Medieval England: A Social History and Archaeology from the Conquest to 1600 A.D

By Colin Platt | Go to book overview

7

Reorientation under the Tudors

It is not as easy now, as once it seemed to be, to draw the dividing line between medieval and early-modern England at Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. And the clear architectural antecedents of the Great Rebuilding, now recognized as much as a century before its late-sixteenth-century florescence, are but one of the many examples of this blurring. Nevertheless, the problems that the Tudors both met and created for themselves in their own generation were not those that had confronted their predecessors. The stagnant population and the relatively stable price-levels of the fifteenth century had been converted, by the mid-sixteenth century, into what we have come ourselves to recognize in more recent contexts as a 'population explosion' and 'galloping inflation'. In the Church, the discontents only dimly perceived in the fifteenth century broke through under the Tudors in the Reformation. There were fresh developments in the local home-based industries that owed much to new patterns of trade, partly explained also by the greater receptivity of English society to Continental influences, at last allowing in the Renaissance. In one significant particular, familiar to every archaeologist, Henry VII's accession in 1485 indeed constituted a watershed. From as early as 1493, Henry's coinage begins to make use of Renaissance motifs even in this most traditional of mediums, while in 1502-4, for the first time, profile portraits were introduced on the coinage, representing the king as a Renaissance prince in what was something approaching a true likeness. Alexander of Bruchsal, the king's chief engraver at the London Mint, who may have been responsible for these portraits, was a citizen not of London but of Antwerp. 1

There were many other ways, too, in which England's rulers responded to the magic of the Renaissance, and we shall see these most obviously in the architectural novelties and other strange conceits which, once adopted by the crown in sixteenth-century England, would be grasped at enthusiastically by the aristocracy. But as striking a manifestation of the mood of the period, and one that showed through rather earlier, was the innovatory zeal of Henry VIII throughout his reign in the proper defence of the realm. Of course, for centuries adequate

-205-

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Medieval England: A Social History and Archaeology from the Conquest to 1600 A.D
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xiii
  • Preface to the 1994 Edition xvii
  • 1 - The Anglo-Norman Settlement 1
  • 2 - Economic Growth 30
  • 3 - Set-Back 91
  • 4 - After the Black Death 126
  • 5 - Stability at a Reduced Level: the Church 138
  • 6 - Conspicuous Waste 173
  • 7 - Reorientation Under the Tudors 205
  • Abbreviations 251
  • Notes and References 252
  • Index 284
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