Teaching Students About ‘Wolf Hall’: Journey into a Historical Fictional Novel

Incorporating historical fiction like Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” can be an invaluable resource in the classroom. This novel not only provides a fascinating perspective on Tudor England and the reign of King Henry VIII, but also offers students the opportunity to engage with history in an engaging and relatable way. The following article will explore tips for integrating “Wolf Hall” into your curriculum to give students a multifaceted understanding of this crucial period in history.

1. Setting the Context: The Tudor Period

Before diving into “Wolf Hall,” it is essential to provide students with a solid foundation of the Tudor period and its key figures. Start by discussing the origins of the dynasty, the Wars of the Roses, and the establishment of King Henry VII’s rule. Introduce King Henry VIII as well as other important historical figures like Anne Boleyn, Thomas More, and Thomas Cromwell, who serve as central characters in “Wolf Hall.” This stage will ensure that your students have a grasp on the historical context that forms the backdrop of Mantel’s narrative.

2. Exploring Themes and Perspectives

“Wolf Hall” tackles various themes such as power, ambition, loyalty, and religious upheaval that permeate throughout much of Tudor England’s history. Encourage your students to identify these themes and engage in discussions regarding their significance during this time. Highlight Thomas Cromwell’s unique perspective as an outsider amidst royal court intrigue. By exploring these themes and perspectives, students will deepen their understanding of both historical events and their consequences on a human level.

3. Analyzing Historical Accuracy

While immersing themselves in Mantel’s vivid storytelling, it is important for students to maintain a critical eye towards historical accuracy. Assign portions of actual historical biographies or primary sources to compare with events depicted in “Wolf Hall.” Encourage critical thinking by opening discussions on discrepancies between the novel and factual history, as well as possible motives behind why Mantel may have chosen to portray events or characters in a certain way. This will help your students develop essential critical thinking skills necessary for approaching historical literature.

4. Creative Assignments

To encourage deeper engagement with “Wolf Hall” and its historical context, assign creative projects that ask students to imagine themselves within the world of Tudor England. Invite them to write diary entries, letters, or speeches from the viewpoints of different characters like Anne Boleyn or Thomas More. This exercise emphasizes empathy and allows students to make connections between the distant past and their own experiences, reinforcing their understanding of historical events.

5. Assessing Impact and Legacy

Hold a discussion on the lasting impact that key figures from “Wolf Hall,” like Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell, had on England’s political and religious landscape, both during their lifetimes and into the future. Explore how Mantel’s portrayal of these characters affects our perception of them in contemporary times.


By incorporating Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” into your curriculum, you will be inviting your students on an exciting journey through Tudor England that is brought to life by engaging storytelling. With thoughtful discussions and creative assignments, students can deepen their understanding of this crucial period in history while developing critical thinking skills that can be applied outside the classroom.

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