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Level 4

4AAH1003 Early Modern Britain 1500-1750

Credit value: 30 credits

Module convenor/tutor: Dr Joan Redmond
Assessment: 1 x 3 hour examination (100%)
Teaching pattern: 20 x 1-hour lectures (weekly); 20 x 1-hour seminars (weekly)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

Single semester version for Study Abroad students
  • 4AAH1103 Early Modern Britain I: Religion, Reformation & Popular Culture 1500 to 1650 - semester 1 
  • 4AAH1203 Early Modern Britain II: Commerce and Conflict 1600 to 1750 - semester 2

Single semester versions of the module, split 1500-1650 (semester 1) and 1600-1750 (semester 2), are available to study abroad students only.

Assessment: 4AAH1103 & 4AAH1203: Coursework (100%), comprising: 2 x 2,500 word essays (50% each).

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.


This first-year module examines the political, religious, social and cultural history of early modern Britain from 1500 to 1700. Taking a broad geographical view, the course considers the interwoven and often contentious histories of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland in an age when ‘Britain’ was being forged as a political and cultural entity. There were several key events in this process, which form important milestones in our course. One is the Reformation of the sixteenth century, which rent apart the religious fabric of Britain, and laid the seeds of future conflict. Another is the Civil Wars of the mid-seventeenth century, and the later Glorious Revolution, that both fundamentally changed British political life. However, this course is far from just a rehearsal of political and religious events. Early modern Britain was also a place of profound social, economic and cultural change, and these stories form a crucial part of the course: from the rise in literacy and the flowering of literature, to the drama of witchcraft trials, to important changes in gender relations, the household, and the growth of religious identities at both a local and a national level. This was also the age of renewed imperialism, with ‘Britain’ both being consolidated internally, and looking out to new, global horizons.

By the end of the course, we see a new national identity, a political system transformed, the beginnings of capitalism, rapid urbanisation, and a recognisable Church of England; we also see individual men and women expressing party political convictions and articulating new forms of identity.

In weekly lectures and seminars, students will explore both specific events and thematic topics, with subjects covered including the Reformation, Elizabeth’s ‘golden age’, households, families and work, witchcraft, crime, popular politics, and the renewal of imperialism, with a focus both on telling a ‘British’ story, as well as thoroughly interrogating what we mean by ‘British’.

Introductory reading list

These books are ‘core textbooks’ for this module, therefore purchasing them rather than borrowing them will be of benefit to you throughout your course.

  • Susan Brigden, New Worlds, Lost Worlds (Penguin, 2000)
  • Alec Ryrie, The Age of Reformation: The Tudor and Stewart Realms 1485-1603 (2009)
  • Keith Wrightson (ed.), A Social History of England, 1500-1750 (2017)


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