Skip to main content

The Tudors: Fact, Fiction and Fantasy

This course is currently unavailable for booking

There are currently no upcoming dates available for this course. Be the first to know when new dates are announced by joining the mailing list.

This module is an introduction to the interplay between history, legend and fantasy in Tudor Britain.

The reigns of the Tudor monarchs are amongst the most widely studied in British history, but accounts of their wars, dynastic struggles, court intrigues and accomplishments extend far beyond mere history.

The deeds of monarchs like Henry VIII, Mary, and Elizabeth I are recorded in historical sources, but their real and imagined lives have left their mark on art and film, and in novels and fantasies.

The rich and varied exploits of Sir Francis Drake, Dr John Dee’s magic, the adventures of Sir Walter Raleigh, the lives of Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, the deaths of Marlowe, Mary Queen of Scots and Anne Boleyn have become the stuff of legends, which are re-interpreted in contemporary popular culture.

However, these alternative realities are grounded in a view of an historical past. This module will examine how key themes in the Tudor world such as the role of women, the use of power, the art of war, and the attitude to magic shape our attitudes to what is real, addressing how such themes are reflected in works of fiction.

From memories of the Spanish Armada to the popularity of Renaissance faires, the Tudor world is still with us today.

Learning and teaching

Syllabus content

  1. Richard III, the Tudor world and contemporary heritage
  2. Magic in the Tudor world
  3. The Tudor world on Stage and Screen
  4. Wales and the Tudor world
  5. Games, books and cosplay events – commodification of the Tudor world
  6. The Wives of Henry VIII – fantasy and folklore
  7. Changing views: Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell; Walter Raleigh and the American enterprise
  8. Female monarchs and the position of women
  9. The Fairy Faith and Tudor religion

The module will be delivered through nine two-hour sessions.

These sessions will consist of a one-hour lecture followed by class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module.

The discussion and group work will enable you to think critically and contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available via Learning Central.

Coursework and assessment

This module will be assessed by two short assignments, comprising around 1500 words in total.

Reading suggestions

Recommended background reading

  • Elodie Rousselot (ed.), Exoticizing the Past in Contemporary Neo-historical Fiction (Basingstoke and New York, 2014).
  • Katie Stevenson and Barbara Gribling (eds), Chivalry and the Medieval Past (Woodbridge, 2016)
  • John Miller, Early Modern Britain, 1450‒1750 (Cambridge, 2017)
  • John S. Morrill (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart Britain (Oxford, 1996)
  • Rachel Lee Rubin, Well Met: Renaissance Faires and The American Counterculture (New York, 2012)
  • Micheal Alexander, Medievalism: The Middle Ages in Modern England (New Haven, 2017)

Online resources

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.