• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Did the state of the English Church by the 1530s mean that it was "ripe for reform"?

Extracts from this document...


Did the state of the English Church by the 1530s mean that it was "ripe for reform"? Before the 16th century, nearly without exception, the whole of English society adhered to Catholicism and as R.N. Swanson states; "the church in medieval England was closely integrated into the life of the nation." The Reformation that occurred in the 16th century drastically changed this situation, eventually producing a system where both Catholicism and Protestantism existed and competed. This change in the religious aspect of society was not as severe, violent or fast-paced as the reformations witnessed on the continent and there has been some debate as to its existence in English history. There is little doubt that it was indeed a process that occurred, in English history Christopher Haigh uses the concept of reformation to represent the collection of social and political changes that eventually contributed to the alteration of the religious system. These changes are essentially indicative of a suppression of Catholicism, the growth in secularism and the general Protestantisation of society. This was achieved through a break from a church controlled by the Pope and a codified prohibition of Catholic practices, fundamentally reformation was a process linked with the development of the state and its relentless incursion on society. ...read more.


Slowly the state gained power over the church, for example gaining the authority to appoint Bishops, and this eventually led to conflict between state and church, especially with the Papacy. It is tempting to assume that the state will predictably compete with rival power bases in order to produce state hegemony in society. This creates a theory that the reformation and any other secularising reforms would occur at the behest of the state once it had gained sufficient power. This theory has a certain air of inevitability however, and it is obvious, as Haigh points out, that the reformation was far from inevitable. Thompson's ideas are still useful in explaining how the conditions came about that allowed for change to occur. He argues that the church, in order to maintain its dominant position, developed in response to the practical needs of the laity and during this process came increasingly under the control of the laity, who had more inclination to change the church for their own interests. Some historians concentrate on the failings of Catholicism in explaining the reformation, such as A.G. Dickens. He cites Lollardy as a key example of the dissatisfaction with Catholicism and attributes the rise of Lollardy and evangelism in England to the defects that existed in the church. ...read more.


The reformation was led by the government through statute and the trend of acceptance of Protestantism can easily be attributed to the growing power of the state. It remained far safer for individuals to conform to the state and many would benefit financially and in terms of status through the reformation. In conclusion it can be said that the political factors were the most significant although elements of anticlericalism made the reformation easier to bear. It is hard to see that a reformation could have taken place if there was not the need by Henry VIII to gain a divorce against the will of the Papacy and Charles V. Essentially the church was no less efficient or pious as it had been over the whole late medieval period but it was not able to resist the power of the state. Whatever condition the church was in was irrelevant; the coercive power of the Tudor state was such that it could impose its will on almost any subject. The reformation may be symptomatic of the transaction from late medieval to early modern England, the Catholic church was generally community based so the move towards a national community required a nationalised church, which Haigh claims was a primary function of the reformation. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Medieval History section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

The essay flows and has good style with a clear communication of ideas. There is a coherent argument that is developed and pursued. The inclusion of some more evidence from the period to exemplify and support the argument would improve some sections of the work. A range of historians views are examined and as the essay progresses there is more evaluation of the interpretations. This could be strengthened by examining how these historians have reached their views and what they have chosen to emphasise.

Marked by teacher Kate Forbes 01/03/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Medieval History essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    If sodomy/homosexuality was 'unmentionable' in the Middle Ages, how can we write its history?

    5 star(s)

    However, the will to "prosecute homosexuals......did not become evident until the fourteenth century".3 The church, up to the middle ages, had, in fact, been tackling other issues, which had been hindering its growth. Theologians however began to "associate heresy with sodomy".4 The rejection of marriage, by heretical sects, Goodich argues, was proof enough for the Church of homosexuality existing.

  2. To what extent did witchcraft accusations reflect socio-economic tensions in early modern British communities?

    wrinkles; poor, sullen, superstitious, and papists, or such as know no religion; in whose drowsy mind the devil hath gotten a fine seat4' by this Scot is suggesting that there was a social prejudice towards the aged and also a vendetta against the impoverished as well as backing up the misogynistic opinion of accusers.

  1. Witchcraft. In this essay I am going to look at two types of witchcraft ...

    like with the Azande thought it was the power to harm others. Some people did believe this power came from an extraordinary gift from God for healing powers. In 1587 George Gifford said that the hatred of witched was from fear of their hostile acts towards others not from their association with the devil and religious intolerance.

  2. Were late Medieval and early Modern Europeans obsessed with death?

    Harvests were bad due to the damp weather and corn was rotting in the fields. This caused mass famine over most of Europe, as bread was the staple food of this area, and for many of the peasants the only thing on the menu.

  1. The History and Importance of Chinese Literature.

    His poetry served as a code of conduct for Chinese people who learnt from the virtues he communicated through his poetry. Chinese literature also comprises of a different form, which is known as drama. A mixture of music and language makes the drama very intriguing.

  2. Discuss the key drivers behind state formation in the West African Savannah. The early ...

    a Camel led to the Ghanaian state growing powerful and rich and was therefore, a significant contributory factor in the growth of the early state. But, it was not just Ghana that grew out of the expansion of trade. By 1255 Mali had embraced an extensive country including the former dependencies of Ghana and some territories to the East.

  1. To what extent did the Black Death contribute to the decline of Serfdom?

    Historians such as Bridbury have argued that this has been overstated, and the impacts were not as severe as is indicated. He argues that wages did not rise, and even in such cases where they did the subsequent rises in prices meant no improvements had really been made for Serfs.[8]

  2. What were the Reasons for the Successes Achieved by the First Crusade?

    With the siege of Antioch in question, one can see that the Muslim world was in a crippled state of unity. The two relieving Muslim of Antioch, led by Duqaq of Damascus and Ridwan of Aleppo, refused to pool their resources together against the Frankish forces, due to the fact Ridwan and Duqaq, despite being brothers, were at war.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work