Aside from the controversy over the progress of Protestantism in the sixteenth century, no other debate has generally ranked so high on the agenda of Tudor historians as that upon Henry VIII’s chief ministers and their role in government.1 It has conventionally been assumed: (1) that evaluations of the relative ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of the careers of Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell should be indexed largely in relation to their advocacy while in office of blueprints for the reform of institutions; and (2) that fundamental administrative reform in the shape of national bureaucratic government under the management of an elite executive privy council was the distinctive and indeed ‘revolutionary’ achievement of Thomas Cromwell in the 1530s.
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