Europe and England in the Sixteenth Century

By T. A. Morris | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

How To Use This Book

Traditionally, the histories of England and Europe in the sixteenth century are studied separately. While such an approach may make good sense in the study of later periods, when British history and that of many continental countries developed different priorities and preoccupations, it is less easy to justify in the era of the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. Then, a variety of intellectual, economic and dynastic themes linked the affairs of the British Isles closely with those of Western Europe. This book attempts to clarify those links, and to spare the student duplication and repetition, by associating the history of sixteenth-century England with that of its nearest continental neighbours.

The coverage of so much ground dictates that the material must be presented in a concise format. The opening section of the book, therefore, sets out to define and to explain the main features of the intellectual, social and economic context in which the political events of the sixteenth century were played out. Although this section is less directly related to familiar examination questions, a thorough understanding of its contents will ensure that the student gains maximum benefit from the subsequent, examination-orientated chapters. These chapters, in their turn, provide a clear and uncluttered introduction to the major political developments of the century. While the text outlines the principal themes, much more narrative, biographical, statistical and analytical material is presented in the tables, digests and maps that accompany the text. These should not be treated merely as illustrations; they are essential means for conveying a greater amount of information without adding to the bulk of the book. Repetition within the text is also avoided by the separate explanation of issues which are important to more than one chapter. The provision of documentary exercises also serves a dual purpose. For some time such exercises have been a central element in examination papers. Apart from providing the student with the necessary experience of such questions, the author uses documentary material here to examine areas of each topic in greater depth and detail.

The book addresses the fact that ability ranges among A level and undergraduate students are now wider than ever before. While some students will be content to limit themselves to the present text, others will wish to use it as a springboard to more advanced study. To that end, the book provides an introduction to the historiographical debates that surround each topic, together with a select bibliography of readily available works that will further enhance the student’s understanding of the period.

At the same time, the book recognises the unfamiliarity to the student of very many sixteenth-century concepts. Every attempt has been made, therefore, to define contemporary terminology and to anticipate areas of confusion. Unfamiliar terms are either defined in the text when they first occur, or are indicated in bold print and defined in a glossary attached to the chapter. As a further safeguard against misunderstanding, the index at the back of the book indicates the page upon which each unfamiliar term is defined.

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