Henry VIII fought many wars, but how did they affect his subjects? How much did they think about war or talk about war? How did communities cope with the pressures war placed upon them? How did military service relate to the social power and self-image of the landed elite? How did war affect the economy? What weapons did people own, did they know how to use them, were they ready to kill and how many of them died? And how did engagement in war shape his subjects’ relationship with the king and their sense of being English?
This year’s Ford lectures will ask all these questions in the context of the century of military, political and social change that lay between Henry’s grandfather Edward IV’s invasion of France in 1475 in the afterglow of the Hundred Years War and his daughter Elizabeth’s attempts to shape a trained militia and a powerful navy to defend England in a Europe increasingly polarised by religion.
The Ford Lectures in British History were founded by a bequest from James Ford, and inaugurated by S.R.Gardiner in 1896-7. Since then, an annual series has been delivered over six weeks in the Hilary term and they have long been established as the most prestigious series in Oxford and an important annual event in the History Faculty calendar. Though sometimes elected from among the Oxford History Faculty, the Ford Lecturer is often a distinguished visitor from elsewhere in the United Kingdom, or further afield; towards the end of the series, the Lecturer generally convenes a seminar for faculty members and students, where the themes and ideas of the series are discussed. Alternating between medieval, early modern and modern history, the Lectures have provided a showcase allowing distinguished scholars to present their work to an Oxford audience, in a scholarly but accessible way; the attendance, which is often very large, habitually includes people from outside Oxford. The Lectures invariably result in important books, many of them classic and pioneering works of British history.