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Do the Sources Suggest That Local Issues Caused Rebellions in Tudor England? Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

a) The interpretation deals with the causes of rebellions in the Tudor period. Local issues certainly caused rebellions in Tudor England as the interpretation suggests. There is an issue with the hypothesis however that needs to be considered; what is meant by ‘local issues’. The hypothesis is not suggesting that the only cause of protest was local issues but it’s making a claim about the importance of this issue. It is certainly possible to see local factors at work in sources 2 and 4 but additional issues are raised in sources 1, 3 and 5 and these might form the basis for amending the interpretation being suggested.

Taken at face value, Source 2 supports the view that religious problems, rather than local issues were the main cause of rebellions. It deals with the Pilgrimage of Grace (1536) which was the most widespread protest of the Tudor period. The title -Pilgrimage of Grace- has religious overtones and the demands of the rebels are inspired by religious changes such as Henry VIII’s decision to become head of the church of England, partly to get approval for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and the dissolution of monasteries which was made possible due to the Act of Supremacy passed by parliament in 1534 making Henry the Supreme Head of the Church of England, separating England from papal authority. However in this source there is evidence to support the case for local issues being present. Robert Aske talks about ‘the poverty of his realm’ and the ‘north parts specially’ this is due to things such as communities being hit by poor harvests in the 1530s and the sheep and plough taxes that affected the northern communities rather heavily. This source does therefore somewhat support local issues as a cause of rebellion in the mid Tudor period.

Sources 1 and 3 raise causes of protest that lean more politically than locally. Source 1 refers to how 10,000 Cornishmen joined Perkin Warbeck, in 1497 where he claimed he was Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York when arriving at St. Ives in Cornwall. It describes how the Cornishmen ‘hated Henry VII’ and ‘wished to avenge themselves on the King’ due to a defeat in Blackheath previously that year. Source 3 reinforces the political tone of source 1 by asking, as one of the demands of the rebels in Lincolnshire October 1536 that ‘persons of low birth’ can be appointed in the council. They also ‘humbly request’ that the Act of Uses be suppressed as they believed they were ‘deprived of freedom’ and they couldn’t leave their lands. Both sources allow us to conclude that politically based issues are perhaps more of a cause of rebellions in the Tudor period than local issues were.


rce 5 can also be cross-referenced with source 4 to further oppose the interpretation. In describing

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enclosure that happened to the land of the Middleton Commons the writer of source 4 comments that one Thomas Thursby esquire, who liked to illegally enclose land, ‘wrongfully entered onto these lands’ drove out their cattle and ‘put strangers’ cattle there to devour the grass’. This suggests that enclosure was a cause of rebellion in 1549. This is supported by the 5th article of the rebels given in source 5 that states the rebels ‘pray that reed ground and meadow ground may be at the price that they were in the first year of King Henry VII’. It is also the case that economic problems prompted protests at other times around this period as rising prices and inflation was a large issue for communities as seen in the 29 articles the Norfolk rebels produced. For example articles 5 and 14 are just two of the many demands drawn up that call for rents to be at the same level they were under Henry VII when economic conditions were much more favourable. These demands suggest that perhaps harsh economic conditions of 1549 were a major cause of unrest. Taken together these sources disprove the interpretation because they show factors at work other than local issues, more about economic struggles, which were spilling over into protest.

From an evaluation of the sources it would seem that the interpretation is rather invalid. Firstly, it does not really account for the evidence in source 1, some of the evidence in source 4 and much of source 5. Secondly, some of the evidence does not necessarily point to the interpretation provided. Source 2 shows an account of Robert Aske’s interview acting as an explanation for rebellion in 1536 however it was at the request of the King and so may be favourable towards him. Source 5 simply shows one demand drawn up due to inflation showing a cause of Kett’s rebellion but this is not necessarily the most important cause out of the 29.

In fact, it is notable that Kett’s demands place enclosures at the top of the list which would somewhat support the interpretation if this was evident in the sources however it is not. Sources 1 and 3 show support for an alternative interpretation, as once again they show evidence of other matters rather than local concerns being at work. So a better interpretation needs to recognise the growing importance of other issues. Sources 2, 4 and 5 all make reference to the economy as a cause of protest. It is notable that there is no reference to how wages fluctuated in the mid-sixteenth century as wages fell by up to 60%, a fact that is prominent given that 80% of the average worker’s wages were spent on food during this time. This would add weight to this alternative interpretation. It might be safer therefore to claim that Tudor rebellions were partly influenced by local issues, but that economic problems increasingly became the cause of rebellion as the middle of the sixteenth century came about.

b) A historian would find these sources useful for many reasons including the variety of viewpoints, different interpretations they offer and questions they answer. The set of sources includes evidence from most of the main protests over the whole Tudor period. The balance of voices from different social classes is apparent as the sources consist of rebels demands but also include views from nobility as there is a chronicle written at Merton College in Oxford showing a differently put forward opinion in source 1. It is also possible to see different perspectives on the causes of rebellion in these sources. As well as the local issues suggested in the interpretation, we can see religious aims in source 2 and economic aims in sources 4 and 5. These additional sources give the issue of why people protested a much rounder character. The most apparent reason for the sources not being useful was the lack of ranging types of source, there were no official documents such as court records or state papers for example, nor were there any visual sources. Having included slightly more types of sources would have given a further rounded character of why people protested and would be somewhat more useful in determining whether the interpretation was valid.

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