Henry VIII and his reign

The details
Philosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
10 April 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The reign of Henry was a seminal period in English history which saw massive religious and cultural change in England. It was also a period of significant change in the history of Ireland, with the beginning of English attempts to conquer the entire island. Understandably a period of such transformative change is and was the subject of intense debate. Henry VIII, the monarch at the centre of these debates, also remains a figure of considerable significance and complexity in popular culture down to the present day.

This module will examine the changes occurred in England and Ireland under Henry. It will also examine the goals of the king and his success or failure in achieving them. It will compare Henry VIII to rival kings and assess his challenges and achievements in comparison to their challenges and achievements.

The major event of Henry VIII's reign was the break with Rome and his becoming Supreme Head of the English Church; this module will analyse how and why this happened and the consequences of these events. And it will look at the dark closing years of the reign as Henry VIII plunged his kingdom into debt fighting foreign wars and while rival nobles watched the dying king and schemed for their futures in the reign of his son.

The module will conclude by examining the importance of Henry VIII's, especially on English religion and politics and by looking at Henry VIII's role in popular culture throughout the centuries. (Henry VIII is one of the very few monarchs in English history whose picture is recognised by nearly everyone; this module will explain how and why this happened).

Henry VIII was many things but he was not dull. Fascinating people interacted with him: Anne Boleyn and Katherine of Aragon, Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More. The king, his friends and enemies, his achievements and failures have inspired playwrights, novelists and artists for five hundred years. If you take this module you will start to learn why.

The readings in this module will consist of both primary and secondary sources for each lecture.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To familiarize students with ongoing debates on the origins and development of the English Reformation.

  • To familiarize students with Henry VIII and the events of his reign.

  • To familiarize students with the history of early modern England and Ireland.

  • To instruct students in the nature of early modern kingship and of early modern government.

  • To enable the students to assess historical sources.

  • To understand the roles different media have played in shaping overall perceptions of Henry VIII.

  • To develop research and writing skills.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to:

  1. Have an awareness of key debates in early modern British history.

  2. Be able to read historical sources critically.

  3. Have learnt how to analyse different types of historical source: official documents, histories, plays, novels, paintings and films.

  4. Have a more sophisticated awareness of how perceptions of the past are shaped.

  5. Have an increased understanding of the history of England and Ireland.

  6. Have researched and analysed historical texts.

  7. Have presented their research as a group and participated in seminar discussion.

Module information

For introductory reading, see:

Lucy Wooding, Henry VIII, Second edition (London and New York: 2015).

Peter Marshall's history of the English Reformation, Heretics and Believers (New Haven, CT: 2018).

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, available on-line and in hard copy at the SlomanLibrary, provides high-quality biographies of many figures in Henry VIII's reign.

The Acts and Monuments Online is a free, annotated printing of one of the most important primary sources for Henry VIII's reign.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 50-minute lecture per week.
  • One 50-minute seminar per week.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay (2000 words)    40% 
Coursework   Essay (3000 words)    50% 
Practical   Team Presentation    5% 
Practical   Seminar Participation    5% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Thomas Freeman, email:
History UG Administrators:



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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