The current Master of Balliol College, Oxford, went there to study as a young man (b. 1912), stayed as a fellow and tutor, left for the Second World War, and returned as a promising historian in 1945. Since that time he has been University lecturer in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century history there and also had the honor of the Ford's lectureship in 1962. A somewhat controversial figure because of his Marxist persuasions and his persistent exposition of an "economic determinist" position in many of his works, Christopher Hill has written several major books and numerous essays and articles, among the chief of which are: Economic Problems of the Church, Puritanism and Revolution, Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England, and The Intellectual Origins of the Puritan Revolution.
THE REFORMATION in England was an act of state. The initiative came from Henry VIII, who wanted to solve his matrimonial problems. The King had the enthusiastic support of an anti-clerical majority in the House of Commons (representing the landed gentry and the merchants and of the propertied classes in the economically advanced south and east of England. Overt opposition came only from the more feudal north (the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536). The Reformation was not motivated by theological considerations: Henry VIII burnt Protestants as well as opponents of the royal supremacy. Some supporters of the Reformation were heretics; but the wide expansion of Protestantism in England was a consequence, not a cause, of the Reformation.
This was of course the most important outcome of the English Reformation. But it also had economic and social consequences, which played their part in preparing for the Revolution of 1640-9. The most obvious effect of the Reformation in England was the weakening of the Church as an institution. At the dissolution of the monasteries landed property bringing in a net annual income of over £136,000, and bullion, plate, and other valuables worth possibly £1-1½ million, were taken away from the Church and handed over to laymen of the propertied class. To convey the significance of these figures we may recall that royal revenue from land never exceeded £40,000 a year before 1542.
The Church's loss of economic power brought with it a decline in political power. In Parliament, the removal of abbots from the House of Lords meant that the clerical vote there changed from an absolute majority to a minority. Bishops ceased to be great feudal potentates and sank to even greater dependence on the Crown. Convocation lost its legislative independence. With monastic property the Church lost the right of presentation to some two-fifths of the benefices of the kingdom: this was ultimately to have momentous consequences. The Church also lost a great deal of that vast system of patronage -- jobs for____________________