Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Thinking of the Laity in Late Tudor England

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Thinking of the Laity in Late Tudor England

Article excerpt

PETER IVER KAUFMAN. Thinking of the Laity in Late Tudor England. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004. Pp. xi + 175, index. Cloth $40.00, paper $20.00.

The central value of this book by the distinguished Tudor scholar Peter Iver Kaufman is that it addresses an intriguing and neglected topic: the laity in Tudor ecclesiastical history. This is, however, a volume for the serious scholar, replete not only with untranslated phrases in Latin, but also with detailed, decade-by-decade analysis of churchmen's polemical treatises and their overall reflections on the appropriate roles of laity in the policy of the local church.

Kaufman does his work thoroughly and well. He moves over that familiar scholarly terrain on Elizabethan Puritanism that has been aptly and amply explored since Marshall Knappen's foundational work through the more recent, excellent studies by Patrick Collinson. The book progresses chronologically through the century with a glance at the relative optimism about laity leadership among some early English reformers, through the hopes held by reformers early in Queen Elizabeth's reign, on to the strongly negative royal response of the queen and most of her ministers as evidenced in the prohibition of prophesying, and eventually to the waning of even Puritan popularism.

The polemical intent of several of the reformed efforts and discourses favoring lay participation, particularly in later decades, may have had more to do with reforming zeal to curb the power of Elizabethan bishops, rather than to advance the will of commoners. Similarly, Elizabeth and her ministers, ecclesiastical and governmental, were clear from the beginning in their efforts to prohibit any hint of rebellion among the populace. More than once royal defenders of conformity exaggerated fears of disorder and religious chaos, for example, going so far to accuse one able and persistent advocate of laity, Dudley Fenner, of being an English Anabaptist. …

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