Resistance, Rebellion and Regicide: c.1480-1603 - HI6068

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


Early Modern European states fostered a culture of obedience. Subjects were meant to show loyalty to their monarch through conforming to their commands, and the doctrine of obedience was promulgated in pulpits and cheap print up and down the land. Nevertheless, rebellions occurred. This course will examine when, why and how subjects resisted their monarchs during the sixteenth century in England, Ireland Scotland, and what factors could push resistance into rebellion – even to the ultimate sin of regicide. We will explore the impact of religious changes on rebellion, considering how having a monarch with a different religion might facilitate rebellion, and the impact of classical ideas about the res publica, the commonwealth or republic, on providing new justifications for rebellion, and explore how these phenomena occurred in the three different contexts of the three kingdoms. We shall also consider how rebellion was reported, and the relationship between the state and controlling news, and how domestic rebellions were influenced by and in turn affected local, national and foreign developments.

Traditionally, historians tend to think about rebellion and resistance following one of two approaches, either social history, considering bottom up protests and popular culture, or intellectual history, exploring theoretical justifications for rebellion and understanding the nature of legitimate political power. This module will allow students to explore both historical approaches. When the module is run at level 5, students will be expected to compare the uses of both approach and its strengths and weaknesses, and at level 6 they will be invited to combine both approaches in their own work.


Contact hours

One 1-hour lecture and one 2-hour seminar each week.

Method of assessment

40% coursework; 60% exam.

Assessment will be by two essays of 3,000 words each, and a two-hour examination in the Summer term.

Indicative reading

BURNS, J. (2004) Pro Me Si Mereor In Me: kingship and tyranny in Scotland, 1437-1587. In VON FRIEDBURG, R. (ed.) Murder and monarchy : regicide in European history, 1300-1800. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. (other essays in this volume provide valuable wider context).
DAWSON, J. (1991) The two John Knoxes : England, Scotland and the 1558 tracts. Journal of Ecclesiastical History (42). p. 555-76.
KESSELRING, K. J. (2007) The Northern Rebellion of 1569: faith, politics, and protest in Elizabethan
England. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
MAGGIN, C. (2004) The Baltinglass rebellion, 1580: English dissent or a Gaelic uprising? Historical Journal (47:2). p. 205-32.
SANSOM, C. J. (2008) The Wakefield Conspiracy of 1541 and Henry VIII's Progress to the North Reconsidered. Northern History (45). p. 217-238.
WOOD, A. (2014) The Deep Roots of Albion's Fatal Tree: The Tudor State and the Monopoly of Violence. History (99). p. 403-417.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1) Demonstrate a knowledge and critical understanding of when and why early modern subjects rebelled against their monarchs.
2) Analyse change over time during the sixteenth century.
3) Analyse the interplay of domestic and international factors in prompting rebellion.
4) Demonstrate an awareness of the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of extant source materials.
5) Demonstrate awareness of the inter-relationship of factors which cause political unrest and assess their relative importance.


The intended generic learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1) Weigh the merits of different scholarly interpretations with reference to primary sources.
2) Develop their ability to analyse a range of types of source materials and employ this material to contribute to a clear argument.
3) Develop their participation in debate, using evidence to support their position in seminar discussions and written assignments.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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