Commonwealth and the English Reformation: Protestantism and the Politics of Religious Change in the Gloucester Vale, 1483-1560

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Commonwealth and the English Reformation: Protestantism and the Politics of Religious Change in the Gloucester Vale, 1483-1560. By Ben Lowe. [St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History.] (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing. 2010. Pp.xvi,308. $124.95. ISBN 978-1-409-40045-5.)

From this case study of the middle-rank English city of Gloucester and its surroundings, Ben Lowe argues that it was a combination of prophetic message and social and economic conditions that caused leading men in both town and county to join and support the earryTudor Reformation. Rather than seeing the disruptive nature of religious change, the analysis suggests there was a growing momentum of reform from the 153Os through to King Edward VTs reign, only to be reversed under Queen Mary. Lowe takes issues with other recent interpretations of the Reformation that have emphasized extensive Catholic resistance to change, religious indifference among the laity, or the economic interest of leading Protestants. His account returns to an older multidimensional approach in the tradition of A. G Dickens. In considerable measure it is persuasive. Early chapters examine the economic, political, and ecclesiastical state of Gloucester before the Reformation with serious municipal conflict with the nine or so religious houses in and around the city, many in decay; by comparison, parish religious life was more vibrant but (an important point) selectively so. A further chapter looks at the rise of new gentry families from the late Middle Ages, some trained in the law and officiating for religious houses, others linked to Crown administration. Intermarrying and working closely together, they took their functions seriously as local agents of the Crown and as guardians of religious life. From the 153Os they consolidated their own position by becoming chief enforcers of royal religious policies. …