I am currently a second year university student who is trying to narrow down their dissertation topic. I want to focus my dissertation on everyday life in during the reign of Henry VIII. Any ideas on how I could narrow this down? Also any books that relate to this specific topic?
Yes, your topic is an extremely broad one and you may wish to narrow it down!
You could focus on gentry or aristocracy or the middle classes (either rural or living in a large city) for example. Another way would be to compare the lives of a subject at the beginning of Henry's reign to one at the end. This would allow you to compare such aspects such as how religious changes and the debasement of the coinage had impacted on individuals. (You could also look at the impact of seasons of the year on the individual eg religious feasts.)
Another area would be to examine the roles of individuals in Henry's household - what did they do at court when they were serving Henry, for example?
Some books to help may be: The Tudor Housewife and also Food and Feast in Tudor England which are both by Alison Sim. For Henry VIII's household, Henry VIII - King and Court by Alison Weir gives a good overview of the Royal Household.
A bit old fashioned but still fun is A History of Every Day Things by Marjorie and CHB Quennell whilst Everyone A Witness by AF Scott gives a broad overview of everyday life in this era and also contains extracts of contemporary letters etc.
(These two also cover the Elizabethan era and are illustrated.)
There are some new kids on the block which I have not read but have good reviews. These are:
How to Be a Tudor - Ruth Goodman
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Tudors - Terry Breverton.
Finally, why not interview someone who partakes in the annual Tudor Kentwell enactments? They do a lot of research for their roles and will be able to tell you exactly what it is like to "live as a Tudor"!
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