How far do you agree that Thomas Cromwell carried out a "revolution in government" during the years 1532-40?

Essay plan and information for the above question.

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Always start your essay with a short but clear introduction laying out the points you will make. In this essay it is vital that you:

(a) define "revolution"; lasting change, modernisation, progression, significant change?

(b) what were the major changes? Reform/introduction of the Privy Council, financial reforms, change in the role of Parliament

(c) assess the extent to which the changes were of Cromwellian design - it is perfectly valid to point out that a revolution DID occur in government, but Cromwelll did not make it happen

(d) was it good or bad for Cromwell? If it only caused Cromwell problems, it can't really be considered a revoltution for him

Make sure you reach a certain degree of judgement or at least evaluation by the end of the introduction - don't just make it narrative or a description of the problems!

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The Privy Council

  • smaller version of the king's council, but with significant differences. Whilst the King's Council was large and disorganised, meeting infrequently, the Privy Council contained around 20 permanent members who met on average once a month.
  • it did not exist until the 1530s; certainly existed by 1540 when minutes were first kept
  • major change in the manner of English government


  • only survived due to accident. Privy Council was not influential in Henry's reign, but the successions of a minor (Edward VI, 1547-53) and two women (Mary, 1553-8 and Elizabeth, 1558-1603) meant that it became more strategically important
  • brought into play to reduce Cromwell's power after the Pilgrimage of Grace (1536) and made of Cromwell's enemies - therefore even though it was a revolutionary change, it was not Cromwellian
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Financial Reform

  • improved tax reforms and brought in lots of money, resulting in "not reformed government but the largest private royal cash hoard since the Conquest" (Starkey)
  • established new courts for the collection of finances, for example, Court of Wards and Liveries (1540) and the Court of First Fruits and Tenths (1541)
  • Cromwell's reforms and designs did revolutionise the way money was collected and distinguished the national treasury from then king's personal purse.


  • most of his reforms did not last. The majority of his new courts were merged or absorbed into the Exchequer before the end of the 16th century and only Wards and Liveries lasted beyond 1558
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Role of Parliament

  • 1533-6 the role of Parliament changed considerably, they began to legislate over several issues that previously they had had no jurisdiction, for example the succession, religion etc.
  • statues law was shown to be universally binding 
  • new concept of sovereignty; Parliament, instead of challenging the king's authority, increased the king's authority: "we at no time stand so highly in our estate royal as in the time of parliament" (Henry VIII, 1542)
  • mostly drafted and managed by Cromwell
  • revolutionary and lasting


  • not entirely instigated by Cromwell
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Make your conclusion decisive and succinct - say what you want to say without repeating what you wrote in the other paragraphs.

(a) no, Cromwell did not carry out a revolution in government

(b) most of what he did instigate, for example in finances, was not long-lasting and cannot be considered revolutionary

(c) the greatest reforms of the Privy Council were not instigated by Cromwell for his personal gains and it was in fact a counter for Cromwell. Only became important due to dynastic accident

(d) however, in Parliament Cromwell did carry out a long-lasting revolution which changed the course of Parliamentary history, but it was only in this one area of government

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Benjy Kusi

This is a really good essay plan, thanks alot :)

Do you have anymore detailed notes on this topic however, to fill in the gaps? 


Hi tiula do you have anymore notes for the other essays in this course for Tudors ?

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