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Duration: 1 hour

The intellectual forces at work in the Tudor era ensured it was a pivotal period for children's education. Historian Dr Helen Castor reveals how the life and education of Margaret More, daughter of Thomas More, tell a story of the transforming power of knowledge. As a child in Tudor England, and educated to an exceptionally high level, Margaret embodies the intellectual spirit of the age - an era which embraced Humanism, the birth of the Church of England and the English Renaissance. This film reveals what a revolutionary intellectual spirit Margaret More was and how the ideas that shaped her education helped change the cultural life of England forever.

Last on

Thu 1 Nov 2012 22:50 BBC Four

  • Helen Castor on her experience of making A Renaissance Education

    Helen Castor on her experience of making A Renaissance Education

    At New Year 1545, Henry VIII’s younger daughter, 11-year-old Elizabeth, gave her stepmother Katherine Parr a book that she’d made herself: her own translation from French into English of a poem called ‘The mirror of the sinful soul’, written in her own beautiful italic handwriting, and bound in an exquisite piece of her own embroidery, with the initials K-P at the centre.

    I’ve known about this book since I was a small child obsessed with the fascinatingly bloody history of the Tudors. But I never imagined it would one day be sitting on a table in front of me, close enough for me to see every stitch and every stroke of that elegant pen. And it certainly never crossed my mind that my moment of historical communion would take place on television.

    So the experience of making A Renaissance Education has been an extraordinary one on many counts. The first time I looked into a lens to say something about children’s experiences of education in the 16th Century, I was convinced I’d never get used to such an alarmingly unnatural means of communication. (It’s hard to remember what you’re supposed to be talking about when your brain is yelling, ‘That’s a tv camera! Pointing at me!’)

    But it was surprising how quickly it began to feel like second nature – thanks not only to our wonderful director and cameraman, but also to the involving story of a girl who was an even more brilliant scholar than Elizabeth I: Sir Thomas More’s daughter, Margaret. And I hope that our exploration of her life – shaped as it was by the huge changes that took place in Tudor education, and Tudor society as a whole – will also be a compelling journey from the other side of the camera.

  • Helen Castor using a printing press

    Helen Castor using a printing press

    Helen Castor tries her hand at printing Tudor style, using a replica printing press.

  • Helen Castor close up at the Globe Theatre

    Helen Castor close up at the Globe Theatre

    Helen Castor visits the Globe Theatre, home to the plays of England's most famous grammar school boy, William Shakespeare.

  • Helen Castor in front of Tower Bridge

    Helen Castor in front of Tower Bridge

    Helen Castor retraces the footsteps of Margaret's father Thomas More, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London for treason by his former friend, Henry VIII.

  • Book list

    • Trade, Plunder and Settlement: Maritime Enterprise and the Genesis of the British. Empire, 1480-1630 - Kenneth R. Andrews. 1984

    • Literacy and the Social Order - David Cressy. 1980

    • The Invention of Childhood - Hugh Cunningham. 2006

    • A Daughter's Love - John Guy. 2008

    • Tudor England - John Guy. 1988

    • Gender Sex and Subordination in England 1100-1800 - Anthony Fletcher 1995

    • The Growth of English Schooling 1340-1548' - Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran. 1985

    • Godly Learning - John Morgan. 1986

    • English Schools in the Middle Ages - Nicholas Orme. 1973

    • Education in early Tudor England - Magdalen College Oxford and its School. Nicholas Orme 1998

    • Medieval Children - Nicholas Orme. 2001

    • Medieval Schools - Nicholas Orme. 2006

    • Education and Society - Joan Simon. 1966

    • The Emergence of the Nation State, 1529-1660. - Alan Smith.

    • The discovery of Childhood in Puritan England - C.John Somerville. 1992

    • Contrasting Communities: English Villages in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries 1974 - Margaret Spufford.

    • Rule and Misrule in the Schools of Early Modern England - Keith Thomas. 1976

    • Introduction to The instruction of a Christen Woman - Juan Luis Vives. Coordinating Editors Virginia Walcott Beauchamp, Elizabeth H. Hageman, Margaret Mikesell. 2002

  • BBC Radio 4 - Woman's Hour - The schooling of Thomas More's daughter

    BBC Radio 4 - Woman's Hour - The schooling of Thomas More's daughter

    How the humanist education of Thomas More's daughter Margaret changed the way women were schooled and shaped the English Renaissance.

    Available to listen on BBC Radio 4


Fiona Cushley
Fiona Cushley
Helen Castor
Helen Castor
Series Producer
Mary Sackville-West
Series Producer
Mary Sackville-West
Executive Producer
Helen Thomas
Executive Producer
Helen Thomas

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