Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York, 1509-1558

Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York, 1509-1558

Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York, 1509-1558

Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York, 1509-1558

Excerpt

In a field of historical investigation which involves modern religious controversies, the vice of over-simplification readily asserts itself and the manifold delicate tones of reality are overlaid by the crude black and white of discordant abstractions. That such partisanship has often enfeebled both the selectivity and the generalizing of Reformation historians is now so widely agreed that its grosset excesses seem unlikely to be repeated. Here, nevertheless, has lain only one of the obstacles to sound progress. Working on too ambitious a scale, arbitrarily accepting as typical a few minute sections of the surviving evidence, bemused by the personalities of monarchs and statesmen, emphasizing those facts which happen to fit modern economic and social theories, historians have commonly ended by constructing patterns which bear little relation to the development of the English people as it can be revealed by patient research into personal, local, and regional history. So far as possible, the present writer wants to shun the well-worn themes of high policy and central government, of monarchs, parliaments, statesmen, and theologians. Instead he will take a large area of mid-Tudor England and try to observe, with as many concrete examples as possible, how the Reformation made its initial impacts upon a regional society.

To what extent the resultant picture will correspond with those of other regions can only be revealed by parallel researches elsewhere, yet meanwhile we shall at least have abandoned textbook dogmas in favour of real persons and documented ideas. One thing seems certain: that the area selected cannot be regarded as non-typical, simply because most of it lies north of Trent. It is far too big to be dismissed in terms of 'local history' or of 'county history'. When Henry VIII ascended the throne, the vast medieval diocese of York stood as yet undiminished, exceeding in area, though not in population, its gigantic neighbour of Lincoln. It stretched from the Soar valley in the heart of the Midlands to the Tees frontier with Durham, from the coasts of Cumberland to those of Holderness on the North Sea. It embraced all Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, while its archdeaconry of Richmond protruded north-westward across the Pennines to embrace not merely Richmondshire, but the deaneries of Amounderness, Lonsdale, Kendal . . .

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