Henry VIII fought many wars, against the French and Scots, against rebels in England and the Gaelic lords of Ireland, even against his traditional allies in the Low Countries. But how much did these wars really affect his subjects? And what role did Henry's reign play in the long-term transformation of England's military capabilities?
The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII searches for the answers to these questions in parish and borough account books, wills and memoirs, buildings and paintings, letters from Henry's captains, and the notes readers wrote in their printed history books. It looks back from Henry's reign to that of his grandfather, Edward IV, who in 1475 invaded France in the afterglow of the Hundred Years War, and forwards to that of Henry's daughter Elizabeth, who was trying by the 1570s
to shape a trained militia and a powerful navy to defend England in a Europe increasingly polarised by religion. War, it shows, marked Henry's England at every turn: in the news and prophecies people discussed, in the money towns and villages spent on armour, guns, fortifications, and warning beacons, in the
way noblemen used their power. War disturbed economic life, made men buy weapons and learn how to use them, and shaped people's attitudes to the king and to national history. War mobilised a high proportion of the English population and conditioned their relationships with the French and Scots, the Welsh and the Irish. War should be recognised as one of the defining features of life in the England of Henry VIII.
Steven Gunn studied at Merton College, Oxford. He has held research fellowships there and at the University of Newcastle, and is now Fellow and Tutor in History at Merton College and Professor of Early Modern History at Oxford. His books include Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, c.1484-1545 (1988), Early Tudor Government 1485-1558 (1995), Henry VII's New Men and the Making of Tudor England (2016) and, with David Grummitt and Hans Cools, War, State and Society in England and the Netherlands, 1477-1559 (2007).