December 30, 2006

A History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts

Genre: History
Author:Professor Robert Bucholz

If you’re the kind of person who has considered going back to school “just for fun” then you’ll understand my excitement when I tell you about some fantastic classes I’ve taken lately while running errands and folding laundry. The Teaching Company invites highly recommended professors in various fields of study to develop a specific lecture series which is then made available on cassette tape, CD, video tape and DVD.

I recently finished listening to the series, The History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts, by Professor Robert Bucholz. Despite the fact that history was my most despised subject in junior and senior high (with the exception of AP History my junior year), this class was riveting. Bucholz is an engaging speaker, including delightful asides that add flavor and texture to his narratives. He is clearly excited by his subject matter and thrilled to be sharing it with others.

Though this class concerns the Tudors and the Stuarts, Bucholz backs up to 1377 when Edward III dies and is succeeded by his grandson, Richard II. The fighting between the Lancastrians and Yorkists (which later came to be referred to as the War of the Roses) made for not only political turmoil during that time period but confusing listening for me as the student. I played some of these early tapes twice to make sure I understood what was going on. (Bucholz even apologizes for the confusion, although the real problem was that there were really too many Richards, Edwards and Henrys for the countries own good.)

Finally Henry VII gained the upper hand and the history of England settled into a time line that was a bit easier to follow (with the exception later on of a few too many Marys. Honestly, these people needed some fresh “What to name your baby” books. They had an utter lack of imagination when it came to naming their children.)

Bucholz, of course, covers some rather notable monarchs in this class, such as Henry VIII, Queen Mary I, and Elizabeth I. (I have to be honest, before this class, these three, along with perhaps, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, were the only kings or queens that I had even a glimmer of knowledge about.) I think it’s safe to say that these three notables carry a lot of baggage with them. For example, who doesn’t think “Bloody Mary” upon hearing of Mary I or think of Henry VIII lopping of the head of one wife in order to go marry another? Yet I believe that Bucholz did a great job of rounding out these well knowns, delving into the motives behind their actions (Henry VIII was worried about not leaving a male successor. The thought of Mary or Elizabeth being left as the heirs to the throne haunted him.) as well as comparing the monarchs so that the actions of one could be seen more clearly in light of the actions of the others. (Elizabeth killed just as many Catholics as Mary had killed Protestants, but Elizabeth was the one that got to write the history books on Mary and she found it convenient to add the adjective “bloody” to her sister’s name.)

Likewise, I think Bucholz covered the ridiculous amount of religious turmoil quite evenly, neither ridiculing nor exalting any of the factions, but simply explaining where they were coming from, what their goals were, and how utterly unsettling all of this religious change and upheaval was for a people who had quite comfortably been, well, whatever the king or queen had been at the time. The civil war and the time of Cromwell led to an amount of religious freedom that, in the end, the country simply couldn't tolerate. Even those who had led some of the changes realized it was all too much. Yet, as easy as it would be to look rather contemptuously upon much of the religious proceedings during these times, I felt that Bucholz remained well above the fray, relating the events clearly without soaking them first in his own prejudiced spin.

I listened to this tape series during the Autumn of 2006 and visited England in January 2007. It was exciting for someone to mention Warrick castle and the first thing that would pop into my mind wasn't "What castle?" but "Ah! Warrick, the King Maker!" The places we visited on our trip had more meaning since I could relate to them with some sense of historical context that I simply wouldn't have had otherwise.

I listened to this class on cassette tape and it worked well in that format. But I suspect that I missed out on several portraits of kings, queens, and other notables that would have been nice to see. Each box of tapes comes with a booklet filled with outlines of the lectures, but unfortunately, pictures are not included.

In the back of each booklet is a bibliography with the books and other resources sorted into categories such as "Essential Reading" and "Supplementary Reading" as well as by time period or location.

Other resources that I discovered in my study of English history:

A rockin' time line of Britain by the BBC
A family tree of the British monarchs on wikipedia

This was an excellent class and I highly recommend it. Not only is the time period that is covered fascinating, but as Professor Bucholz points out in his closing lecture, many of the struggles that the English went through during this time led directly to the philosophies and values that led to the founding of the United States of America soon after. And Professor Bucholz's enthusiasm for his subject matter is infectious. He's a delightful orator and I must confess that his fervor in his closing remarks were almost enough to make me climb upon a table and shout, "I'm proud to be English!" (despite the fact that I'm nothing of the sort, being far more Ukrainian than anything).


  1. re: Names. Why trouble yourself trying to think up new names when you can just name the child after you/the mother/grandparent etc?!? Good old Henry's and Charles' and Richard's!
    I always enjoyed this period in History class, and I definately enjoyed doing the Civil War at A-Level.
    Sorry this is late, but it only just popped up on my new messages list.

  2. Because it lacks individuality. The child may or may not be like "x". Also, it's really freaking confusing. My cracker friends and I have very common cracker names. Do you know how many Brian's we know? It gets old quick, lol. The conversation always goes into, "Wait... Which Brian?" "Ohhhh, THAT Brian!" haha

  3. i only just published it today. i started it long before our England trip but didn't have time to finish it up until today.

  4. I don't think the British Royal Family were that bothered by individuality to be honest....
    And the fact that it happens in non Royality shows that it's a common occurence, and not everyone thinks "Hey, let's *not* call our kid Brian, because there's at least one Brian in the whole already!!!!"

  5. i got to thinking today that having a Queen Diana or a Queen Sarah would have been rather refreshing. (in terms of royal names, that is.)

  6. I know that. Im pointing out how inconsiderate it is to put one's own ego before another's life. Then again, royalty isnt looked up on in America. My brother's fiance is Australian. She loves to tell us how ridiculous the whole ordeal is, lol, and how much her "bad side of the family from Australia" adores the royalty much like the Hollywood trash is adored in America.

    In other word's, "What if someone didnt want to be a part of that?" Personally, I think it would be horrible to be born from such a dry, already-planned-out life.

  7. btw, Im covering this angle: " Why trouble yourself trying to think up new names when you can just name the child after you/the mother/grandparent etc?!? "

    Im merely pointing out multiplicity. It is a falacy to accept that everyone wants the same thing (and that the same thing is inherently good), which Ive pointed out clearly.

  8. I had a student in Detroit whose name was Michael. He was named after his dad. His brothers' names were Miguel and Mikael.

    I also had a neighbor in Detroit named Marco. As you can imagine, he was named after his dad. His brother's name was Marcos.


    That said, for royalty at least, I can see why they'd want to honor their ancestors (since their ancestors were, after all, royalty). But it certainly does make the history books a tad on the confusing side.

    BTW, Philip was not an English royal name until ... when was it, early 1700's? If I'm remembering correctly that was the name of Anne's husband, yes? Before that the name was used of royalty in other nations, but not in England.

  9. My question to that, which I was hinting towards, is, "What is so special about them that a name must be reused due to historical conexts?" The past has been done. It's gone. Finished. The end. Fine~, lol. What about the future?

    And yes, I hate my first name for all of those reasons, but my mother gave it to me due to her Christianity, so I kept it because my mom is awesome. I think that's why I prefer Michael over Mike. Now my middle and last name...well, you know what happened to those, Meg :P

  10. My mum is called Margaret, her mother was a Margaret, my sister is Julia Margaret, a cousin is Sarah Louise Margaret, another cousin has Margaret as a middle name, as does an aunt. Several relatives in Ireland haver Margaret as a first or middle name. It's a big family name on my maternal side, and my grandmother's family.
    My dad's middle name is Chris, and my brother is a Chris (it's also a coincidence that we have a great uncle or such called Chris James, which is my brothers name.) My cousin on my mothers side has his dad's name, just with the two middle names switched around. His brother's middle name is Patrick, another common name in my grandmother's family (although I think that's more to do with them being Irish, and Paddy/Patrick being a common Irish name after St. Patrick.)
    Until me everyone in my mum's family had one name that was taken from someone else (usually Margaret :p). After me was my cousin who had his dad's names, then two second cousins who aren't named for anyone either (go me, trendsetter!).

  11. What is wrong with remembering the past? The saying "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it, and those who do not remember it correctly, well they are just doomed." is around for a reason.

  12. Nothing is wrong with it. Im showing that having a specific preference for only it is a bad idea. Im saying that it is limiting to one self and others.

  13. i think it's more a cultural thing than a remembering the past thing.

    but there's also the sense that, "gee, if i name my little girl Elizabeth, maybe she'll grow up to be great like the Virgin Queen."

    Henry VII named his oldest son Arthur hoping that he would be the one to "unite England." (Remember, Henry VII came to power at the end of the Plantagenet squabbling and thought the name would have significance.) Arthur ended up dying before he came to power, though. Hence Henry VIII.

  14. haha, Meg. I love your reasonings. It's funny how you and Eric seem so different on the face of things, but, at the same time, your minds are so similar :D He LOVES to tell me all the cultural things of the past. It's fun to listen.

  15. I wish I was named after someone in the family. I am the only child in my family who's name doesn't include anyone in my family. I sometimes feel like I am not a part of the family because of it.

    Having names handed down generation to generation has helped me in doing my family tree.

  16. Great article! The Tudors are my favorite in history! I've read so many books on them. Have you seen the tv series "The Tudors"? I wrote a review of that series if you want to check it out. Many inaccuracies but great fun to watch!


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