The origin of Thomas Cromwell's public career : service under cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII, 1524-30.
In the early years of the 1520s Thomas Cromwell was simply a successful London
merchant and lawyer. Yet by 1530 he had entered the service of Henry Vifi, rising
thereafter to a position of power as chief minister. The aim of this study is to describe how
Cromwell moved from an essentially private, to an increasingly public, world.
The key to Cromwell's rise was his employment in the service of cardinal Wolsey. The
first chapter of this study challenges the currently accepted view that it began as early as
1514 or 1516, suggesting instead that 1524 was the critical year. It was in this year that
Cromwell was recruited to manage the dissolution of nearly thirty religious houses and
oversee the establishment, out of their income, of colleges at Oxford and Ipswich.
Chapters two to four demonstrate Cromwell's key role in the complicated and drawn out
procedures necessary for the establishment of the colleges. Both the college project and
Cromwell's association with it have been well known from the sixteenth century but until
now never thoroughly examined, despite the survival of a large amount of documentary
evidence at the Public Record Office. In particular, a large part of the inadequately listed
record class, State Papers 2, is directly related to the scheme. A list of those sections of SP2
which are relevant to Cromwell's work forms an appendix to the thesis.
The nature of Cromwell's other activities on behalf of Wolsey, in particular his association
with ecclesiastical concerns, is examined in chapter five. The final chapter examines
Cromwell's relationship with Wolsey in the aftermath of the latter's fall from power in
1529 and establishes the way in which Cromwell was able to enter the king's service on the
strength of his knowledge of the cardinal's affairs.