Henry VIII


Regional Divisions

1. Church ~ owns land

Strcuture = archibishops (powerful, part of gov), bishops (important, some hold gov office), clergymen

  • Hugely important - not just spiritually - great landowner. 
  • Social status of clergy varied -  at lower parish level, curates & chantry priests modestly rewarded for dealing with spiritual needs of ordinary folk. 
  • Bishops and abbots of large religous houses were important figures entitled to sit in house of lords and had political roles also. 
  • Henry VII tended to use power he had over Church to appoint only men who had legal training and whose administrative competence was valued more than their spirituality, as bishops. 
  • Two important clergymen, Morton and Fox. King reluctant to appoint men whose social background was aristocratic. 
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Regional Divisions

NOBILITY ~ own land - Dukes, Earls & Barons, part of gov. 

  • Novility dominated land ownership. Comrpimised about 50-60 men. Nobility replaced with people who had bought King's favour, crown relied on such families for maintenance of order in countryside.
  • Henry VII reluctant to reward nobility titles, distrustful of nobility. 
  • Controlled nobility through bonds and recognizances. 
  • Key to Nobles' power was system '******* feudalism', which wealthy magnates recruit knights and gentlemen to serve as administrators.
  • Nobleman could use retained men to bring unlawful influence on court case against crown. 
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Regional Divisions

BELOW NOBILITY = GENTRY ~ gentlemen, large houses in country, provide armies for war

  • Great landowners
  • Most important members of gentry - Bray, sought knighthoods as confirmation of social status
  • 1490, 375 knights
  • Knights together owned 15-20% of countries land

BELOW GENTRY = YEOMEN ~ farmers, own or rent land 

  • Farmed substantial properties for increasingly sophistictated market economy
  • Decline in population 1348-49 reduced demand for land, resulted in drop of land values 
  • Below yeomen were husbandmen, both referred to as peasants.
  • Laborours depended on money for their labour, their position was very insecure

EQUAL TO YEOMEN = CITIZENS ~ rich merchants, craftsmen in towns

  • In towns and cities, relatively small no. of educated professions of whom the most numerous and influential were lawyers, exercised considerable inf. often in collab. w wealthier merchants.
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Regional Divisions


  • Society witnessed growth of a preoffesional and mercantile bourgeoisie who's become increasingly important in London, and major cities. 

BELOW YEOMEN & CITIZENS = LABOURERS ~ work for citizens or yeomen

  • Lower down social role but still respectable -  shopkeepers and skilled tradesmen.
  • Groups tended to dominate borough corporations and played a key feature in common features of urban life in pre-reformation England.


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Cloth Trade

Positives on the economy:

  • Cloth trade responsible for 90% of value of English exports. 
  • An increase of over 60% in volume of cloth exports during Henry's reign.
  • Industry offered opportunities for rural employment 
  • Increasing proportion of finished cloth was exported from London through Merchant Adventurers, it reinforced commercial dominance within country 
  • Established commercial axis with Antwerp which was it's main money market

Negatives on the economy:

  • Historic cities had suffered significant decay as cloth industry tended to move to newer manufacturing centres in smaller market towns
  • Adventurers couldn't get complete domination as proved unable to overcome trade priviledges enjoyed by Hanseactic League. 
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Other forms of trade

Positives on the economy:

  • Most industrial activities e.g. weaving, were small-scale craft operations which recquired little capital investment
  • Much of coal from NE was shipped to Newcastle to meet growing demand for domestic and industrial fuel in London
  • Development of basic pumping technology in 1486 enabled greater production

Negatives on the economy:

  • England remained dependent on cloth industry, in trading terms, especially as other industries remained small and failed to compete effectively with continental competitors
  • Mining recquired more capital investment but remained fairly small scale
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