Religion and Society in Seventeenth-Century England - MEMS8000

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Autumn Term 7 30 (15) Kenneth Fincham checkmark-circle


Religion has often been regarded as the motor for change and upheaval in seventeenth-century England: it has been seen as the prime cause of civil war, the inspiration for the godly rule of Oliver Cromwell and 'the Saints', and central to the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9. Fears of popery, it has been suggested, helped forge English national identify. This module reflects critically on these claims. It explores tensions within English Protestantism, which led to an intense struggle for supremacy within the English Church in the early seventeenth-century, to be followed in the 1640s and 1650s by the fragmentation of Puritanism into numerous competing sects which generated a remarkable proliferation of radical ideas about religion and society. The Restoration of Church and King in 1660 saw the gradual and contested emergence of a dissenting community and the partial triumph of religious tolerance, with profound implications for English society and culture. Another key theme is the changing fortunes of Anglicanism, with the erosion of its position from a national Church to the established Church over the century. The marginal position of English Catholics in seventeenth-century England, albeit with a genuine possibility of significant recovery of rights and influence under James II, is also crucial. The module will address issues of theology, the close relationship between political power and religious change, and the nature of debates on religion at national and local level, and also track elements of continuity and change over a formative century in English religious experience.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 20
Total private study hours: 280
Total module study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Essay 5,000 words 70%
Presentation 30 minutes 15%
Presentation 30 minutes 15%

Reassessment methods
100% Coursework

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices.
The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

Indicative Reading List

J. Spurr, The Post-Reformation: Religion, Politics and Society in Britain 1603-1714 (2006)
C. Hill, The World Turned Upside Down (1972)
K. Fincham & N. Tyacke, Altars Restored: the Changing Face of English Religious Worship 1547-c.1700 (2007)
I. Green, Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England (2000)
T. Harris et al. ed., The Politics of Religion in Restoration England (1990)
C. Durston & J. Maltby ed., Religion in Revolutionary England (2006)
S. Wright ed., Parish, Church and People (1988)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate a systematic and comprehensive understanding of the religious, social and political forces operating in seventeenth-century society and the relationship between them.
2 Appreciate the theological and social dynamics of various groups within English Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.
3 Navigate through a rich and complex historiography, and current controversies, on the character and impact of religion in seventeenth-century society.
4 Utilize a wide range of primary materials including treatises, diaries, polemics, images and propaganda.
5 Engage with concepts pertinent to the remit of the Masters programme, especially constructions of modernity/primitivism; history and heritage as contested space; modes and methods of media stereotyping.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Deploy different types of historical information effectively by utilizing research techniques to interrogate both primary and secondary material.
2 Demonstrate the ability to manage their own learning, the ability to critically evaluate current research, and a systematic understanding of the subject.
3 Communicate complex ideas and concepts clearly and effectively.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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