The Perse School

Dr Suzannah Lipscomb talks all things Tudor at the Perse

6 Feb 2014

On Wednesday 5 February, Dr. Suzannah Lipscomb, Senior Lecturer and Convenor for History at the New College of the Humanities in London, came to The Perse to talk about the Tudors and their significance in British history, where she argued that they were the dynasty that made Britain.

Her talk was wide-ranging, emphasising the political and religious reform that took place in the sixteenth century, as well as the emergence of England as a maritime power. The Tudor period was one of extraordinary change (both religious and political), one of the emergence of extraordinary characters, and one of extraordinary cultural change. Suzannah argued that we are interested in the Tudors “because they matter”, and have had a great and enduring impact on English and British history.

The Tudor period was one that changed perceptions of England and ‘Britishness’ – this was an age of turning away from Europe, a time when England became outward looking and maritime-based; they shaped the idea of Britain, annexing Wales and colonising Ireland – the religious tensions caused as a result of this are still present today. Interestingly, she mentioned that the Tudors’ creation of the Navy is seen as one of the most important developments in history, even today.

She described the cultural change they set in motion, explaining the Tudors were great patrons of the arts. It was fascinating to discover that it was the Tudors who began the tradition of portraiture, changing the image of monarchy. Gone were the days of a head and shoulders portrait of a monarch; they were replaced by full-length, life-size portraits, conveying masculinity and power – (think of the many portraits you will have seen of Henry VIII). The Tudors also patronised many great musicians and writers of the period such as Shakespeare, whose works are now widely lauded as the ‘best of British culture’. She argued that the architectural style that was developed in this period has come to represent what we consider a ‘desirable’ home, and has had an enduring impact on what we consider beautiful. The ‘mock Tudor’ architectural style has been transported across the globe; Dr Lipscomb showed an image of a mock Tudor building in India!

Dr Lipscomb’s talk served to reiterate why we are so fond of the Tudors and how their actions have had a lasting impact for centuries after their rule. The talk was well-attended by pupils, staff and parents, who were impressed by Dr. Lipscomb’s extensive knowledge and clear passion for the topic.

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