Understanding Elizabethan Society (HIH1604)

StaffDr Freyja Cox Jensen - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of this module is to introduce you to the various types of sources available to the student of early modern history.  You will compare different genres of source, and analyse their uses and limitations in the understanding of the past. We will explore both qualitative and quantitative approaches, looking at architectural plans, maps, taxation data, household accounts, paintings, plays, poems, wills, census records, speeches and published pamphlets, to understand the nature of Elizabethan society, and how different members within it interacted with one another.  You will also develop your presentation and discussion skills, through constant practice in the seminars.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an understanding of some of the theories that underpin approaches to early modern social and cultural history, and to apply them to specific case-studies.
  • 2. Assess critically the range of sources emerging from early modern England.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the numerous debates surrounding this period.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and to compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, to respond to questions orally, and to think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan


1.  Elizabethan England: three eyewitness accounts

Part I: “Of the nobilitie”  

2.  Life in the country: architecture; income (statistics)

3.  Life at court: art; poetry

 Part II: “Of gentlemen”   

4.  Growing up: education and status; school statutes; advice literature

5.  Civic duty: parliamentary speeches; political tracts

 Part III: “Of yeomen”    

6.  Daily life: wills and inventories

7.  Pastime with good company: entertainment and the theatre

 Part IV: “Of the fourth sort of men which doe not rule”   

8.  Inaudible voices: census records; legal records

9.  Inaudible voices: archaeology

 Part V:   ...Of women?  

10.  Patriarchal in theory, permissive in practice?  Women in the sources.

11.  Conclusion: how useful are the eyewitness accounts?

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Lecture2Introduction to module
Workshop10 x 2 hour seminars At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent learning128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing a weekly source essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary) (15% per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period
1500 words1500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

M. J. Braddick and J. Walter (eds), Negotiating Power in Early Modern Society: order, hierarchy and subordination in Britain and Ireland (2001)

 Bernard Capp, When Gossips Meet: women, family, and neighbourhood in early modern England (2004)

P. Clark & P. Slack (eds) English Towns in Transition, 1500–1700 (1976)

David Cressy, Education in Tudor and Stuart England (1975)

Laura Gowing, Domestic Dangers: women, words, and sex in early modern London (1998)

J. Hatcher, ‘Understanding the Population History of England, 1450-1750’, Past & Present 180:1 (2003), pp. 83-130

Felicity Heal and Clive Holmes, The Gentry in England and Wales 1500-1700 (1994)

Ralph Houlbrooke, The English Family 1450-1700 (1984)

Martin Ingram, ‘Men and Women in late Medieval and early modern times’, English Historical Review 120:487 (2005)

W Prest(ed), The Professions in Early Modern England (1987)

Keith Wrightson, ‘ “Sorts of People” ’ in Tudor and Stuart England’ in J Barry and CW Brooks (eds), The middling sort of people: culture, society and politics in England, 1550-1800 (1994)

Keith Wrightson, English Society (1982)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Early English Books Online http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Primary Source pack

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date