Religion & Society in Early Modern England: A Sourcebook

Religion & Society in Early Modern England: A Sourcebook

Religion & Society in Early Modern England: A Sourcebook

Religion & Society in Early Modern England: A Sourcebook


Religion and Society in Early Modern England is a thorough sourcebook covering interplay between religion, politics, society, and popular culture in the Tudor and Stuart periods.

It covers the crucial topics of the Reformation through narratives, reports, literary works, orthodox and unorthodox religious writing, institutional church documents, and parliamentary proceedings. Helpful introductions put each of the sources in context and make this an accessible student text.


Religion permeated every aspect of English society in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. the pattern of the cosmos, the history and destiny of the world, and the ordering of social, political and domestic relationships were all explained in biblical and theological terms. Christianity provided a system for understanding, a framework for discussion, and a vocabulary for the expression of complex notions, from the governance of the self to the governance of the state, from Christian dealing in the market place to proper conduct on the Sabbath. Faith and ritual affected people at many different levels, making spiritual, intellectual, emotional and visceral appeals. Public and private affairs alike were deeply infused by religion.

The shattering of the Roman Catholic church and the establishment of the Protestant Church of England made religion a central arena of contest from the reign of Henry viii to the time of the later Stuarts. the struggle to define and control ‘true religion’ affected everyone from the political centre to the provincial periphery. Nobody was immune from the claims of faith or the obligations of Christian duty. Everyone’s life was affected by alterations in the structure and authority of the church, and by changes in religious values, beliefs, discipline and style. Monarchs and magistrates, university theologians and episcopal administrators, evangelical preachers and pastoral priests, all had a stake in the shaping and reshaping of English religious life. So too did earnest lay men and women of all social ranks, and humble parishioners of every shade of conformity, irregularity, and indifference.

Our purpose in gathering these documents is to expose the ligaments of English religious culture and to trace its transformation from the 1530s to the 1660s. the history of religion in this period is not just a history of theology, or of the organized church, or of worship, or of relations between church and state, or dealings between the clergy and the laity, although each of those aspects is important. It is also a history of contest and negotiation, adjustment and accommodation, as diverse constituencies struggled to work . . .

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