English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors

English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors

English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors

English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors

Synopsis

English Reformations takes a refreshing new approach to the study of the Reformation in England. Christopher Haigh's lively and readable study disproves any facile assumption that the triumph of Protestantism was inevitable, and goes beyond the surface of official political policy to explore the religious views and practices of ordinary English people. With the benefit of hindsight, other historians have traced the course of the Reformation as a series of events inescapably culminating in the creation of the English Protestant establishment. Haigh sets out to recreate the sixteenth century as a time of excitement and insecurity, with each new policy or ruler causing the reversal of earlier religious changes. This is a scholarly and stimulating book, which challenges traditional ideas about the Reformation and offers a powerful and convincing alternative analysis.

Excerpt

The title of this book has been chosen quite deliberately: it is English Reformations. It is not The English Reformations. That would claim that the only English Reformations which ever were took place in the Tudor period, and suggest that they formed a complete and effective process. But the various (and varied) Reformations in sixteenth-century England were haphazard and had only limited success, at least by comparison with Protestant aims: they did not make Church or people emphatically Protestant, and there remained much still to be done. There were to be later energetic attempts at more complete Reformation: in the mid-seventeenth century, when more Protestant forms of Church government and worship were proposed; and in the late eighteenth century, when Methodists and Evangelicals offered a more fervent faith to those whose Protestantism was nominal or minimal. So the book is not a study of the once-and-for-all English Reformations. Rather, it examines some English Reformations, some of the campaigns to change the constitution of the national Church and the beliefs of its people; it asks how they happened, what they achieved, and why they were unable to do more.

Nor is the title The Reformation in England. That would assert that what happened in England was simply a local manifestation of the wider European movement, an integral part of 'the Reformation', in which Martin Luther's personal rebellion became a widespread revolt against the authority and superstition of the Roman Church. Now, of" course, there are senses in which this is true. English protesters borrowed ideas from Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin: they became Protestants, consciously part of a broader Protestant cause. Religious change in England took place within a context of religious division and disruption on the Continent, which made it much safer for Henry VIII to go his own aberrant way. But English Reformations did not happen because of Luther, and they did not follow any general Continental pattern. The Catholic Church in England was not corrupt and worldly as in Germany. Luther's ideas had only slight impact in England before Henry--for his own, decidedly un-Lutheran, reasons-- turned against the pope. And if Henry found it briefly convenient to deal with Lutheran princes and Lutheran theologians, he also found it necessary to burn Lutherans (and especially Zwinglians) for heresy.

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