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Published in The American Historical Review, Vol. 103, No. 2 (April, 1998), p. 504 Copyright © 1998 American Historical Association; published by The University of Chicago Press. Used by permission.


Sharon L. Jansen's study of women and popular resistance in the reign of Henry VIII is an important work that breaks new ground and will be of value to a wide range of scholars. It is scrupulously well researched and shows a thorough grounding in the secondary literature on the politics of early Tudor England, women's history, and feminist theory. Jansen focuses on four women, all of whom were executed for treason in the reign of Henry VIII: Elizabeth Wood, Margaret Cheyne, Elizabeth Barton, and Mabel Brigge. Yet none of these women had posed a direct, physical threat to the king. They had taken no part in armed rebellion. The government of Henry VIII, however, perceived them as a threat to stability of the realm. While Jansen admits that it is difficult to separate politics from religion in the reign of Henry VIII, her study examines women whose protest emphasized concerns about legitimate authority and rightful rule. (She does not, for example, include Anne Askew in her study.)

Jansen makes innovative use of a broad range of primary sources, and she offers a very useful discussion of gossip as a source for historians. She is up to date on the secondary literature and employs the recent work of women's historians to strengthen her theoretical base. Jansen's case studies not only allow us more insight into these specific women's acts of protest and resistance; we can also learn more about how the political and social structure of early Tudor England dealt with such women's behavior. Understanding these women gives us more insight into popular reaction to Tudor political reforms of the 1530s. The book is written with engaging, readable style, which should make it accessible to students as well as specialists. Scholars in the field of sixteenth-century English history, literature, and women's studies will find this book valuable.

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