Week 1: The Reformation: The issues that divided Europe
The Reformation rejected the authority of the pope and denied key doctrines of the Roman Church. We’ll examine how these controversies split medieval Christendom and led to civil turmoil and rejection of the traditional view prohibiting subjects from resisting their ruler by means of force.
Week 2: Decline of the Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Emperor was one of the two institutional pillars of medieval Europe (the other being the Pope). As his empire of several hundred semi-autonomous states was torn by religious turmoil we’ll see how Europe’s most powerful ruler ended up with diminished authority.
Week 3: The Low Countries split and the Northern Dutch depose their King
Can subjects legitimately depose their king? Not according to ancient church doctrine. We’ll discover how in the Netherlands, northern Europe’s most urbanized state, the overthrow of Hapsburg Spain resulted in the emergence of the Dutch Republic in the seven northern provinces, while the south remained loyal to Spain.
Week 4: England under the Tudors (I): Henry VIII versus Rome
Was Henry’s marriage to his deceased brother’s wife invalid? Henry thought so, but the pope didn’t, and Europe’s legal experts were divided. New acts of Parliament determined that the English church, not the pope, should decide. But what exactly was the English church?
Week 5: England under the Tudors (II): Henry VIII’s successors (1547–1603)
Henry’s three children, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, succeeded him in turn, but they differed sharply on religion. With England changing from Protestantism under Edward to Catholicism under Mary and to a modified Protestantism under Elizabeth, each reign brought both change and dissent.
Week 6: Monarchy and religion in 16th-century France
For decades French Catholics and Protestants fought civil wars over a toxic brew of royal succession and religion. By 1598 a settlement was reached—Protestant Henry IV had converted to Catholicism, and Protestants obtained a measure of freedom. But would it last?