Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



One of the most important events of Edward VI’s reign, the 1549 rebellions, has been intensely studied by historians of the period. However, most monographs of the rebellions pinpoint the enclosure commissions or Edward Seymour’s inability to govern effectively as the reasons behind the riots. What is ignored is the intimate relationship between the eastern rebels’ language in their petitions and the rhetoric employed in evangelical propaganda from Edward’s accession in January 1547 to the outbreak of the rebellions in May 1549. My research in Edwardian propaganda during Somerset’s protectorate reveals a dialogue established between evangelicals and Catholics concerning doctrine and theological analysis based on the scriptures. Somerset’s regime used the London printing presses to appeal to the lower orders of society, the common people, for support of the Reformation. The rhetoric employed was designed to appeal positively to the people, emphasizing the commonwealth and universal good. It also linked the people with their king in governing the kingdom and breaking from the pope’s tyrannical authority. In addition, the regime used Henrician and Roman Catholic conversion narratives to disseminate evangelical doctrine, most notably through cleric Richard Smyth’s two forced recantations, which were printed and sold in Paul’s Cross. Other works used include Stephen Gardiner’s defense of the Eucharist, John Hooper’s response, and Robert Crowley’s two confutations of Miles Hogarde, another Henrician Catholic, and Nicholas Shaxton, a former evangelical. The conclusion of this study draws direct parallels between the 1549 petitions and the rhetorical strategies used in the previous two years. The government’s direct patronage of this propaganda and the language that drew the commons into a political partnership with their king helped to spark the rebellions, resulting in a crisis of leadership and legitimacy.



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Committee Chair

Stater, Victor



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History Commons