Henry VIII: King and Reformer

Course details

From £215.00
10 CATS points

22 Apr 2020 - 24 Jun 2020
Day of week

Henry VIII: King and Reformer


Henry VIII's reign was a critical time in the history of the British Isles, witnessing fundamental changes in economy and society, in the power and influence of the state, and in religious beliefs and practices. This course will explore politics, culture, religion and society during Henry’s reign. We will begin with the young Henry VIII’s accession to the throne in 1509, setting aside the image of the aged king to consider the popular, athletic young man who came to the throne and set out to establish England as a great European power. Yet it was not long before those closest to him began to fall from favour and to pay with their lives for failing to please the king. Setting aside his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in favour of the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, Henry’s desire for a male heir initiated far-reaching changes in English religion and society, yet his Reformation went through with little open opposition.

In seeking to understand how these events unfolded, we shall think carefully about Henry VIII’s relationships with those around him, including the infamous six wives and the looming, powerful figures of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell. The nature and the costs of power will be discussed, both within the court and further afield. What were the limitations of royal authority? Did Tudor monarchs exert a tyrannical power over their subjects?

Programme details

Courses starts: 22 Apr 2020

Week 1:  Henry’s childhood and adolescence

Week 2:  Accession

Week 3:  Warfare and magnificence

Week 4:  The King’s Great Matter

Week 5:  The Break with Rome

Week 6:  The Dissolution of the monasteries

Week 7:  Propaganda and dissent

Week 8:  Further matrimonial ventures

Week 9:  The 1540s

Week 10:  Retrospective assessment of the reign and its impact

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

Recommended Reading List


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Course Fee: £215.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Janet Dickinson

Janet Dickinson specializes in the cultural and political history of elites in early modern Europe, with a special focus on the Tudors.  She has three times been named ‘most acclaimed lecturer’ and as 'outstanding tutor' by her students at OUDCE.

Course aims

To introduce students to the key issues and events of Henry VIII's reign and the Henrician Reformation, via a range of primary sources.

Course Objectives:

  • to explore the key events and issues of Henry VIII's reign
  • to assess the character of the king and his rule
  • to develop a range of historical skills through the evaluation of primary sources and historiography

Teaching methods

Seminar discussion, informed by short talks from the tutor and preparatory reading.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be expected to:

  • demonstrate a knowledge of the key events and figures of Henry VIII's reign
  • understand the motivations and forces behind the Reformation
  • to be able to evaluate a range of primary and secondary source materials and to use those to write and present coherent and critical historical arguments, supported by those materials

Assessment methods

The course will be assessed by a 1500 word essay, submitted after all the seminars have been completed. The title for this essay will be chosen from a list supplied by the tutor, or by individual agreement between the student and tutor. Students will be invited to submit a 500 piece of formative work for feedback before they complete and submit their assignment.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

This is an introductory level course. Students will simply need to carry out the advised reading to be able to fully participate in the sessions.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)