Saturday, April 09, 2011

Question from Rebecca - Dissertation ideas

I am starting to think about my dissertation for next year and am planning to do something on the Tudors, probably either Henry VIII or Elizabeth I. I haven't previously studied the Tudors much but they fascinate me and I would love to do a big research project around the period. My problem is that I have no idea what areas to focus on and i am worried that whatever I choose to do will have been done a hundred times due to the popularity of the era. If anyone had any ideas on getting a general overview of the period or any areas that have not previously been extensively explored i would be very grateful!!

[Search on "dissertation" in the bar at the top of the page for several related threads. - Lara]


kb said...

Rebecca - Are you in the UK? Is this your dissertation for your third year?

Rebecca said...

yes i'm in the UK and yes it's for my third year!

shtove said...

Try AL Rowse's books on the English renaissance - each chapter has details and sources that might snag your interest.

Rowse was a witty and civilised historian, so the ideas shine through without ideological bias or bullying terminology. Although he is generally dismissive of religion.

The books were written in the 1970s, and cover music, literature, science, fashion, food, sex etc. Well worth reading.

kb said...

I wrote a longer answer yesterday but there was an error when I clicked publish. So this is a second go around.

You might want to look at John Guy's "Tudor England" It's a bit more current than the Rowse suggested by shtove although not structured in the same way.

If you are interested in a biographical approach, you might consider taking an elite person and researching their lives. Lots has been written about the monarchs and some work has been done on people like Cromwell, Dudley/Leicester, Cecil, etc. but there are still lots of courtiers of both sexes that have little written about them.

There is also space in the literature for work on economic issues like monopolies, taxes and land ownership.

Patronage is also a field that could use more research, specifically patronage of acting companies, musicians and painters.

There has been some excellent work done on clothing and costume but only by a small handful of people.

Check JSTOR at your university library for the latest research published in these areas.

The trick is to remember that although the Tudors have a large fan base, there is always room for new interpretations of information. There's also still a lot of documents in the archives that have not yet been touched. I did my doctoral work at the University of Nottingham on Elizabethan politics. If you want to communicate via email, ask Lara to connect us.

Cate Drewry said...

This is not the world's most original subject, but it is a question I find interesting ... Henry VIII's premarital and extramarital relationships.

The question of the paternity of Mary Boleyn's children has been flogged to death, but there has been one concept put forth (albeit in a work of historical fiction) that I find fascinating. In her novel "The Autobiography of Henry VIII" Margaret George theorizes that Henry was a virgin at the time of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Therefore, as a virgin, he was unable to tell himself whether she was virgin or not, when the question began to be debated over the annulment proceedings. It's something that had never occurred to me before ... wouldn't Henry have been able to tell? And knowing, wouldn't he have taken a more aggressive (although unfortunately rather rude) stance on the issue?

George's theory is that, cloistered as he was by his father once he became heir, Henry would have had no opportunities for liaisons as a teen. However we know that his father took progresses and as a parent of teenagers, I am here to tell you that they will find a way. It would be interesting to me to research Henry's early love life, what romances or hook ups he may have had before his love life became the central focal point of his existence. And if he had none, why? Duty to his father, religion, a feeling of loyalty to Katherine as her betrothed, lack of opportunity? He would have been more or less the Prince William of his time: handsome, accomplished, heir to the kingdom. Surely there was no shortage of teenage girls (and probably older women) who gave him the eye.

Just a thought, something I myself would find enjoyable to pursue and come up with a theory on. Good luck to you.