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The Tudors – Henry VII, 1485-1509

8. How innovative was Henry VII?

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the extent to which Henry VII innovated as king, focusing in particular on: (i) the extent to which Henry had not expected to become king of England until very shortly before he actually did; (ii) the extent to which the political and administrative infrastructure of England had been weakened during the Wars of the Roses, and especially during the short reign of Richard III; (iii) the nature of Henry’s takeover of power and the necessity of using the existing structures of government, especially in the early part of his reign; (iv) Henry’s use of instruments such as bonds and recognizances in order to promote political stability; (v) Henry’s reliance on means other than taxes to improve his financial position, e.g. revenues from crown lands; (vi) Henry’s preference for refining and redeploying long-established instruments as opposed to creating entirely new ones – and his reasons for doing this; (vii) the extent to which Henry’s options are limited by the manner of his takeover, the relative weakness of his claim to the throne, and the position of England generally; (viii) Henry’s ‘hands-on’ approach to running his kingdom, and the strengths and weaknesses to this approach; and (ix) the extent to which Henry was doing the same kind of things that kings in England had been doing for three hundred years.


In this course, Dr Sean Cunningham (The National Archives) explores the reign of Henry VII through eight key questions: (1) How did Henry Tudor become king of England?; (2) Did Henry rely too heavily on his friends for support?; (3) How secure was Henry’s throne by 1500?; (4) To what extent was the period 1502-3 a turning point in Henry’s reign?; (5) How useful were bonds and recognizances in keeping Henry VII on the throne?; (6) Did Henry VII fail as king of England?; (7) Was Henry VII a miser?; and (8) How innovative was Henry VII?


Dr Sean Cunningham is Head of Medieval Records at the National Archives, with a specialism in the interconnecting processes of government and how they functioned through representative agencies, officials and individuals in the period 1399–1558. He is one of the leading historians on the reign of Henry VII (1485–1509), and has published and lectured widely on many aspects of this reign and the key figures who helped to establish Tudor power in England and Wales before the Reformation.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Cunningham, S. (2021, January 26). The Tudors – Henry VII, 1485-1509 - How innovative was Henry VII? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cunningham, S. "The Tudors – Henry VII, 1485-1509 – How innovative was Henry VII?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Jan 2021,