MO4967 Elizabethan England: Politics, Religion, and Personalities, 1558-1603
Lecturer Dr J Rose
Credits 60  
Availability Semesters 1 & 2, 2018-2019
Class Hour 9.30 - 12.30


The popular image of Elizabethan England is of a successful regime gloriously triumphing over its enemies at home and abroad.  But recent historians have instead depicted Elizabeth as an imperfect monarch who constantly obstructed and infuriated her political and ecclesiastical elite by refusing to marry, name an heir, or decisively reform the English Church.  This Special Subject considers how power was negotiated, manipulated, exploited, and managed by Elizabeth and those around her.  Integrating the political and religious history of the period, it examines courtiers, favourites, counsellors within and outwith the Privy Council, nobles, and bishops.  The major questions of Elizabethan government – the best form of the church, the rule of a woman, the marriage of a queen regnant, and dynastic instability – will be examined to uncover who really held power.  Primary sources studied range from contemporary printed works to records of the everyday workings of government, to court plays and the visual culture of rule.

Basic Reading
  • C. Haigh, ed., The reign of Elizabeth I (1984)
  • W. MacCaffrey, Elizabeth I (1993)
  • S. Doran and T. S. Freeman, eds., The myth of Elizabeth (2003)
  • S. Doran, Monarchy and matrimony: the courtships of Elizabeth I (1996)
  • Stephen Alford, The Watchers (2012)

Course Structure

    Semester 1:
    There will be ten classes:

    Elizabeth before 1558
    Accession and coronation
    Queenship and gender
    Church settlement and royal supremacy
    Catholic challenge
    Mary, queen of Scots and the dynastic threat
    Protestant critique: the Presbyterians
    Central and local government: The Elizabethan ‘monarchical republic’
    Elizabeth’s ‘second reign’?: The 1590s

    Semester 2:

    There will be ten classes, plus a week for consolidation and planning of the Long Essay:

    Counsel and council
    Favourites and courtiers
    Negotiating Elizabeth’s marriage
    Diplomacy and warfare
    Resistance and rebellion
    Court culture
    Elizabeth in history and memory
    Gobbets practice



One primary source based long essay (6000 words) 30%.
Three essays of 3000 words each, each worth 10%.
One source commentary of 1500 words, worth 5%.
One oral presentation worth 5%.
One examination worth 30%: consisting of gobbets and one essay


Learning Outcomes

  • Knowledge of sixteenth century queenship and how power functioned in various ways
  • Critical evaluation of historiographical treatments of the period and analysis of historians’ approaches
  • Increased understanding and analysis of primary source material, including literary and pictorial as well as documentary evidence
  • Awareness of how Elizabeth and her reign have been treated and (mis)represented in academic and popular history
  • Comprehension of the wide range of ways in which power could be influenced and manipulated in the sixteenth century