Monday, October 08, 2012

Question from Laura - Dissertation ideas for Katherine Parr, etc.

Firstly I stumbled upon this website today and I can't get over how incredible it is. I am a third year history student and am in awe of all the content!

I am about to start my dissertation and believe that the Tudors is a topic that, despite being a topic many have done before, I don't mind spending the next five months researching.

I've been attempting to think of an "original" (to a certain extent!) topic and quite like the idea of Katherine Parr or even Anne Askew (though it is 10,000 words). I wondered if anyone had any ideas on an interesting angle - I was thinking of Katherine Parr and how her religious activities made her a political figure or how she was important not because of just being Henry VIII wife but because her experiences can sort of highlight the aristocratic women in the Tudor Court.

Thank you - I've been looking at all the archive questions and answer and again they are great!


PhD Historian said...

I am always keen to assist students studying history, so here goes ....

First, based on the terminology you use, you are in a school outside the US, correct? (US university students do not write "dissertations". In US terminology, a "dissertation" is what a PhD candidate writes to earn the PhD ... called a "thesis" in the UK.)
If you are in the UK, does the dissertation indeed have to be "original"? I ask because Susan E. James did her PhD thesis on Katherine Parr and covered the religion angle to a very great extent. Her thesis was published twice, first as "Kateryn Parr: Making of Queen", and most recently as "Catherine Parr: Henry VIII's Last Love". Before taking on Parr as your topic, have a close look at both of those, if you have not already done so.

My biggest question would be whether Parr was made a political figure *because of her religious activities*, or was it actually her role as queen-consort (and briefly Regent) that made her a political figure and thus brought greater attention to her religious activities? I am inclined to think the latter is the case. Consider the other aristocratic women in the Tudor court who were also deeply involved in religious activities that may have been perceived as dangerous by Crown authorities (Katherine Willoughby Brandon comes immediately to mind). Perhaps you might look at how Parr's royal prominence placed her under greater scrutiny, while those aristocratic women of non-royal status largely escaped similar scrutiny despite engaging in identical activity? Or, since the group of aristocratic women who pursued religious reform centered themselves around Parr as their patroness, perhaps you could explore the degree to which those women used their relationship with the queen-consort specifically as a way to avoid trouble from the authorities? You would need to do some background reading on client-patron relationships, and women as patrons, but that is easy enough to do, and it is a "hot topic" among historians these days.

laura said...

To PhD Historian,
Yes I am in the UK!And as to the originality it is only to some extent, they don't expect us mere third year history students to come up with our own thesis and completely original concept!

Your comments have been extremely insightful! I definitely think it would be interesting to look deeper into Parr's relationship with other aristocratic women. I just need to keep reading more so I can figure out an angle.

What I have started to do is research primary sources as they are central and extremely important in our dissertations. Hopefully I will be able to find a large base of sources that depict Katherine and I will certainly start looking at Susan E. James thesis as background reading.

Anonymous said...

I love your idea! Immediately my mind flowed to a thesis of how religion and politics are so deeply intertwined. Parr is so exciting to read about because of her bravery and willingness to "stick her neck out" (pun intended of course!)in the area of Christianity for the time period when so many where beheaded or burned to the a stake. Compare/Contrast her to a modern political woman and the next five months will fly by! Hope this helps!