Caitlin Burge (QMUL) - 2020-21 Students

Letters, Networks of Power and the Fall of Thomas Cromwell, 1524-1547

My research considers Thomas Cromwell’s fall from power, acting as a case study through which the role of letters as a social and political tool and questions about influence surrounding Henry VIII can be explored. Focusing on letters in the State Papers archives from 1524-1547, my projects offers letters as fundamental connections in networks of power, using these documents alongside key theories and quantitative measures developed in the field of network science and social network analysis to reconstruct the local and international web of contacts that Cromwell maintained to propel his career and maintain his administrative supremacy. These computational measures allow a means to adjust the framework through which we consider power and influence at the Tudor court. Considering these measurements in the context of early modern epistolary theories and contemporary conceptions of control, this PhD establishes letters as an instrumental and carefully managed political medium which can evidence both subtle and significant changes in power structures. In applying these methodologies to Cromwell’s fall from power, this project demonstrates the advantages of applying network analysis to a focused case study, and offers new understandings of the impact networks of power had on the fall of Henry’s ‘most faithful servant.

Primary supervisor: Prof. Ruth Ahnert, QMUL

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