Renaissance and Reformation in Britain

Under the Tudor monarchs Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, the Reformation was introduced in England; Protestantism also spread to Scotland by the end of the 16th century. In these episodes we will examine the intertwined development of religious, philosophical, and scientific ideas in Britain during this period (with an occasional look back to thinkers of the 15th century who paved the way). A highlight of this series will be a group of episodes centered on the plays of Shakespeare, with forays into broader related issues like witchcraft and individualism, using Macbeth and Hamlet as a way into these topics. Scholasticism will continue to be important in our story too, especially with our coverage of John Mair and his circle. We'll also look at British humanists like Thomas More, George Buchanan, and Andrew Melville, and scientists like William Gilbert, John Dee, and the members of the Northumberland Circle. As always, women will be highlighted too, with an episode on Margery Kempe, Anne Locke, and other female authors of devotional literature.

Further Reading

• A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation (London: 1964).

• E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (New Haven: 1992).

• G.R. Elton, Reform and Reformation 1509-1558 (London: 1977).

• Christopher Haigh, English Reformations (Oxford: 1993).

W.P. Haugaard, Elizabeth and the English Reformation (Cambridge: 1968).

• W.I.P. Hazlett, The Reformation in Britain and Ireland (London: 2003).

W.K. Jordan, The Development of Religious Toleration in England, 4 vols. (Cambridge MA: 1932-40).

• D. MacCullough, The Later Reformation in England 1547-1603 (New York: 1990).

• D. MacCulloch, Tudor Church Militant (London: 1999).

• P. Marshall, Reformation England 1480-1642 (London: 2012).

• P. Marshall, Heretics and Believers: a History of the English Reformation (New Haven: 2017).

• J.J. Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English People (Oxford:1982).

• N. Tyacke (ed.), England’s Long Reformation 1500-1800 (London: 1998).

416. God’s is the Quarrel: the English Reformation

Posted on 11 March 2023

The historical context of English philosophy in the sixteenth century, with particular focus on Thomas Cranmer, and the role of religion in personal conscience and social cohesion.

417. To Kill a King: The Scottish Reformation

Posted on 26 March 2023

John Knox polemicizes against idolaters and female rulers, while the humanist George Buchanan argues more calmly for equally radical political conclusions.

418. Diarmaid MacCulloch on the British Reformations

Posted on 9 April 2023

A leading expert on the history of the Reformation joins us to explain the very different stories of England and Scotland in the 16th century.

419. Write Till Your Ink Be Dry: Humanism in Britain

Posted on 23 April 2023

Humanism comes to England and Scotland, leading scholars like Thomas Eylot and Andrew Melville to rethink philosophical education.

Image: Queen Elizabeth's translation of Boethius

420. No Place Will Please Me So: Thomas More

Posted on 7 May 2023

What is the message of the famous, but elusive, work Utopia, and how can it be squared with the life of its author?

421. With Such Perfection Govern: English Political Thought

Posted on 14 May 2023

The evolution of ideas about kingship and the role of the “three estates” in 15th and 16th century England, with a focus on John Fortescue and Thomas Starkey.

422. The World’s Law: Richard Hooker

Posted on 28 May 2023

Richard Hooker defends the religious and political settlement of Elizabethan England using rational arguments and appeals to the natural law.