Loyola University Chicago
Dr. Robert Bucholz is Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago, where he has taught since 1988. He earned his B.A. in History from Cornell University and his D.Phil. in Modern History from Oxford University. Before joining the faculty at Loyola University, Professor Bucholz taught at numerous universities, including Cornell University; California State University, Long Beach; and Loyola, Marymount University. He is a...
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Reviews

History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 145.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Factual and entertaining Not afraid of expressing his opinion Prof. Bucholz has an entertaining style. I found it very refreshing that he often says " I would argue that"...and sets forth the basis of his opinion as well as other views on the subject. Prof Bucholz nicely incorporates the personalities of the historical figures into his discussion of the events of history. He also weaves the historical philosophy of the times as well as economics and sociology into his lecture in order to explain the why as well as the what of the history in his lectures. As an aside this course does cover some of what he also covers in his "History of London" but that course is still worth taking.
Date published: 2019-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enthralling! Professor Bucholz does an amazing job as always. I bought this course after listening to his Foundations of Western Civ II. My degree is in history so I loved the corse despite being reasonably familiar with the material. The history is so rich though there was still plenty to learn. His presentation flows like an incredible story in any case.
Date published: 2019-07-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mixed I have bought a multitude of Great Courses, over the years. This particular course I got out of our local library. Has an extreme wealth of information. In most Great Courses, I skip around in the material. Three times I came across a sentiment expressed in this course, one of which times, was in the very last lecture, lecture 48, 14:30. ... built on the backs of Africans who were abducted, sold, enslaved and worked to an early grave. In our increasingly polarized society, any further stuff (sorry for such an un-upper class word) any mentions on this topic, would invite counter stuff, and that more counter counter stuff, and so on. So I leave it at that.
Date published: 2019-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It should be the era that changed the world I recently became interested in what led to the modern world. The answer is England in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was not inevitable forces that led to our world but a series of contingencies that gave parliament more power and the monarchy less. Thus, enabling the lower 98% of the people to an eventually better life. The industrial revolution flows from the change of power that happened during this period which was fueled by religious conflict and a commercial/financial revolution. All of which enabled people from the lower levels to innovate and advance.
Date published: 2019-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All Great Courses Should Be This Great Until now I considered Jennifer Paxton to be the gold standard of Great Courses lecturers. I still do, but I'm adding Robert Bucholz to the pantheon. Even though this is a fairly long course - 48 lectures - I found myself binge-listening. I went through it in less than a week. I simply couldn't put it away. Let's talk about professor presentation first. Professor Bucholz is easy to listen to. He is well organized, articulate, and has an easy radio-friendly voice. He is skilled at presenting a compelling story that makes you want to keep listening. On those rare occasions when he goes off script, it's true that he can stammer a bit. But unlike some courses (Dale Hoak's "Age of Henry VIII" comes to mind), this is the exception rather than the rule. Professor Bucholz has a genius for clarity. I lived in England for many years and loved to visit battlefields associated with the Wars of the Roses. Bucholz's review of these wars is the best one-stop explanation of the Lancaster-York struggle I have ever encountered. It snapped some things into focus even for me, and I thought I understood the Wars of the Roses pretty well. Which brings us to content. Bucholz likewise has a genius for relevance. One of my biggest "aha" moments in this course was the realization that everything in it had some bearing to my own world in modern-day United States. You can't understand the American Revolution without understanding the Stuart exclusion crisis and the English Civil War. You can't understand the English Civil War without understanding Henry VIII's obsession with an heir. And (contrary to Hollywood's and the Victorians' sexualized interpretation), you really can't understand the whole Catherine of Aragon / Anne Boleyn thing without understanding the Wars of the Roses. Which in turn cannot be understood without understanding the Empress Mathilda crisis, but we'll leave that to Jennifer Paxton's "The Story of Medieval England" and Dorsey Armstrong's "Turning Points in Medieval History." The course is not without its minor distractions. Bucholz inexplicably mispronounces a number of terms I would expect a historian to know: Arundel, Styria, Dauphin, Modena. No doubt a reflection of his Oxford education, he consistently uses the modern British pronunciation of "lieutenant," which is an 18th-19th century development and has no relevance to our period. (He also uses the erroneous "bow-lynn" pronunciation of Boleyn instead of the correct "Bullen," but that didn't bother me because pretty much everyone does.) And when we get into areas where Bucholz has special expertise (e.g., Stuart court financial records) he can get a bit bogged down in the details. These are minor distractions. If the topic interests you in the slightest, you want this course.
Date published: 2018-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well organized and taught! I really enjoyed this course. Dr. Nicholas has the material clearly organized. The conceptual frameworks are detailed and other opinions mentioned. Each lecture begins with a quick review and ends with a hint of what is coming. Social and economic history is woven into the narrative. I took the course to better my understanding of the Stuart's and deepen my knowledge of the Tudors. These goals were fully achieved by 48 well organized and entertaining lectures!!
Date published: 2018-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling I have listened to maybe twenty or thirty courses from the Teaching Company. I don’t think I’ve ever completed a course as quickly as this one. I enjoyed observing how Parliament effectively increased its power over the years, and how the monarchy lost it. Lots of great drama, very enjoyable and informative! Like a book you can’t put down.
Date published: 2018-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title says it all! Professor Bucholz is outstanding! He makes history very real and up close! He obviously knows his subject intimately and can present it so enthusiastic Ly!
Date published: 2018-08-31
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