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Professor Ralph Houlbrooke

Areas of interest

My research interests are in the history of religion, society and the family in England between the late fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, and in mid-Tudor politics.

Postgraduate supervision

I have supervised research students with interests in Tudor or Stuart political, social or religious history at the national or local level, and contributed to the teaching of two MA programmes: Modern History and (in the Early Modern Research Centre, together with colleagues from English and other schools) English Texts in History, 1500-1750.



I contributed to our Part I course on 'Landmarks in European History, 622-1945' and 'Approaches to History'. I also taught an optional course on 'London 1500-1700' and a survey course, 'Britain in Europe, 1500-1707'. My special subject is on 'Elizabeth's War with Spain, 1585-1604'.


Professor Houlbrooke was Director of the Early Modern Research Centre within the Department of History as well as an undergraduate dissertation tutor.

Selected publications

(ed). The Letter Book of John Parkhurst, Bishop of Norwich, compiled during the years 1571-5 (Norwich: Norfolk Record Society, 1975)

Church Courts and the People during the English Reformation, 1520-1570 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979)

The English Family 1450-1700 (Harlow: Longman, 1984)

with George Parfitt (eds), The Courtship Narrative of Leonard Wheatcroft, Derbyshire Yeoman (Reading: Whiteknights Press, 1986)

English Family Life, 1576-1716: an Anthology from Diaries (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988)

(ed.), Death, Ritual and Bereavement (London: Routledge, 1989)

Death, Religion and the Family in England, 1480-1750 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998; paperback edition 2000)

(ed.), James VI and I: Ideas, Authority, and Government (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006)

A selection of journal articles and chapters in books.

'The Protestant Episcopate, 1547-1603: The Pastoral Contribution', in F. Heal and R. O'Day (eds) Church and Society in England, Henry VIII to James I (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1977), 78-98.

'The Making of Marriage in Mid-Tudor England: Evidence from the Records of

Matrimonial Contract Litigation', Journal of Family History, 10 (1985), 339-52

'Women's Social Life and Common Action in England from the Fifteenth Century to the Eve of the Civil War', Continuity and Change, 1 (1986), 171-89

'Henry VIII's Wills: A Comment', The Historical Journal, 37 (1994), 891-9

'Bishop Nykke's Last Visitation, 1532', in M. J. Franklin and C. Harper-Bill (eds), Medieval Ecclesiastical Studies in honour of Dorothy M. Owen (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1995), 113-29.

' "Public" and "Private" in the Funerals of the Later Stuart Gentry: Some Somerset Examples', Mortality 1 (1996), 163-76

'Refoundation and Reformation, 1538-1628', in I. Atherton, E. Fernie, C. Harper-Bill, and A. H. Smith (eds), Norwich Cathedral: Church, City and Diocese, 1096-1996 (London and Rio Grande: Hambledon Press, 1996)), 507-39.

'Death in Childhood: the practice of the "good death" in James Janeway's A Token

for Children', in A. Fletcher and S. Hussey (eds), Childhood in Question (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), 37-56.

'The Age of Decency, 1660-1760', in P. C. Jupp and C. Gittings (eds), Death in England: an illustrated history (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), 174-201.

'The Family and Pastoral Care in England, c.1500-1642', in G. R. Evans (ed), The History of Pastoral Care (London: Cassell, 2000), 262-93.

'Civility and Civil Observances in the Early Modern English Funeral', in P. Burke, B. Harrison, and P. Slack, eds, Civil Histories. Essays Presented to Sir Keith Thomas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 67-85.

'Magic and Witchcraft in the Diocese of Winchester, 1491-1570', in D. J. Trim and P. J. Balderstone, eds, Cross, Crown and Community: Government, Religion and Early-Modern English Culture, c. 1400-1815 (Bern: Peter Lang, 2004), 113-41.

'Royal Grief in England, 1485-1640', Cultural and Social History, 2, 63-79

'The clergy, the church courts and the Marian restoration in Norwich', in E. Duffy and D. M. Loades, eds, The Church of Mary Tudor (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 124-48.

'Prince Arthur's Funeral', in Steven Gunn and Linda Monckton, eds., Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales: Life, Death and Commemoration (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2009), 64-76.

'Robert Robertes and Little Cis: an Extraordinary Relationship', in Angela McShane, and Garthine Walker (eds), The extraordinary and the everyday in early modern England : essays in celebration of the work of Bernard Capp (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 48-65.

'What Happened to Mary's Councillors?', in Anna Hunt and Alice Whitelock, eds, Tudor queenship: the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 209-24.

'Edward VI', a short contribution, with four other historians, to 'The Tudors. Which monarch mattered most?', in BBC History Magazine (August 2011).

Forthcoming publications: print version of a lecture on mid sixteenth-century Staffordshire politics, and a chapter in the Oxford Companion to Holinshed.

Current activities and future plans

Working with Helen Parish and Dr Felicity Heal of Jesus College, Oxford, on an edition of the 'Parker certificates' concerning the state of the clergy in the province of Canterbury, drawn up in 1560-62. Planning a study of a Suffolk marriage dispute of the 1590s and its tragic outcome.

Ralph Houlbrooke is chairman of the Berkshire Record Society, and would be very interested to hear from any colleague or research student in the Department who might like to publish an edition of documents relating to any aspect of Berkshire history.


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