Bader International Study Centre

Queen's University
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at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.



at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.

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HIST 287/3.0 Early Modern England

Instructor: Dr. Scott McLean

Course Description

This course is designed as a survey of the Tudor and Stuart periods in British history. As such, it will examine a broad spectrum of subjects related to the political, economic, religious and social history of Britain during the period 1485 to 1688. This was an age of great social, political, and religious change. Wives lost their heads, men and women were burnt as witches and heretics, tenants rebelled against landlords; there was regicide and civil war, plague and fire, a virgin queen and a Scot on the throne of England. What times were these! Amidst the chaos and confusion there arose a few notable men of letters, a strong sense of national identity, a Protestant kingdom and an overseas empire. These most interesting times will be explored through highly interactive lectures and seminars, and field studies trips to places of interest. Emphasis will be placed upon the changing nature of monarchy, the impact of religious change, daily life and the creation of ‘Great Britain’. 

Expected Learning Outcomes

Students are expected to acquire a strong understanding of the themes and issues associated with this period of British history. As a significant component of the course involves primary source materials, students are expected to enhance their understanding of the types of sources available and how they can best be used to illustrate the themes under examination. Through highly interactive seminars and presentations students will have the opportunity to improve their organizational and presentation skills.

Field Studies

During the term students will have the opportunity to take part in two separate field studies trips designed to enhance their understanding of Early Modern England. Field Studies trips change from year to year, and in the past have included: a visit to Hampton Court, the greatest of Henry VIII’s palaces; a day-long visit to the towns of Rye and Winchelsea, where students a number of different historic sites in order to try and better understand what life was like for people living during the Tudor period and what factors might influence the growth or decline of such towns. The trip usually includes a quick stop in nearby Winchelsea to see one of the most impressive medieval churches of south-east England. In the past students have also had the opportunity to visit some of the great country houses of south-east England, such as Ightham Mote and Knole, where they have explored the ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’.

Primary Research Expectations

Students are expected to actively engage with a wide range of primary sources, including documents from the period, architecture and paintings. This will be done through in-class lectures and seminars, on field studies and through class assignments.


Assessment varies from term to term, but may include the following:

  • Seminar Participation: 20%
  • Field Studies Round Table (Rye): 10%
  • Field Studies Assignment (Hampton Court): 10%
  • Seminar Presentations: 30%
  • Final Exam: 30%