The Historical Journal



Historiographical reviews

COURTS, COURTIERS, AND CULTURE IN TUDOR ENGLAND 1


NATALIE MEARS a1
a1 University of Durham

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Abstract

Geoffrey Elton's model of Tudor politics, which emphasized the importance of political institutions and which dominated our understanding of Tudor politics for much of the second half of the twentieth century, has been challenged by a number of historians for over twenty years. They have re-emphasized the importance of social connections and cultural influences and turned attention away from studying the privy council to studying the court. In doing so, they have gone back to re-examine earlier approaches by Sir John Neale and Conyers Read which Elton had challenged. Yet, these new socially and culturally derived approaches, recently labelled ‘New Tudor political history’, remain varied and its practitioners sometimes at odds with each other. Focusing on both established seminal works and recent research, this review considers the different elements of these approaches in relation to Tudor court politics. It assesses the methodological problems they raise and identifies what shortcomings still remain. It demonstrates that Tudor politics are increasingly defined as based on social networks rather than institutional bodies, making issues of access to, and intimacy with, the monarch central. Our understanding has been further enhanced by exploration of political culture and its relationship to political action. However, the review points to the need to integrate more fully the political role of women and the relationship between the court and the wider political community into our understanding of Tudor politics, as well as place England into a European context.



Footnotes

1 I would like to thank Tom Freeman for reading a draft of this review and to the anonymous readers for their comments.