Henry VIII (Online)


The reign of Henry VIII was a key turning point in British history. The aim of this course is to study in detail the political, religious and cultural changes of the period, and to assess the role of the king and other key personalities in the transformation of society.

The reign of Henry VIII witnessed fundamental changes in English society, the nature of which remain the subject of intense debate among historians. This course will study the process by which England’s Defender of the Faith came to repudiate the spiritual jurisdiction of Rome, establish a separate national Church in England, Wales and Ireland, and oversee wide-ranging reform not only in religion, but also (to varying degrees) in government, administration and the law. The course will concern itself both with personalities (Wolsey, More, Boleyn, Cromwell, Cranmer among others) and with structures (Church, Court, and Council). Moreover, Henry’s controversial larger than life character dominates the period. Whether he was a ruthless tyrant or manipulated by scheming servants, a godly prince or religious opportunist, a warmonger or a musician and patron of the arts, in seeking to understand Henry’s preoccupations and ambitions we will address the key historical problems of the reign.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

Unit 1: Introduction to the Reign of Henry VIII

  • Overview of Henry’s life
  • The Wars of the Roses
  • Henry VII
  • Prince Henry’s early life and education

Unit 2: The Young King

  • Foundations of the reign
  • Kingship
  • The Henrician Court
  • Royal Progresses
  • Renaissance Monarchy

Unit 3: The Ascendancy and Impact of Cardinal Wolsey

  • King and Cardinal
  • Wolsey’s background and rise to power
  • Wolsey as a Reformer
  • Wolsey and administration
  • Wolsey and finances
  • Wolsey and the Church

Unit 4: The Divorce of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon

  • Overview of the divorce
  • Origins of the divorce and the initial campaign
  • Anne Boleyn
  • Impasse, 1529-32
  • The Radical Solution

Unit 5: The Henrician Reformation

  • The Reformation Parliament
  • The Royal Supremacy
  • The Dissolution of the Monasteries
  • The King’s Religion
  • Popular Religion
  •  The Reformation debate

Unit 6: Henry’s Administration and Government

  • Administrative Structures
  • Tudor Frontiers
  • Cromwell in Administration and Government
  • The Kildare Rebellion
  • Northern rebellions I: causes
  • Northern rebellions II: leadership

Unit 7: Politics and Faction, 1529-1540

  • Wolsey’s Fall from power
  • The Fall of Anne Boleyn
  • Jane Seymour
  • Cardinal Pole and the Courtenays
  • Anne of Cleves
  • The Fall of Thomas Cromwell

Unit 8: Henrician Foreign Policy

  • European Rulers
  • Background: War and Diplomacy
  • Sixteenth Century Europe
  • Foreign Policy 1509-29
  • Foreign Policy 1529-47

Unit 9: Culture and Politics

  • Ceremonies
  • Art
  • Literature and Drama
  • Architecture

Unit 10: The End of the Reign

  • The Struggle for power and influence
  • Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr
  • Economy 1540-47
  • The Fall of the Howards
  • Henry VIII’s Last Will
  • The Historical Legacy of Henry VIII

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. 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.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting the final course assignment. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.


Description Costs
Course Fee £324.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Stephen Bates

Course aims

This course aims to:

  • Provide a comprehensive study of the life and reign of Henry VIII.

This course will enable participants to:

  • Assess the key changes and developments in institutions and society in the period.
  • Evaluate the personality of this controversial king and its impact on politics, religion and society.
  • Develop historical skills through the analysis of primary sources and historiography.

Learning outcomes

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

  • Understand the key historical developments of the reign of Henry VIII.
  • Judge the character of the king and the bearing this had in the context of a personal monarchy.
  • Use selected texts and documents to develop and support historical arguments.

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the key issues explored.
  • The ability to write analytical and critical evaluations of the political, religious and cultural shifts during the reign of Henry VIII.
  • The ability to assess the role of personality in history, amid the many conflicting views of Henry’s character and its impact.
  • The ability to effectively analyse documentary evidence, and to organize and deploy information in written work and in discussions.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link: https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/english-language-requirements


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

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.