Reassessing Henry VIII (workshop)

This article is about a workshop held on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the throne. For other uses, see Henry VIII (disambiguation).

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive. For more information about the Center for Shakespeare Studies, visit the Center for Shakespeare Studies program archive.

This was a fall 2010 workshop organized by Paul E. J. Hammer (University of Colorado at Boulder) and Kathleen Lynch (Folger Institute). Speakers included Thomas P. Campbell (Metropolitan Museum of Art), who delivered the keynote address, and invited session leaders Susan Bordo (University of Kentucky), Susan Doran (Jesus College, Oxford), T.S. Freeman (Cambridge University), Steven Gunn (Merton College, Oxford), Maria Hayward (University of Southampton), Christopher Highley (The Ohio State University), Peter Marshall (University of Warwick), Barbara Mowat (Folger Shakespeare Library), Tania String (University of Bristol), and Susan Wabuda (Fordham University). The workshop, sponsored by the Center for Shakespeare Studies, was scheduled in conjunction with two Folger events: the Folger Theatre production of Henry VIII (2010) and the exhibition Vivat Rex!: 500th Anniversary of Henry VIII's Accession to the Throne.

The year 2009 saw numerous exhibitions in Britain and the United States commemorate the five-hundredth anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the English throne. Henry has long been one of the most famous kings of England, but he and his reign are currently experiencing a new level of public awareness (especially in the U.S.) thanks to recent popular novels and The Tudors television series. However, does the current public celebrity attached to Henry VIII obscure the actual historical significance of the king and his reign? What, indeed, is this historical significance? This workshop drew upon the fruits of 2009 and other recent work to take a fresh look at Henry VIII from a scholarly perspective. It sought to reassess our understanding of Henry VIII in the light of new scholarship and to explore possible directions for future research. Key themes of the workshop included important new work on the material culture of Henry’s reign (especially artworks and dress), new perspectives on the Henrician Reformation, biographical studies of the king himself, and the impact on scholarship and teaching of modern media images of Henry and his royal court. Several dozen scholars with research projects relevant to these themes were admitted.