Christianity in the West, 1400-1700

Christianity in the West, 1400-1700

Christianity in the West, 1400-1700

Christianity in the West, 1400-1700

Synopsis

A study not of the institution of the Church but of Christianity itself, this book explores the people, their beliefs, and their way of life, providing a new understanding of Western Christianity at the time of the Reformation. Bossy begins with a systematic exposition of traditional or pre-Reformation Christianity, and then explores the forces that tended to undermine it, the characteristics of the Protestant and Catholic regimes that superseded it, and the fallout that resulted from its disintegration.

Excerpt

For most of the time I have been writing this book, I have thought of it as carrying the subtitle, 'an essay'. Persuaded for several excellent reasons that this would not do, I record here my feeling that the book possesses something of the partiality and oversystematic character of that genre. I should also like to explain one or two things about it which may be disconcerting. Its subject is Christianity, by which I mean that it is not about the Church restrictively defined: it is about a body of people, a way or ways of life and the features of Christian belief which seemed most relevant to them. Its boundaries are those which separate Greek or Orthodox Christianity from the Latin West, though I fear that Slav, Magyar, Scandinavian and Irish Christianity are poorly represented. Its limits in time are a pair of dates roughly indicating the topic aimed at. One way of describing this would be to say that it was the Reformation considered as an event in human life, and that the dates were intended to sketch the minimum space, before and after, within which some kind of purchase on the event might be obtained. This cannot quite be an adequate description, since I have devoted slightly over half the book to what I have called, I hope with a proper sense of the pitfalls involved, 'traditional Christianity'. I do not think the emphasis actually incompatible with the description, but it is probably simpler to defend on other grounds. These are: first, that it covers most of the field, since nearly everybody in the West before the Reformation, and probably most people after it, were traditional Christians; second, that a fairly systematic description of this tradition has been a long-felt want in the history of late medieval and early modern Europe; and, third, that the intellectual climate seems now a good deal sunnier towards it than it used to be, and the prospect of saying interesting things about it is brighter.

This bias towards the traditional has entailed a degree of sympathetic or beneficial interpretation which, despite my good . . .

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