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What were the causes of the English Reformation? Show more Show less
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The English Reformation in the 16th century began when Henry VIII was not able to divorce his wife. The English Reformation was part of a larger European movement, fuelled by the printing press and a number of charismatic theologians.

Notable figures close to Henry VIII pushed for a break with Rome Show more Show less

Many important people around Henry VIII including two of his wives were highly influential. Thomas Cromwell and his appointment Archbishop Cranmer were committed to Protestantism and reform. The top-down school of thought sees the Reformation as a political project coming from educated elites in Henry's court.
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Thomas Cromwell orchestrated the reformation with Archbishop Cranmer

Thomas Cromwell along with the protestant Archbishop Thomas Cranmer led a series of widespread reforms and built ties with other protestant movements. Between them, they changed the religious culture of the country.

The Argument

Cromwell appears to have been a sincere and energetic protestant reformer. He seized on the opportunity brought by Henry’s divorce to introduce radical reform. His papers show a close relationship with mainstream reformers in Switzerland as well as Lollards in England.[1] Many aspects of the English Reformation were entirely Cromwell’s project pushed from above. After Archbishop Cranmer was appointed, the pair set out to introduce radical reform across the country. Peter Clark’s Classic study of the Reformation in Kent shows rapid change forced through by the Archbishop. Early hotbeds of evangelical Protestantism like Bristol and Gloucester are the exception, not the rule. England maintained a quasi-catholic Protestantism till quite late in the Tudor period. Cromwell and Cranmer were enacting their own project of reform with little support from the general populace or Henry himself.[2] Cromwell would ultimately go too far in his reformation, ruthlessly dissolving the monasteries and humiliating Catholics in England. Henry was in essence a true catholic and executed Cromwell for heresy in 1540. Cromwell leapt on the opportunity of the King's divorce to carry out a ruthless and sometimes unpopular Reformation that would ultimately get him killed.

Counter arguments

It is debatable whether Cromwell was truly committed to the Protestant Reformation or simply carrying out orders. His primary focus was on dismantling the monasteries, because they were very wealthy, and confiscating their property freed up one-third of the land in England which could be resold to Cromwell’s allies.[3] The Reformation proper did not begin until the reign of Edward VI when the Lord Protector Edward Seymour introduced more radical protestant ideas. A new English prayer book was released, vestments and altars were banned and allowed priests to marry. Cromwell’s Reformation by comparison did the bare minimum to free Henry from the constraints of the Catholic Church and build new political ties across Europe.[4] Cromwell’s Reformation did not go very far. He was probably just following orders and looking for financial gain and political alliances.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] Cromwell used Henry's divorce as an excuse to pass protestant reforms. [P2] There is little evidence that either Henry or the general populace wanted these reforms [C] Cromwell orchestrated the English Reformation

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/the-truth-about-thomas-cromwell/
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2638647?seq=2#metadata_info_tab_contents
  3. https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/A_People_s_History_of_Britain.html?id=epxUcEaSPNEC&redir_esc=y
  4. https://www.historyonthenet.com/the-tudors-edward-vi-protestantism
This page was last edited on Sunday, 8 Nov 2020 at 18:52 UTC

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