Age of Henry VIII

Course No. 8467
Professor Dale Hoak, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
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Course No. 8467
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Course Overview

Henry VIII (r. 1509–47) ruled an island kingdom about the size of Pennsylvania inhabited by fewer than 3 million people nearly 500 years ago, and yet he remains instantly recognizable to this day, his barrel-chested and bejeweled figure immortalized by the brush of Hans Holbein the Younger. Meet England's most famous monarch, who provokes questions such as:

  • What is greatness?
  • How should we judge character?
  • Who or what can be said to "make" or cause history?

A Famous Face ... but Why?

So what accounts for Henry's astonishingly familiar image? Is it because he employed a brilliant portraitist? Or is there more to the story?

This king, as one of his recent biographers has noted, "changed the heart, mind, and face of Britain more than anything between the coming of the Normans and the coming of the factory," not least by giving Protestantism its powerful purchase in the English-speaking world. And given Britain's later significance in world history—made possible in part by Henry himself—he must be accounted a towering figure of history.

Four Standout Features

Four accomplishments highlight this lecture series by Professor Dale Hoak:

The first is Professor Hoak's cutting-edge expertise. His interpretation of British history is often different from the traditional approach, thanks to his pursuit of the latest scholarly research.

The second is Professor Hoak's extraordinary personal command of the relevant primary sources, including documents such as the inventory of Henry's vast possessions made shortly after his death. No purely popular treatment will offer you this level of sustained, expert insight.

The third is the way Professor Hoak discusses Henry not only as a figure who commands our interest on his own terms, but as someone whose life and actions raise larger philosophical questions about what history is and how it is "made."

The fourth is Professor Hoak's shrewd discussion of Henry's personal wealth, including his properties, accoutrements, and art collection—Henry was a deliberately grand patron of the arts—as windows on the mind and heart of this king and his age.

Professor Hoak explores these thought-provoking issues in a way that arises naturally, even gracefully, out of the story that he himself tells from the primary sources.

About Those Wives

Who could forget that Henry had six wives? Each was a figure of drama and interest in her own right. One was a giddy, sexy teenager; another was a sharp political player who became the first queen of England to publish a book. One made Henry court her for seven years and had her coronation turned into the largest spectacle ever staged by the ceremony-loving Tudor dynasty; another Henry married sight unseen and then hastily rejected, ranting, "I like her not!" Still another became a member of the truly tiny club of people who upbraided Royal Henry to his face (publicly!) and lived to tell about it.

You'll learn the story of each of these remarkable women in detail (including the only one—do you know who she is?—to be buried next to Henry at Windsor Castle). Around two of these women, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, swirled the royal divorce case that supposedly led to Henry's fateful quarrel with the pope. But did that famous quarrel really "cause" the English Reformation? Professor Hoak's answer might surprise you.

A Royal Revolutionary

How historically accurate are impressions that we take away from plays and films and Holbein portraits? Do they bring us any closer to the "real" Henry, the crowned revolutionary who wrenched history out of one course and into another by claiming "imperial" kingship (and with it, in effect, the sovereignty of the modern state and its laws), and then by bringing most of the English-speaking world into the Protestant camp during the early decades of the Reformation?

With these lectures by an historian who is intimately familiar with the actual documentary record, you can round out your own personal portrait of the Henry who comes to life in Shakespeare's words and in brilliant portrayals by Charles Laughton, Richard Burton, and Robert Shaw.

A Few Specifics

Here is a short list of facts from these engaging lectures:

  • What Henry did with the fabulous wealth that he gained from his seizure and dissolution of England's monasteries—there were more than 800, and the takeover involved fully one-quarter of the best land in all England
  • Why a law that Henry put through Parliament in 1533 (Act of Appeals) is more important to the history of constitutional development in the English-speaking world than even Magna Carta, and how Henry became an early (if unwilling) sponsor of free speech
  • How Henry's reaction to a sensational 1514 London murder case prefigured a break with Rome decades later
  • What it would have been like to visit Henry at court and see the king in the midst of both his business and his many and extravagant amusements.

The Real Henry

The Henry VIII who emerges from these lectures is a man of both great charm and terrifying, self-pitying ferocity (which predominates is for you to decide). And his limits are all too apparent. He harbored ruthless, vaulting ambitions and spun grand schemes, yet in the end was shadowed by the deep historical irony of expectations gone strangely awry.

The eighth Henry was a Renaissance prince but also in many ways a backward-looking man obsessed by medieval chivalry, a king who became an agent of the future—England's and the world's. He was an athlete who surrendered to self-indulgence. He was a romantic who is remembered for his failed marriages and his cruelty toward at least four of his six wives.

He combined exquisite taste and aesthetic sensibility (he was a superb singer) with a vulgar acquisitiveness. He was a trained theologian with a tender conscience who turned on the church for none-too-lofty reasons. He recruited awesomely talented advisors to help him with his plans, only to destroy the greatest of them.

Henry's reign contributed an important legacy to British history and the modern world: the revolutionary effect of the Act of Appeals was to make law itself, or the king-in-Parliament, the supreme authority. Parliamentary law became the basis of the new constitutional monarchy; the tax schemes of Henry's lord chancellor, Wolsey, would presage the beginning of modern bureaucracy; and Henry's navy was the first standing military force in his day.

With these achievements, Henry was a despot who became an accidental great-grandfather of English-speaking democracy. He built, as they say, "other than he knew." We might also say he built better than he knew. But what standards would Henry and his contemporaries have applied to judge such actions and achievements? In assessing Henry and his reign, should we prefer our own standards to theirs? Why?

Henry was a willing history-maker. But history is driven by patterns of causation that include, and yet are not exhausted by, human desires, even the desires of "great" men and women.

More than just the story of a larger-than-life figure with feet of proverbial clay—compelling as that story is—this series offers an invitation to reflect on these patterns of causation and the fascinating ironies they suggest.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Henry VIII—Kingship and Revolution
    Henry VIII was England's first Renaissance ruler: dynamic, brilliant, and charming, but also willful, ferocious, and dangerous. Hans Holbein's famous portrait offers us a good place to start getting our arms around the paradoxes of this revolutionary monarch. x
  • 2
    The Wars of the Roses and Henry VII
    The Wars of the Roses, more a series of baronial feuds than the devastating internecine strife that some have imagined, provide the crucial backdrop to understanding the Tudor dynasty's rise. x
  • 3
    Majesty and Regality—The Cult of Monarchy
    By emphasizing the majesty of English monarchy in new ways, Henry VII, the tough, shrewd, first Tudor king and father of Henry VIII (but not the cold miser of legend), effectively created a sacred cult of "imperial" kingship. x
  • 4
    Chivalry and War—The Accession of Henry VIII
    Widely hailed as a learned dynamo when he took the throne in 1509, Henry VIII saw himself in chivalric terms, an honorable crusader who would regain the French crown. From 1512 on his wars drained his treasury, causing him to envy Church wealth. x
  • 5
    King and Cardinal—England Under Wolsey
    The planner of Henry's first French war (1512-14) was the brilliant cleric Thomas Cardinal Wolsey. English rule of the occupied parts of France became a test case for Henrician "imperial kingship." Wolsey rose vertiginously in both church and state offices. x
  • 6
    Magnificence, War, and Diplomacy, 1519-29
    Henry and Wolsey engaged in much war and diplomacy, but did they pursue a "foreign policy"? Opportunism ruled all, and players of this game risked losing honor and office. x
  • 7
    Anne Boleyn and the King's "Great Matter"
    Henry's divorce from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, played itself out at a troubled crossroads where sex, religion, law, dynastic politics, and sheer stubbornness (Henry's mostly) met and intertwined in sometimes-bewildering ways. x
  • 8
    King, Church, and Clergy
    Henry had inherited an England in which the Church had its own law courts with jurisdictions that overlapped those of the royal courts. The divorce case highlighted the resulting jurisdictional tension. x
  • 9
    Church and People—Heresy and Popular Religion
    Was the English Reformation only a "top-down" event? To what extent did Henry and his Parliament tap lay anger at overweening clerics? What was the nature of religious faith and practice on the eve of Henry's Reformation? x
  • 10
    Rex Est Imperator—The Break With Rome
    The years 1527-34 marked the resolution of Henry's divorce case and his break with Rome—each had its own causes but was buttressed and rationalized by secret research of Henry's legal team. From this came the modern doctrine of state sovereignty. x
  • 11
    Parliament, Law, and the Nation
    When he launched his Reformation, Henry did not resort to his own decrees—royal proclamations—but instead used Parliament to secure statutes recognizing him as head of the Church in England. Why did he choose this path and its consequences? x
  • 12
    The Trial and Execution of Thomas More
    Why was the "man for all seasons" put on trial for his life, how did he understand his own actions, and for which principle did he die? Learn what the real record reveals about the Thomas More not of legend or film, but of history. x
  • 13
    Humanism and Piety
    To humanists such as Thomas More, the Renaissance was not just about acquiring Greco-Roman culture or reforming school curricula. They hoped that spirituality of learned laymen would point the way to peace and justice. x
  • 14
    Wealth, Class, and Status
    Though not a nobleman, Thomas More was one of the richest men in England. Precisely where in Tudor society did he and those like him fit? Hans Holbein's masterful portrait of More and his family provides important visual evidence. x
  • 15
    More's Utopia
    More's clever, enigmatic Utopia, a masterpiece of world literature, addressed the most pressing moral and political issues of the day, and one which touched More's own life and career. x
  • 16
    The Dissolution of the Monasteries
    Acting on falsified charges of monastic vice and corruption, Henry seized more than 800 friaries and nunneries between 1536 and 1540. He sold much of the confiscated wealth to pay for yet more war. Such sales also made him rich. x
  • 17
    Rebellion—The Pilgrimage of Grace
    In 1536 in several northern counties the dissolution sparked the largest mass revolt in English history. The rebellion drew in all classes in defense of what we might call regional autonomy. How did the revolt end and what were its long-term consequences? x
  • 18
    A Renaissance Court
    Henry's wealth and education made his court a magnet for the greatest European artists. This lecture describes the structure, pastimes, and rituals of the court, showing how the king sought to make his household a display of royal magnificence. x
  • 19
    Queen Anne Boleyn
    Foreigners hailed Queen Anne as a paragon of spirituality and artistic taste. An intelligent, strong-willed woman, she helped make the English Reformation. But her inability to give Henry a son helped to doom the mother of the future Elizabeth I. x
  • 20
    Two Queens—Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves
    Henry's top aide, Thomas Cromwell, used Jane to destroy Anne Boleyn and his enemies at court. But Jane's death set in motion events which eventually cost Cromwell his life, for he persuaded the king to marry Anne of Cleves, whom Henry found loathsome. x
  • 21
    Politics, Sex, and Religion—Catherine Howard
    With the fall of the evangelical Cromwell, a religiously conservative court faction saw an opening and drew Henry's eye to the flirtatious teenager, Catherine Howard. But sexual indiscretions soon cost Catherine her head and wrecked her sponsors' hopes. x
  • 22
    Queen Katherine Parr
    The sixth and last wife of the now bloated and ailing Henry was the sister of one of his evangelical councilors. Katherine managed her husband masterfully; a fervent evangelical herself, she also supervised the education of his daughter Elizabeth and her half-brother Edward—both future monarchs. x
  • 23
    Endgame—Politics and War, 1542-47
    Still obsessed with kingly honor, an aging Henry invaded Scotland and France at ruinous expense, pressing a novel doctrine of royal "necessity" to make Parliament levy more taxes. The making of his will in December 1546 constitutes one of the great forensic puzzles of English history—a riddle this lecture resolves x
  • 24
    Retrospect—Henry VIII: The King and His Age
    Studying the reign of Henry VIII raises important questions of how we should assess the legacy of such an imposing historical figure. By what criteria—by whose criteria—should we judge? x

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  • 160-page printed course guidebook
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Your professor

Dale Hoak

About Your Professor

Dale Hoak, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
Dr. Dale Hoak is Professor Emeritus of History at The College of William and Mary in Virginia. He earned his bachelor's degree from the College of Wooster, his master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and his doctorate from Clare College, University of Cambridge. Dr. Hoak received the prestigious Outstanding Faculty Award from the Commonwealth of Virginia, awarded by the State Council of Higher Education for...
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Age of Henry VIII is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 75.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Biography Plus a Bit More The course title is a bit misleading. While the course does expand past Henry to include the well-known luminaries of the day, the heart of the course is mostly about the monarch and his interactions with his wives and those who kept the government going. Professor Hoak keeps his focus on England, even when bringing in the continental rulers, including those in the church. Even though much is made of Henry’s desire to be warrior king, we really learn nothing much about the actual battles in which he was engaged. Often we are just given the results of a war or campaign and not even the name of a battle. On the plus side, the explanations of the cost of the wars and how they were funded was quite detailed and easy to understand. As to Henry’s life we learn a great deal, as well as many of those around him. Naturally his six wives get extensive coverage, most of them receiving a at least one whole lecture. The portraits of his wives are, for the most part, sharply drawn, with the exception of Queen Anne of Cleves, who is given as casual a treatment in the course as she received in real life. Much of the course that does not deal directly with Henry is devoted to matters of the church and Henry’s break with Rome. The descriptions of Wolsey and Thomas More are particularly well done and I felt that I knew more about both of them than I had before. The lecture on Utopia almost made me want to read it again, this time with a better appreciation than I had as a schoolboy. I’ve never been able to make up my mind about Thomas Cromwell, although after this course, I feel that I have a much better idea about him than I had before. For me this is quite a curious course. There is a surprising amount of detail in certain areas, such as the lecture on the Renaissance Court and an equally surprising lack of information in other areas. Dr. Hoak delivers full value in his ability to show us Henry VIII and associates, but less so regarding the age in which he lived. Strangely he does a sound job of explaining how the times changed because of Henry. I took the course in video, but there is little reason not to just get the audio. As many reviewers have pointed out, his being directed to lecture to the studio audience, rather than the camera is a bit distracting. I found Dr. Hoak’s delivery to be just fine, although that fact that he was not reading from a script or teleprompter did result in some verbal miscues. Recommended, especially if you have an interest in Tudor England.
Date published: 2019-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clarity Re: A Turbulent Age I’ve encountered dozens of excellent Great Courses presenters. Above and beyond sharing information effectively, some have stood out for their “extra” characteristics (e.g., as particularly polished speakers, gifted story-tellers, practical how-to instructors, etc.). Dr. Dale Hoak, in the present course about The Age of Henry VIII, wins my admiration simply by being a “good old-fashioned” teacher, the sort of professor who reminds me of the best of those whose lectures I have attended in person. Dr. Hoak speaks conversationally, his glances and gestures suggest that he is actually interacting with a live audience, and he obviously is not dependent upon a teleprompter. He is organized while still conveying spontaneity. Any digressions he makes are relevant, probably when considering that something not pre-planned would be helpful to expand upon his line of thought. This course feels “made-for-the-classroom” more so than “made-for-TV.” I especially appreciate that Dr. Hoak makes frequent reference to original source documents and also to analytical writing by more-modern scholars. Additionally, the professor provides in-depth biographies of the women in the king’s life, presenting them as real and complex individuals, not merely as a name list of the king’s wives and paramours. Before studying the course, I thought of Henry VIII as a reprehensible and cruel ego-maniac. Those impressions haven’t disappeared, but Dr. Hoak has inspired me to at least pay close attention to the political and societal developments during Tudor England and 16th century Europe, despite my disaffection for the admittedly charismatic King Henry VIII. Dr. Hoak is certainly not a dispassionate lecturer, but he is commendably matter-of-fact, even when discussing tragic matters; and he does show effectively that Henry VIII was not one individual acting alone, but was instead a rather prototypical Renaissance Prince of his day, widely admired and certainly influential. I now realize that I have more to gain by studying and pondering “the good and the bad” of that age, rather than ignoring the era. I will be a better citizen of today for not allowing such a gap in my historical education. I have marked down this course from “Excellent” to “Good” in just one respect, and that is simply because of the paucity and repetitiveness of the accompanying visuals. The course would have been worth even more to me if I hadn’t had to seek elsewhere images of things, such as cathedral windows and fabulous tapestries, that the professor discussed at length. Might there have been some problem acquiring the rights to include such images in the DVD course? If so, couldn’t artist’s sketches have at least been provided?
Date published: 2019-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyed learning the FACTS about Henry VIII I've read more books and seen more movies about Henry VIII than any other English monarch. Often these sources stray a bit from the facts. It was good to get the Real History of the Life and Times of Henry VIII from these Lectures by Professor Hoak.
Date published: 2018-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! I purchased the audio version of this course after thoroughly enjoying Prof. Bucholz's excellent course on the History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts and was not disappointed. While I prefer Prof. Bucholz's lecture style to Prof. Hale's, Prof. Hale is very knowledgeable about his subject matter, articulate, and has chosen his lecture topics wisely. I agree with one reviewer's comment that the course was more about Henry VIII than the broader age in which he lived, but I was drawn to the course to learn more about Henry so I view Prof. Hale's focus on Henry as a plus. All in all, an excellent course!
Date published: 2018-08-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Henry the Bore Sorry to say this course was a big disappointment, I didn’t think it was possible to make the most flamboyant king in English history a boring subject but this lecturer manages. His delivery is poor and the facts he delivers banal. In short skip this course and buy the Course “History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts”.
Date published: 2018-06-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Age of Henry VIII This was a very thorough overview of early Tudor times, and the lecturer knew and enjoyed his subject. I found the amount of detail was sometimes confusing. There was a fault in lecture 3, when a part of the visual and sound track were interrupted, and the sound was not always synchronised with the visual, but I just stopped watching and listened instead.
Date published: 2018-03-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Study This is an interesting study of the Age of Henry VIII. The key word in the title is "Age." This course is not really a biography of Henry VIII. Instead, its an in-depth study of Henry VIII's world. I wish the course had given more biographical information about Henry VIII, though it did give a good overview and focused on certain key aspects of his life. All in all, this was an interesting class. I feel like I now know more about this important time.
Date published: 2017-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have listened to 6 of the lectures so far while I walk. Excellent information and narration. Good military, political, religious and social history.
Date published: 2017-07-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting material. Although I know that some background material on Henry VIII was necessary, I didn't think that two of the lectures were needed. Once we actually got the to essence of the presentation, things greatly improved. I still am glad that I purchased it.
Date published: 2017-06-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Love the subject, but a bit dry I have a great interest in English history, and particularly in the Tudor/Elizabethan eras. I have several other Great Courses in English history and added this one to my collection. The professor clearly knows his material, but seems to show little enthusiasm for it, just droning on and on andonandonandon. This is the ONLY course I have purchased that seems to be better at putting me to sleep rather than teaching the subject matter. The course also focuses more on the "global" politics and religious thought during Henry VIII's reign rather than a biography of Henry himself. I am less than halfway through the course and I hope it picks up in later lectures. I personally think there are better Great Courses on English history than this one, but I don't regret the purchase.
Date published: 2017-05-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great Subject; Not Well Presented I came into this course with high expectations. I am fascinated with this period of English history and was looking for a more detailed understanding of Henry and the period in which he lived. There is no question I learned a great deal although in my opinion there was too much time spent on minutiae that I will not remember and did not care about. I think the course lost focus with too much time devoted to humanism and Erasmus. But certainly others may differ on that view. My primary issue is with Professor Hoak. I have enjoyed quite a few of the courses offered by the Great Courses and I have never less enjoyed a lecturer more than I did this one. Among other things, he did not look into the camera even once during 26 lectures. He made me feel as if I were "not there;" almost as if I were merely monitoring his course. His numerous mistakes with names and dates (which were quickly corrected) was oft putting. I know this is nitpicking, but his pronunciation of "Parliament" became like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. I was also disappointed in the almost complete absence of visual aids. Professor Hoak would reference a painting or a portrait and I would be waiting to see it and there would be nothing. To me that was a significant defect in the course. With all that said, I did enjoy for the most part the subject matter of the course and if one is interested in Henry they will find much to enjoy. I do wish that the course could be "re-done" with another presenter. I am torn as to whether I can recommend this course. At the end of the day by the slimmest of margins, I can.
Date published: 2017-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging While only part way through the lectures, I have already come to appreciate Prof. Hoak's engaging style, clarity and breadth of knowledge. This period of history has always fascinated me, and the insights and fresh perspective set forth by Prof. Hoak keep me glued to my computer, lecture after lecture.
Date published: 2017-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent product Thoroughly enjoyed this course. I have a specific interest in this period of British History and The Age of Henry VIII enabled me to add to my understanding of both the culture of the time and the individuality of the characters involved. Both my teaching and my students will benefit from the knowledge I have taken away from this study. The presentation was well prepared and delivered.
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If you're not already interested, you will be! If a person isn't already interested in the reign of Henry VIII, they most likely will be interested in it after watching this course. "The Age of Henry VIII" offers well-rounded analysis and thoughtful insights of prominent figures and all aspects of the period. Professor Hoak's presentation is measured but enthusiastic, with a pleasant, articulate delivery. Henry VIII's six wives are sufficiently discussed, but they're not the only topic. Professor Hoak does a commendable job of conveying there was much more to both Henry VIII and his wives than marriage, and they all influenced the course of history as much as they were the products of it. In fact, a substantial amount of the course material is about economics and Henry VIII's exploits in battle. Professor Hoak thoroughly delves into the characters of many significant people in Henry VIII's orbit -- Henry VIII's parents and wives, Cromwell, More, Wolsey -- and elaborates on elements of day-to-day life in Tudor England with regard to members of the court as well as the common people outside of it. Although Professor Hoak seems to share many academicians typical tendency to dismissively equate Catholicism with superstition, he does so within the context of the times, and he nevertheless seems to realize and communicates the Reformation resulted from many issues other than the supremacy of the Pope. I enjoyed this course and had mixed feelings about finishing it: I was glad to have learned the material presented, but sad it wasn't continuing. However, the course did provide me with new curiosity and ideas about other avenues I intend to pursue to learn even more about this interesting period of history. The guidebook was excellent. I may have identified a couple of minor typographical errors (page 50, II A: perhaps "opinion" should be plural; page 86, B 4: "Aske" was misspelled as "Akse"). I didn't get a transcript, so I can't tell if Professor Hoak misspoke in a few places or if I just misunderstood or am confused: I seem to remember in one lecture he made reference to Margaret of Burgundy when he may have meant Margaret of Austria; 17:27 into Lecture 20 Professor Hoak mentions "Anne succeeded" when I think he meant Jane succeeded; also in lecture 20 at 24:57 the Treaty of Toledo is summarized as an agreement between France and Spain to not ally AGAINST Henry, but I think the treaty expressed the intent of France and Spain to not ally WITH Henry. I recommend this course.
Date published: 2017-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Course Presentation Very good course presentation. I especially enjoyed the graphic supplaments during the video presentation.
Date published: 2017-01-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Tried To Appreciate These Lectures . . I tried to appreciate these lectures but unfortunately, Professor Dale Hoak's tone was dry and pedantic. He lost me in too many details about historical figures and the specifics of religious conflicts. Another reviewer used the word, "minutia," which I think is exactly right - he spent too much time on minutia and not enough time on the broader conflicts and factual events. Professor Hoak also assumed we knew the basic history of the Tudor time period and didn't bother to outline the main events. Perhaps I am not enough of an intellectual to appreciate Professor Hoak's lectures but I do know a teacher can make history dry and boring or alive and exciting. I was looking forward to learning more about Henry VIII and his six wives (those were the best chapters in my opinion) and am disappointed I didn't enjoy these lectures more.
Date published: 2016-11-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too focused on Trivia and Minutia I found this course quite disappointing. As others have noted, it is much more about trivia of Henry than about describing his age or his legacy. Lots of it is devoted, for example, to Henry’s love of Tennis and hunting and other such… In some of the other lectures, Professor Hoak discusses minutia regarding other central people from Henry’s court such as Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Wolsey, not to mention long sessions on each of his six queens. In general – the course perspective is quite narrow and fails to describe central aspects of the time such as English foreign relations or Henry’s wars with France. There were good aspects as well though: the course did provide a very deep analysis of Henry’s succession, economic, and religious issues both from a personal standpoint and from a general English standpoint, and much of the course is dedicated to analyzing his actions through these three main perspectives. Overall I found the course to be somewhat interesting - certainly not fascinating. Perhaps it is more suited for the highly interested. As for Professor Hoak’s presentation: it was fine but I did not find it thrilling. He has a tendency to chuckle at the anecdotes he tells and one is left to ponder what he actually means by this chuckling. I found this mildly irritating. Having said this – the course was well structured and easy to follow and some parts of it are of real value for understanding the Tudor and Stuart dynasties that are to follow Henry’s death.
Date published: 2016-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not Really an "Introductory" Course I actually got this course at the library in the DVD version. I love history and English history in particular. I have read extensively on this subject and have watched most of the Great Courses productions that are about English history. I read with interest many of the comments from other reviewers about this class. Here are my thoughts: First of all, note that this course was produced in 2003. The production quality shows the age, although it is not bad. Several of the other reviewers remarked about the fact that the Professor looks toward his in-studio "audience", rather than into the camera. This is totally true, and it was distracting at first, but I got used to it. I did not find this Professor as "dry" as some others seemed to. I enjoyed his "digressions" as they were often about some little-known piece of information that was actually fascinating. The best analysis I can give to help someone else decide about this course would be to say that it is not really an "introductory" course. The first couple of lectures do review the events that led up to Henry VIII's coronation, but from there on, this is an extremely narrowly focused and very detailed course. I think that someone who has some knowledge of the players and the events of Henry VIII's reign will enjoy this more than someone who has not had the opportunity to learn about the people and events before now. I enjoyed the detail - some of the information was not information I have heard in other Great Courses programs and has been glossed over in many books on this subject. I found the lecture based on More's "Utopia" very interesting, as were many of the other lectures around the sociology of the court of Henry VIII and the people of his time. Professor Hoak also does an excellent job of giving us a rich and lively picture of the characters on this stage - from Henry VII and other actors in his generation through Henry VIII and his contemporaries, including his queens and office holders. The unique status of Wolsey was well defined and the discussion of the part the Reformation played in Henry VIII's life and decisions was also well done. "The Great Matter" is discussed with clarity and insight. The course suffers from a lack of visuals. There are pictures of the portraits of most of the people he discusses, but that's about it. (Although I must say that there was a picture of a portrait of Katherine of Aragon as a young woman that I had never seen before and it was stunning!) It would have been nice, though, if he could have had some pictures of the inside of Westminster Abbey showing some of the tombs, or of other places relevant to the discussion. I'm sure there are pictures of these places that are in the public domain or available just for the the request of permission to use them. So if you already know the basics about the reign of Henry VIII and are looking for a more detailed discussion of the people and the times, this is a good course for you. If you want an overview of English history or of the Tudor era, there are other courses available (see my recommendations below) that you would probably enjoy more.
Date published: 2015-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Only One Comment The prof didn't look into the camera, sort of looked sideways, I guess at the audience. I got used to it but it was different than other courses I have watched. But the material was good and so was the course.
Date published: 2015-05-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from ...well, maybe 3.5 Audio download. I have to begin by complimenting the many fine reviewers (on TGC) who show such a high degree of insight and was on the basis of many of these reviews that I purchased the course (and yes it was on sale, with a coupon). Kudos to you all. Prior to listening the Dr Hoak's lectures my awareness of Henry VIII and the Tudor 'dynasty' was little better than that Peter Noone ditty of the 1960's or that Tudor might refer to an option to consider when buying a new car. What I learned was astounding! Dr Hoak presented a well-structured course that attempted to connect Henry's actions within the context of the times, early 16th century. Characters that I only vaguely recognized were weaved (woven?) into a tapestry of intrigue, deception and lust that are headed by Henry himself. Wolsey, Cromwell (no, the other Cromwell), More, Tyndale and Cranmer...not to mention the wives. What a fascinating lot! And the supporting cast of Charles V, Francis I, Erasmus, a pope or two and Holbein, all made for a busy time surfing the web for more information about each and every one of these guys. For the potential buyer of this course, beware that the lecturer's style is not really all that pleasant, but the material is first made me want to learn more about the lives of those incredible people who shaped the history of England. In the end, isn't that why listen to these lectures? Recommend...but wait for a deal.
Date published: 2014-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Met my expectations I agree with the reviewer who says that this course is quite a bit of "Henry" and not as much his "Age", but I did not find that off-putting. I thought the professor did a decent job of bringing to life the other personalities of the era, and in describing the complicated politics. It all came back to Henry, but it is hard to present the course otherwise when there is such a larger-than-life figure looming in the background. If you already possess an in-depth knowledge of Henry and his era, there won't be much new here. Even so, I found it interesting to listen to the professor's take on Henry's life, so I thought it was worth it.
Date published: 2014-06-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Lots of Henry; Not Much "Age" This course is unfortunately mistitled, or rather it is unfortunate that the course is not described by the title. The focus is on Henry himself, with particular attention to his marriages. Very, very little is said about his "age" - the characteristics and culture of England and its people, or even about Henry's effect on it and them. Henry's wars, international relations, and religious actions receive far less attention than they warrant. And, astonishingly, almost nothing is said about Henry's legacy for future generations, either of his people or of his royal house. The course also devotes an extraordinary amount of time to detailed particulars, which are no doubt of interest to specialists, but which to me were insignificant trivia, and boring trivia at that. Just two randomly chosen of many possible examples (quotes are from the Course Guidebook, but these exemplify well the sort of thing that fills much of the lectures): "To revive memories of the glory days of Henry V, on the eve of his departure for France, Henry VIII commissioned an English translation of Tito Livio Frulovisi's 'Vita Henrici Quinti' (c. 1438)" (lecture 4) - and - "In 1533, one year after the death of her first husband, Katherine [the future Queen Katherine Parr], then 20, married a Yorkshire magnate, John Neville, Lord Latimer. Because of his poor health, he and Katherine moved to London, where she nursed him before he died on March 2, 1543" (lecture 22). Professor Hoak's lecture style is hesitant and choppy, and he speaks in a near monotone. I found it difficult to maintain my attention. The lectures were also disorganized to the point where I was reminded of the path of the ball in a pinball game - it eventually gets where it is expected to go, but bounces around unpredictably, and often for quite a while, before it gets there. I mean no personal disrespect to Professor Hoak, who is clearly deeply knowledgeable, and obviously passionate about his subject. That subject is inherently fascinating and important. I am sorry that I cannot recommend this course, for all of the above reasons, and I hope that "The Age of Henry VIII" will be redone soon.
Date published: 2014-03-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I was not impressed Presentation: The professor is not a good lecturer (at least in this format). Quite a few stumbles, "uh..."s and awkward pauses. More importantly, his delivery is BORING. I was listening to these lectures while painting my daughter's room and at one point debated with myself whether I should just turn them off and watch the walls in silence instead. Content: There's just not that much meat there. The professor goes off on these tangents that do nothing to advance the narrative. The lectures are not as well organized as I would have liked, which further disrupts the learning process. Ultimately I learned a lot more about the era of Henry VIII from the 5 lectures on the period in Prof. Bucholz's Tudors & Stuarts course than I did here. Ultimately, it was a close call, but I would not recommend this course. TTC has better offerings.
Date published: 2013-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentation, fascinating analysis Professor Hoak is my husband's favorite lecturer of many Teaching Company courses we have bought and watched. His style is thoughtful and provocative. Yet he illustrates complex historical issues and events in a straightforward and accessible manner. Professor Hoak is a stellar example of a person who knows his topic so well as to help the viewer feel he has always known a subject that is actually not part of his prior experience. From Thomas More to Anne Bolyn the personalities we meet are fascinating visitors to one's living room.
Date published: 2013-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Enjoyable Trip Back In Time This course was on sale when I purchased it. I was not sure if I would enjoy it or even listen to it. A visit to a local renaissance faire, got me to finally take it out. I listened to it driving to and from work. And I must admit, I found it very enjoyable. My drive is only 20 minutes, but during that time I felt like I took a little trip away from reality to visit the past. It was a past that I sort of new things about, but never had any formal classes on. The professor style was more as if he was talking and discussing it with you, instead of reading or lecturing it to you. There were several times where he would correct himself or rephrase a point that highlighted that idea, and that helped make course more informal and I would say more enjoyable. Each lecture would focus on something specific going on in that day of age, as well as bring you some more of the big picture story of Henry the Eighth. It was sort of like a 24 part mini-series with several storyline going on. The funny part is, the more I learned about 16th century England, the more you realize that it was not all that different from today in certain aspects. The Professor obviously knows and loves the material and it shows throughout the course. If I was to make any suggestions, my only one would be to have one extra lecture to simply and quickly take a tour of the entire world at that time of age (politically, scientifically and artistically) to help put it in context with what was going on in England at that time. The professor does that with Spain, France and Rome due to their various interactions with England, but it might have been nice to bring some other world events into the course for perspective purposes only. Overall a very enjoyable and informative trip back in time and I would highly recommend it.
Date published: 2013-08-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Sorry ~ dull, boring, disappointing! DVD REVIEW: Oh Dear! What a disappointment! With such a powerful, familiar subject, and having a Ph.D. from Cambridge under his arm, this professor should have been able to present a truly dynamic, vibrant, fascinating series of lectures...... BUT they are dull, boring, almost painful to watch. Very sad. Dr Dale Hoak is an ADMIRER of Henry VIII ~ this colours his talks very strongly, and is a cause for real concern to me, an Englishman who has portrayed the king in public and who has made a study for years of this talented & intelligent, but despotic & maniacal monarch. For the professor to laud Henry VIII so is outrageous and mis-informed; it goes against all other material I have read and seen over the decades. I don't question the professor's knowledge and command of his subject matter, but his skew came as a shock. The course needs better structuring; that is part of its undoing. Most lecturers on history ~ and especially those considering one person specifically ~ tend to bring the era and the person "to life". This professor, on the other hand, while giving us loads of information, offers it to us as a corpus of facts, rather than a compelling story. Just a small point, but I found it odd Dr Hoak did not look at the camera. Also, he made many glaring mistakes in pronunciation, including sounding the letter "L" in "Suffolk" ~ an astounding error, frankly, for someone who studied at Cambridge in England. I'm afraid the standard of these lectures is below that now expected of Great Courses, which is to be lamented. You can benefit from the talks, but you'll probably have to make notes and use the guidebook to obtain maximum benefit. I found after viewing the first three lectures that I had learned next to nothing of real significance. In summation, I cannot recommend this set. I hope Great Courses will soon utilise the expertise of a different professor to produce a meaningful and helpful lecture series on King Henry VIII, a key figure in British history.
Date published: 2013-08-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Content excellent, delivery lacking I've always been fascinated by the early English monarchy ever since I saw Shakespeare's King Henry IV. And of all these Tudor kings who could be more interesting than Henry VIII? Yet somehow, Dr. Hoak manages to make each lecture feel like having my teeth cleaned. He's so boring he makes listening to this interesting man's life tedious, even painful. It's only with difficulty I can put in another dvd to watch. After it's over, with many rewinds to review the parts where I tuned out, I have learned good information about Henry and his times. Dr. Hoak is knowledgeable and his selection of material good. It's just his delivery that prevents this from being an excellent course. I won't send it back because this is no alternative for this level of information on Henry VII. In the end, I won't be sorry I watched the entire course but it will take a very long time.
Date published: 2013-06-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Mispronunciations After so many pronunciations by the professor, I deleted 17 unwatched sessions.
Date published: 2013-05-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Generally good-- but with a few caveats Dale Hoak is an estimable scholar and gentleman. He provides much insight into the personalities and the great issues of Henry's reign. But errors do appear from time to time. He confuses the Great Statute of Praemunire (which addressed the exercise of a foreign, i.e. papal jurisdiction, in England) with the Statue of Provisors (which addressed the right to provide to benefices). He believes (wrongly) that advowson is about the appointment of bishops (advocatio was about the right to present a candidate for a benefice *to* the diocesan bishop). He also has Katherine of Aragon at age 40 in 1520, when she would actually have been 35. There are quite few other errors: on the age of Anne Boleyn he shifts between sharing Retha Warnicke's silly idea that Anne Boleyn was born in 1507, but at another time Hoak says she was born in 1501. He also messes up the dating of Wolsey's education/degrees. There are other errors as well. But on the whole this is a sound and, at times, lively survey of the old tyrant's life and times.
Date published: 2013-01-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Would not recommend It is obvious that Dr. Hoak is extremely knowledgable about Henry the 8th. But he does a terrible job trying to present this material. Here are the problems with Dr. Hoak's presentation. His speaking style is boring. Most of the time he not looking at the camera. He does not know his audience, he tends to be lecturing to PHd students, instead of people who want to know about Henry the 8th. I expect to be excited about the subject matter, and go out and learn more about it. This is the only great course where this did not happen.
Date published: 2012-09-10
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