This analysis of the secular impact of the Reformation examines the changes within English towns over the period c.1540-1640. All over England wholesale shifts of urban land and resources, coupled with increased statutory responsibilities, allowed a surprising number of towns to strengthentheir financial and political positions. The Reformation had already begun to destroy much of the doctrine-based political culture which traditionally sustained provincial governments. As a result, the ruling elites in many towns not only extended their holdings and acquired greater autonomy; theyalso gained much greater institutional authority over their inhabitants - part of a growing movement away from communal values towards rule by oligarchy. These elites sought to legitimize their new authority by various means: civic portraiture and regalia, the building of town-halls, the writingof local histories, and the creation of new forms of worship. An altered civic ethos emerged, marking a significant new phase in urban history.