Thursday, 19 November 2009

Change and Continuity

To do well in this exam you must demonstrate to the examiner that you understand the change and continuity than occurred throughout the period. Below are some key examples of change and continuity which may find useful to consider when writing your essays:


What were the differences at the end of the period from those at the start?
1. England was Protes
tant in 1603, having been staunchly pro-papal in 1485. This meant catholic foreign plots and instigation of rebellion [e.g Jesuit priests, the Spanish sup
port for O’Neill’s rebellion in the 1590s in Ireland]
2. The head of the church was the monarch, instead of the Pope. Thus opposition to the church became treasons, not heresy, and the church became an even more powerful political propaganda weapon for a r
3. Puritan’s, not Catholics, had emerged in the last quarter of Elizabeth’s reign as the main opponents of monarchical power. Elizabeth stated that Puritans were more her enemies than Catholics were. J.E Neale traces the origin of a ‘Puritan choir’ opposition abck to the 1559 parliament. The danger of Puritans was that they lived in and around London, and were part of the political establishment. By the 1590’s, Puritan JPs were ignoring edicts against puritan prophesying.
What continuity was there in religious issues?
1. The church itself, and local priests, were almost never challenged or rebelled against in the Tudor period-the only exception being Kett’s rebellion. This shows the remarkable control that local priests had preachin
g from their pulpits throughout the era.
2. The church remained an important economic and political force, even though the control of it changed to that of the local gentry and to the monarch.

Threats to the Tudors

1. There were peasant riots over food, enclosures etc throughout the period, none of which posed a serious threat to Tudor security or government. This is because the rioters were not going against the Tudors, and anyway the local government almost always had the will and the means to put such risings down.
2. Local government [gentry as JPs and aristocrats as sheriffs] remained firmly behind the Tudor regime throughout the period, because the Tudors carried out policies that kept property owners happy. This inc
luded selling off monastic lands to laymen to give them a vested interest in Protestantism.
3. Communications remained slow. This always meant that central government was slow to react to rebellion, thus allowing rebellions to develop. But slow communication also meant that rebellion s far from London were slow to threaten central government, giving plenty of time for the Tudors to raise mercenaries [a small number of whom could always defeat peasants] and defences. Rebellions near London were potentially more dangerous.
1. Each Tudor became less threatened the longer they reigned, as their propaganda and experience worked, and the conservatism of the population worked against any change.
2. The aristocracy lost power over the century, especially the great regional families like the Percies. This meant that they became less of a threat to the Tudors. Their power was gained by the landed gentry, who remained loyal while the patronage flowed, but when it dried up in the 1590’s JPs became corrupt or selective over which laws they enforced. Ultimately, the 1640s showed that the gentry could be more dangerous to the monarchy.
3. Fletcher emphasize
s that all four successful rebellions come in the first half of the Tudor Age, and that England in 1603 was ‘one of the most trouble-free countries in Europe’, unlike the danger and turmoil of 1485, the Tudor dawn.

Social and Economic

1. Bad harvests, the greatest cause of hunger and distress, were dotted throughout Tudor times. There is no clear correlation between them and popular rebellion- e.g. the years before the 1549 rebellions had good harvests, and the worst harvest years [1556 and 1594-1596] had no popular rebellion. Any disturbances were aimed at local rather than national or Tudor targets.
2. Respect for social hierarchies remained and even strengthened, despite the strains imposed by the economic problems. The ruling classes, as the beneficiaries of the changes, were always loyal to the Tudor regime tha
t presided over the changes, and were quick to put down trouble.
3. Extra taxation, usually for war [e.g. 1497, 1525, 1549, 1590s] always caused resentment, and could cause refusal to ay or even rebellion, especially in areas of extreme poverty [the North or West]
4. Recent writers such as David Loades have attacked Whitney Hones 1973 theory that there was a mid Tudor crisis triggered by weak monarchy and economic problems, and have emphasized the continuity of admin by men such as the marquis of Winchester and the JPs, whose achievement was ‘remarkable’.


1. During the Tudor century, prices rose by 350%, and the real value of wages fell by 29%. This meant that the rich got richer, as employers could pay workers less by charging more for goods, and the poor employers got poorer. In particular, the price of grain [bread was the staple diet] went up by 600%. This caused
hunger, bread riots, especially later in the century when there was food available that was too expensive for the poor to buy. Inflation
2. At certain times [1540s, 1550s, 1590s] the price rises went even quicker, and poverty was even more pronounced. Bad harvests also caused hunger and disease – the made things worse for the poor.
3. The population doubled from around 2 million in 1485 to 4.1 million in 1603 putting pressure on jobs and land. Enclosures further restricted both jobs and available land. Agricultural pressure on jobs and land. Enclosures further restricted both jobs and available land. Agricultural production did not increase in line with population increase.
4. The Tudors and their JPs got more skilled at managing poverty. In Elizabeth’s reign, they distinguished between the impotent poor and the idle poor, giving aid to the former, and punishing the latter, being especially severe on vagrants.