M4C Logo AHRC Logo

Rebecca Wheddon

History, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

Propaganda and Persuasion: Political Discourse and the Negotiation of Power and Authority in Yorkist and early Tudor England

My thesis is the first in depth investigation into the use and manipulation of language to serve political ends between 1470 and 1509, one of the most tumultuous periods of English history. My study demonstrates that ‘fake news’ and political spin are far from modern phenomena and that these techniques for manipulating public opinion were fully developed and widely used over 500 years ago. It considers the context in which this language was employed and the purposes for which it was intended, for example to justify either the maintenance of the political status quo or wholesale regime-change. The study will discuss the interchange of ideas and principles between the king and his subjects, and between the centre of government and the localities.

My research builds on the ‘Linguistic turn’ approach to historical studies, which emphasises the importance of language to studies of history, highlighting the importance of principles and ideals in underpinning political action. The thesis will be divided into three distinct research strands. Firstly, it examines whether there were certain words or phrases that were utilised in particular circumstances, and whether these constituted distinct ‘linguistic templates’. Secondly, it examines how effectively political ideas were disseminated through the interchange of ideas between central government and the lower orders. Finally, the thesis will consider the significance of common political utterances which were used as linguistic tools to persuade and manipulate public opinion towards or against a cause. All these approaches will enable me to measure the impact on events of the repeated and calculated use of rhetoric and propaganda.

This project aims to:

  • identify the common linguistic devices used to sway public opinion and to explore the conceptual frameworks underlying these words and phrases.
  • explore the interchange of political ideas and principles between the centre and localities, and between the ruling classes and common people in an age of burgeoning literacy and the emergence of the printed word
  • assess the impact of rhetoric on political action
  • consider changes and continuities between the late medieval and early modern periods, testing, in particular, the theory of a Tudor ‘New Monarchy’. 

Research Area

  • History


Rebecca Wheddon (2020), Richard III: The Self Made King, Northern History, 57, 167-169

Wheddon, R., 'Review: Lewis, M., Richard III: Loyalty Binds Me', Ricardian Bulletin (March 2019) 


Co-organiser of Created Identities, 5 September 2020

'Language and the Creation of a King in the Reign of Henry VII', poster presentation given at Created Identities Conference, 5 September 2020

'Language and power in the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII', M4C Research Festival 2021, 7 June 2021

'Language and the Construction of Royal Authority in Early Tudor England', Leeds International Medieval Congress 2021, 5 July 2021

Public Engagement & Impact

'Richard III's Relationship with Women', talk given September 2019, Worcestershire Branch of the Richard III Society

'Henry VII: Power, Authority and the Restoration of the English Monarchy', Minerva Lecture, given to Bradfield College on 02/03/2021