Blame it all on Henry

A lot of people think that religion is a bad thing, and to an extent I agree with them. But the beliefs are different to the practice, and I am constantly banging on about the importance of what Henry VIII did when he dissolved the monasteries. If you want to know how important these institutions were, look at the effect of their destruction.

There was a population explosion. Without the huge institutions full of non breeding humans, and the controls they had on their tenants, many more people were having kids, so there wre more people to found colonies, so created the United States, and the huge English speaking world.

Land management fell into decline, so by the 18th century, the country was suffering food shortages. Part of this was the speculation in corn, but it also paved the way for the famous potato famine in Ireland. 

Elizabeth introduced the first ever poor laws, ie local people had to contribute to the feeding, care and education of the poor.

Schools were built, often in church premises, usually for those too poor to have private tutors

With the exception of music, most arts and crafts lost their patronage, so vanished. Brickmaking, lacemaking, glassmaking, metal work, stone carving, painting, all vanished for a time, to be reintroduced by immigrants from Europe, mostly what is now The Netherlands and Belgium. 

Buildings were made of wood instead of stone, which must have contributed to the Great Fire of London and many other fires in towns and cities across the realm

Bad water supplies – nobody was in charge of maintaining the monastic water supplies to towns, so gave rise to declining health and in particular, the Great Plague, and Cholera.

On the upside, the same period produced an explosion in creativity that had been suppressed or ignored by the churches, so gave us Shakespeare, Milton, Newton, and, in effect the modern world.

So, was Henry VIII the most important person in Western history?

3 thoughts on “Blame it all on Henry

  1. Interesting idea, but some of the assertions here are a little woolly. In particular, I disagree with the idea that the churches had ‘suppressed’ creativity – where is the evidence for this? Shakespeare was a Christian, as was Newton and his contemporaries, people who studied the ‘natural sciences’ so as to understand God’s creation a little better.


    • The church was the major patron of the arts. They did not patronise secular performances, so if you like their dominance of public culture suppressed it by default. Newton and the other early scientists were still working with a religious mindset but this was still partly due to a fear of being charged with treason if they really launched into the realms of science.


  2. Yeah, the church was like corporate sponsorship today, yes they fund research and the arts, but only publish and support the work that supports their interests. Maybe subvert is a better word than suppress. At least corporations don’t publicly burn people at the stake…yet.


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