HSTAM 215 A: Tudor England

Autumn 2024
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm / GWN 201
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

elizabeth I coronation portrait







Welcome to Tudor England!

This course will introduce you to the political, social, and cultural history of England from the Wars of the Roses to the end of the reign of Elizabeth I (1455-1603). We will be focusing on social history in this class, with a special emphasis on examining how people theorized the social order and attempted to naturalize and maintain the social hierarchy. We will also cover the interaction between economic and social movements, how order was imposed after a change of dynasty, how the Tudor monarchs used political propaganda to legitimize their rule and undermine their enemies, the unfolding of the English Reformation, English literature and culture, witch beliefs and witch trials in Early Modern England, and the role of political rebellion in shaping this period of English history.

This course carries a W credit. 

Course Format:

This will be a synchronous, in-person class. I will be recording the in-person lectures using Panopto in case you miss any lectures or need to review them, but my expectation is that we will all meet in class for lecture unless you are ill (then please stay home and let me know by email). Also, just be aware that there are sometimes glitches with Panopto recordings and that you can't really rely on them as a perfect substitute for coming to class. I'll do my best to ensure that all of the recordings have good audio and clear video, but I can't always control what happens.

I will also post my Powerpoints to the course website AFTER each lecture. You can find them under the Files tab in the Powerpoints folder.

If I need to cancel class due to illness, I'll notify you through a Canvas course announcement (please make sure you check your UW email on a regular basis, since all important class announcements will be sent to it). Otherwise, the expectation will be that we will all show up for class in person, unless you're ill (then please stay home and let me know by email).

Learning Objectives:

This class focuses on developing your critical thinking and argumentative writing skills, under the guise of teaching you about Tudor history. In addition to acquiring an understanding of the historical development of England during the Tudor period, you will learn to:

  1. Analyze primary sources for the historical evidence they provide.
  2. Construct persuasive, historical arguments using evidence from primary sources.
  3. Evaluate competing historical arguments using primary and secondary sources.
  4. Appreciate the distinction between the evidence found in primary sources and historians' interpretations of that evidence.
  5. Appreciate the role of contingency in historical events.

Instructor Contact Info

Professor Urbanski (she/her)


Office Hours: 

Email: urbanski@uw.edu   




Office Hours: 


  • You can email us to make appointments or for quick questions, but you should come to see us during office hours or after lecture for anything that requires more than a one or two sentence response.
  • Office hours are periods that we set aside specifically to meet with our students. You should come to office hours if you need help with an assignment, have questions that require a detailed response, or just want to chat about the course, medieval stuff, monsters, or cats. You can even come to office hours with a friend from class if you like.
  • We check our email regularly during normal business hours (M-F between 8 am and 5 pm).
  • We will reply to emails within a reasonable time-frame (within 24 hours during the week and by the afternoon of the next business day for emails received over the weekend or on holidays).

Required Books:  

Alec Ryrie, The Age of Reformation (textbook; you may use either the first or second edition)

George Cavendish and William Roper, Two Early Tudor Lives

Anthony Fletcher and Dairmaid McCulloch, Tudor Rebellions (fifth or sixth edition)

James Sharpe, Witchcraft in Early Modern England

All other required readings are PDFs embedded in the schedule of classes below. 

We will be reading all of the required books. I have put one copy of each of them on 2 hour reserve in Odegaard, but in a class this large it will be difficult to do all of your reading from the reserve copies. I know that cost is a real concern for many of you, so keep in mind that you can also purchase used copies of all of these books either at the University book store or through Amazon.           

Recommended Books:

John Guy, The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction (this is a great resource if you have no or very limited knowledge of the Tudor period)

Jules R. Benjamin, A Student's Guide to History (this is a really helpful guide to the study of history, evaluating and analyzing historical evidence, writing history papers, and taking history exams)



All readings should be completed BEFORE the class for which they are assigned. You should bring the reading assigned for discussion section to class with you on Fridays.


You REALLY need to attend lecture if you want to do well in this course. Lectures will not just repeat material covered in the textbook, but will introduce new material that will appear on our exams. I will also be building upon information given in lecture, and you will have difficulty understanding later lectures if you miss too many of the earlier ones.

Lectures will be in-person but I will be recording them so you can review them or catch up on any you missed. They will be posted under Panopto Recordings.

I will also post my lecture Powerpoint for the day after each class meeting (under Files in the folder marked Powerpoints).


Sections are an essential part of this course – they are not optional. Their purpose is not to summarize lectures for you, but to introduce new material. They are where you will discuss our primary and secondary sources, learn how to analyze those sources, and learn how to construct your own historical arguments. We will also focus on teaching students how to write a history paper in the first few weeks of section. You should come to section having done the reading for the week and prepared to contribute to discussion. You should bring the reading with you.

Your performance and assignments in section will count for 20% of your final grade: on a 4.0 scale, that is .8. That is a lot. It means that if you earn a 4.0 on every paper and exam, but earn a 0.0 in section, your final grade in the class will only be a 3.2. 

* Everyone will be allowed to miss one section and one weekly writing assignment without penalty.

Exams and Papers: 

This course requires two exams and two 5-6 page argumentative papers.

The midterm and final exam will focus on testing your knowledge of material from lecture and our textbook. The exams are intended to test you on information you learned IN THIS CLASS, not what you may have learned in another class, or from Wikipedia or any other website, so plan to come to lecture and do the reading if you want to do well. The midterm will cover all material up to the midterm, and the final will cover all material from the midterm to the end of the class.

Study guides for the midterm and final will be posted on the course website at least one week in advance of the exam.

Exams will be administered through Canvas; both the midterm and final will be open for two days - you can choose when to take the exam within the open period.

One of the major goals of this course is to help you improve your ability to read and analyze historical sources and to write persuasive historical essays. It is a fundamental premise of this class that writing is a means of learning; to that end, we will be writing two papers focused on analyzing primary sources that we have read for section. Paper topics, detailed instructions, and resources for help with the writing process will be posted under Assignments.

Papers will be submitted through Canvas.

Grading: (grades for the course will be posted in the Canvas Grades page; you can find the link to Grades in the column on the left of your screen)

15% - Midterm Exam 

20% - First 5-6 page paper 

25% - Second 5-6 page paper

20% - Final Exam

10% - Participation in Section 

10% - Weekly Writing Assignments


You must complete both papers and both exams in order to pass this course.

Late Assignments and Extensions   

All assignments are due by the stated date and time. No late work will be accepted unless an extension request is made prior to the assignment deadline. I have a “no questions asked" policy for extensions. If you are asking for an extension, I will presume you have good reasons and will grant the extension as long as it is:  

  1. submitted to me by email (urbanski@uw.edu) before the due date/time, and
  2. you tell me in your email when you will turn in the work (it should be within two days at most unless there are extenuating circumstances)

If you submit frequent requests for extensions, I will reach out to see what is going on and reserve the right to grant them or not.  

Any assignments that are submitted late (i.e. after the original due date/time if you have not received an extension, or after your extension expires if you have received one) will be automatically docked 5% per day (including weekends and holidays).

Grades will be assigned as percentages on individual assignments and exams and converted to the 4.0 scale for the final course grade.

4.0 = 95-100%

3.5 = 90%

2.5 = 80%

1.5 = 70%

0.7 = 62% (lowest passing grade)


Honesty, ethical conduct, and academic integrity are expected in this course. Academic integrity includes a commitment to not engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Acts of dishonesty include cheating or copying, plagiarizing, submitting another person's work as one’s own, submitting AI generated work as one's own, using Internet sources without citation, having another student take your exam or working together with other students on your exam, tampering with the work of another student, facilitating other students’ acts of academic dishonesty, etc.

Unless I specify otherwise, all assignments and exams are to be completed by the student alone, without inappropriate assistance of any kind (including the use of AI programs like ChatGPT).


Two of the main goals of this course are to hone your critical thinking skills and your argumentative writing skills. These skills are incredibly important for getting through life. In fact, they're far more important than your ability to recall things like what year the Norman Conquest happened. Relying on AI to produce assignments for you not only deprives you of valuable opportunities to practice these skills, the technology tends to turn out papers and writing assignments that are bland, forgettable, lacking in specific detail, and slightly off-topic. In other words, using AI deprives you of the chance to think for yourself, and it won't even get you a very good grade. It is also important to remember that text generators like ChatGPT are sometimes wrong, and that they are not familiar with our textbook or my lectures. If an AI tool gives you incorrect information and you use it on an assignment, you will be held accountable for it.

You should never use AI as a substitute for your own thought or your own writing, but there are two circumstances in which you are allowed to use AI in this class (your other professors will likely have very different policies, so do not assume that my policies will apply in your other classes).

The use of AI is allowed in this class under the following circumstances only (any other use is prohibited):

1. You may use AI to provide you with explanations of concepts or to organize your notes. I would much prefer that you ask me for clarification if you are having trouble with any of the material in this course, and I am happy to answer questions after class or during my office hours, but I recognize that some of you will want to use AI for this. However, if the AI gives you incorrect information and you use that information on an assignment or exam, you will be held accountable for it.

2. You are allowed to use tools like Grammarly or Quillbot to proofread or edit writing that you have produced yourself. Just be aware that using these tools to edit your work comes with the risk that it may change your original writing so much that it no longer reflects your original thought, so make sure you are using it for simple grammar and spelling checks, not to substantially rewrite your work.

The unauthorized use of artificial intelligence (AI) can be a form of academic misconduct at UW. Tools that use AI and large language models to generate text or images, such as ChatGPT, GPT4, Bing Chat, and "Write with AI" in Google Docs (the "help me write" feature now in beta testing in Workspace Labs), are usually prohibited by instructors in Department of History courses. Unless your instructor has expressly permitted the use of such tools, check with your instructor before using them. The unauthorized use of such tools may constitute academic misconduct and could result in serious disciplinary action.


I know that most of you are honest, hard-working, and would not dream of cheating. I see you and I appreciate you. You are the reason I love this job. However, there are always a couple of students who try to see what they can get away with. This policy is for them.

  • All assignments containing suspected plagiarism or AI use will receive a 0 and be sent to the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct for investigation and the enforcement of appropriate sanctions.
  • Any student reported to the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct after a second instance of suspected plagiarism or AI use will fail the course.


If you experience issues with Canvas, here is a basic troubleshooting guide. You can also contact help@uw.edu 

Some Helpful Websites and Resources:

http://tudortimes.co.uk/ (great resource for all things Tudor)


Tudor Bibliography (additional print resources for Tudor England)

The Princes in The Tower (documentary with Dan Jones that provides a more sympathetic account of Richard's motives using a recently rediscovered eye-witness account of the events)

The Mystery of the Princes in the Tower (website with a good summary of the events leading to the disappearance of the princes)

A new theory about what REALLY happened to Edward V Here's a link to St. Matthew's church in Coldridge, Devon, so you can see some of the evidence for yourself. And here's a more skeptical take on the new theory. 

Richard III: The King in the Car Park (documentary about the discovery of Richard III's body; available through Amazon Prime) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2677712/

Professor Kevin Schurer's lecture on the discovery of Richard's body

Tudor Monastery Farm (6 part series with archaeologist Peter Ginn and historian Ruth Goodman focusing on daily farm life; episodes are on Youtube)


If you require religious or DRS accommodations, or if there is anything I can do to support your learning style, please let me know as soon as possible.

For information on UW policies regarding Religious Accommodations, Student Conduct, Disability Resources, Academic Integrity, and Campus Safety, please visit:


Schedule of Classes

The syllabus is subject to change at the instructor’s discretion.

Week 1

W 9/25  Lecture: Introduction


F 9/27  DISCUSSION: Handout on "How to Read a Primary Source" and sources on Richard III and Henry Tudor from Sources and Debates in English History, docs 2.5-2.8

Reading Guide:

Begin by reading the handout on How to Read a Primary Source

    • Be able to distinguish between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources
    • What do you need to know before you read?
    • What’s the difference between reliability and credibility? Are all reliable sources credible? Are all credible sources reliable?
    • What’s the difference between neutrality and objectivity? Are historical sources ever really neutral or objective?
    • How do historians deal with biased sources? How does one attempt to discern the “truth”?

Documents on Richard and Henry

    • Always start with identifying the who, what, when, where, and why of the source (what kind of source is it, who wrote it, when and where were they writing, why were they writing?), as well as thinking about the intended audience for the source. What is this source trying to prove and who is it trying to convince?
    • How does Richard portray his brother, Edward in Doc. 2.5? Why?
    • How does Richard portray Henry Tudor in Doc. 2.6? Whose support is Richard trying to rally?
    • How does Edward Hall portray Richard in the speech attributed to Henry before the Battle of Bosworth (Doc. 2.7)? How does he attempt to convince the reader that Henry's cause is just? Do you think Henry actually said anything like this?
    • How does Polydore Vergil portray Henry in Doc. 2.8? How does this compare to what we saw in Doc. 2.7?
    • To what extent can we trust these accounts? Do you notice any special problems with any of them (who wrote them, when they were written, the purpose for which they were written)?
    • What do these documents reveal about how good government and good kingship were conceptualized in the 15th century?

Week 2

M 9/30  Lecture: The Social Order

Reading: Ryrie (course textbook), Chapter 1 (In case any of you are having difficulties getting the textbook, I'm providing a PDF of ch. 1)


W 10/3  Lecture: The Household


F 10/4  DISCUSSION: Handout on "Thesis Guidelines and Basic Format for History Essays" and Sir Thomas Smith, De Republica Anglorum, Book I (skim the intro and read all of Book I)

Reading Guide:

Read the handout on Thesis Guidelines

    • What is a thesis statement?
    • How are history essays structured?

Thomas Smith, De republica Anglorum, Book I

    • How does Smith view democracy?
    • How does a king differ from a tyrant?
    • How does Smith portray absolutism?
    • What kinds of duties do rulers have to their people?
    • How does Smith define a commonwealth? What are its parts?
    • What can we learn from this text about the prescriptive status of women and children in Tudor England?
    • What can we learn about the social hierarchy?
    • What kinds of people have the right to participate in government? Who is left out? Why are they left out?

Week 3

M 10/7  Lecture: Communities

Reading: Ryrie, Chapter 2


W 10/9  Lecture: Social and Economic Networks

The Winter King (documentary)


F 10/11   DISCUSSION: Sample A Paper and Thomas More, Utopia, skim the intro and read pp. 13-102

Reading Guide:

Read the Sample A Paper

    • Why did this paper receive an A? What elements did the author include in order to receive an A?
    • What do you think are the strongest parts of the paper? Is there anything you think could be improved?

Read Utopia

    • What does More have to say about the role of custom?
    • What does More think about offering advice to kings?
    • What element of Utopian society do you think would be most incomprehensible to a 16th century Englishman?
    • Focus on the social organization of Utopia in Book 2 and how it compares with Smith’s De republica Anglorum.
    • Does More accept or reject the English social hierarchy and contemporary English values?
    • What does More’s construction of an ideal society tell us about how he thinks English society could be improved?
    • What elements of English society would More like to get rid of and what would he keep?

Week 4


M 10/14  Lecture: The Structures of Power

Reading: Ryrie, Chapters 3 and 4 


W 10/16  Lecture: Late Medieval Religion


F 10/18  DISCUSSION: William Roper, The Life of Sir Thomas More in Two Early Tudor Lives (required book), pp. vii-xxi and 197-254

Reading Guide:

    • What is Roper’s relationship to More? Why is he writing? How does he portray More? Can we trust Roper?
    • How does Roper describe More’s childhood, his education, and his relationship with his family?
    • Why doesn’t More want to enter the king’s service? Why does he finally leave the king’s service?
    • What causes the breakdown in More’s relationship with Henry VIII? What charges are brought against More?
    • How does Roper portray More’s final confrontation with the king and his execution?

Week 5

M 10/21  Lecture: The Henrician Reformation

Reading: Ryrie, Chapter 5


W 10/23  Lecture: Edward VI and Mary I

Reading: Ryrie, Chapters 6 and 7 


F 10/25   DISCUSSION: George Cavendish, The Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey in Two Early Tudor Lives (required book), pp. 3-26 and 77-193

Reading Guide:

    • Who is Cavendish and how does he portray Wolsey? Can we trust him?
    • How do Wolsey’s background, education, career, motives, and personality compare with those of Thomas More from last week?
    • What role does Fortune play in Cavendish’s text? (compare this to the role of conscience in Roper’s text)
    • How does Cavendish portray Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, and Anne Boleyn?
    • How does he portray Wolsey’s efforts to secure Henry’s divorce, his falling out with the king, and his final days?

Week 6      


         Lecture: Economic and Social Problems 


W 10/30  Lecture: The Elizabethan Religious Settlement

Reading: Ryrie, Chapter 9


F 11/1  DISCUSSION: Fletcher and MacCullough, Tudor Rebellions (required book), pp. 3-15 (The Background), 28-53 (Pilgrimage of Grace), and 67-138 (Kett’s Rebellion, Wyatt’s Rebellion, the Northern Rebellion, Epilogue, and Assessment)

Reading Guide:

    • Pay attention to the causes and course of each of the rebellions, the demands made by the rebels, and the reactions of the government.
    • What kinds of events/issues sparked rebellions?
    • What kinds of people were inclined to rebel?
    • How was rebellion justified?
    • How did the grievances of nobles and gentry differ from those of the commonalty?
    • Did rebels ever directly challenge the crown? Were rebels normally violent?
    • How did the crown view rebels and how did they treat them?

Week 7

M 11/4  Lecture: Education and Literacy       


W 11/6  Lecture: The Elizabethan Monarchical Republic 

Reading: Ryrie, Chapter 10


F 11/8  DISCUSSION: Shakespeare, Richard III 

Reading Guide:

    • Pay attention to how Shakespeare portrays Richard III.
    • What motivates Richard?
    • How does Richard acquire the crown?
    • What vices is Richard portrayed as having? What crimes does he commit? Does he have any redeeming qualities?
    • How does Shakespeare portray Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond?
    • How are Anne and Elizabeth portrayed?
    • How are we meant to interpret the dream Richard has the night before Bosworth?
    • How effective do you think Shakespeare’s play has been in shaping popular perceptions of Richard? Why?

Week 8



W 11/13  Lecture: Witchcraft and Magic


F 11/15  DISCUSSION: James Sharpe, Witchcraft in Early Modern England (required book), pp. 1-89

Reading Guide:

    • What issues does Sharpe have with previous scholarship on witchcraft?
    • How does Sharpe propose to use modern social anthropology to study witchcraft?
    • How does “magic” differ from “witchcraft”?
    • What conditions does Sharpe argue were necessary for witch hunting to take place (especially in England)?
    • How did English witch beliefs differ from Continental witch beliefs? How did the punishment of witches differ?
    • How did elite and popular beliefs about magic and witchcraft differ?
    • What are the common elements Sharpe argues most English witchcraft accusations shared? (What type of incident sparked an accusation, who was likely to be accused, who was likely to make an accusation, what were English witches believed to do?)
    • What did English theorists say about witchcraft?
    • Who (what social group) was ultimately responsible for the fact that there were witchcraft prosecutions in England?

Week 9


                    Lecture: Economic Expansion


W 11/20  Elizabeth I: Gloriana (documentary)


F 11/22  DISCUSSION: Elizabeth Pomeroy, Reading the Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, pp. 1-78 and Images

Reading Guide:

    • Pay attention to the symbolism in the portraits.
    • When/why were the portraits made? What meanings do they convey? Who was the intended audience?
    • What trends were there in portraits of Elizabeth? How did these shift over time? Were these shifts connected to particular events?
    • How did Elizabeth use her image and her actual presence (in royal processions etc.) as part of her rule?
    • How did Elizabeth attempt to control her image?
    • Why were portraits of Elizabeth so popular?

Week 10

M 11/25  Lecture: Crime and Law





Week 11

M 12/2  Lecture: The Tudor Legacy

Reading: Ryrie, chapter 11 and epilogue


Th 12/4  Lecture: Conclusion





Catalog Description:
Covers the political, social, and cultural history of England from Wars of the Roses to reign of Elizabeth I; themes include social order, economy and society; imposition of order after a change of dynasty; political propaganda; English Reformation and Renaissance; literature and culture; witch beliefs and witch trials; and political rebellion.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Writing (W)
Last updated:
May 16, 2024 - 8:00 pm