English historians' treatments of Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher in the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries

Taylor-Hood, John C. R. (1999) English historians' treatments of Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher in the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The sixteenth-century personages of Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher have repeatedly appeared as significant figures in historical works. Theirs was a didactic role, with sixteenth-century authors using them as examples of Christian conduct, either virtuous or immoral. Nineteenth-century historians preferred to address the wisdom of Mote's and Fisher's decisions to oppose the will of the state. In both cases, the religious affiliations of the authors influenced the way in which they perceived More's and Fisher's moral roles. -- This thesis provides an historiographical analysis of the ways in which the two groups of writers diverged and corresponded in their assessments of More's and Fisher's respective functions as historical figures. It also takes into account two major historical trends; the changes in the art of biography felt in the sixteenth century and the whig interpretation of history dominant in the nineteenth. The increased secularization of the biographical literary form led to the creation of Roman Catholic hagiographies of More and Fisher which were distinctive in their combination of mundane factual material with religiously-inspired interpretations. Protestant writers were also affected in that they were obliged to acknowledge More's and Fisher's learning and intellectual gifts, and were no longer able to dismiss them as superstitious papists. The images of More and Fisher, as created by these biographies, were used by nineteenth-century historians to persuasively convey moral lessons. Although the images remained constant, the functions were altered to include the teaching of honourable conduct as well as dramatic illustrations of the tyrannical power of the monarch. -- Although differing from one another in certain aspects, these writers all converged in their didactic treatment of More and Fisher. Regardless of political or religious persuasion, they all employed the two as examples in an attempt to provoke meritorious conduct in their readers. In their approaches to and uses of Thomas More and John Fisher, historians of the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, despite their disparate agenda, remained remarkably close in their basic attitudes towards the two men.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/775
Item ID: 775
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 126-130.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 1999
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Great Britain
Library of Congress Subject Heading: More, Thomas, Sir, Saint, 1478-1535; Fisher, John, Saint, 1469-1535; Historiography--Great Britain; Saints--Historiography

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