Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Catholic Identity and the Revolt of the Netherlands, 1520-1635

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Catholic Identity and the Revolt of the Netherlands, 1520-1635

Article excerpt

Catholic Identity and the Revolt of the Netherlands, 1520-1635. By Judith Pollmann. [The Past & Present Book Series.] (New York: Oxford University Press. 2011. Pp. xviii, 239. $99.00. ISBN 978-0-199-60991-8.).

Historical scholarship on Catholics and Catholicism in the past ten years has undergone a remarkable evolution, moving away from a focus on institutions and clerical offices that grimly drilled obethence into indifferent laymen and laywomen. Instead, studies on various territories across Europe have given attention to the eager involvement of the laity in religious revival, the ongoing vitality of traditional observances in programs of reform, and the power of devotion in inculcating a confessional self-consciousness among Catholics. Judith Pollmann's exemplary treatment of Catholic identity in the Southern Netherlands represents the full flowering of these salutary revisionist trends. As important as institutions were, historians can no longer cast the Catholic Reformation, at least in northern Europe, as primarily a set of organizational responses to Protestantism. Pollmann also clears up misreadings about the state of lay piety in the Netherlands and sends scholarship on the Reformation in new directions.

The focus of her study is perceptions by laity and clergy from the middle strata of society about the religious and political movements that moved through the Southern Low Countries. In a remarkably succinct book, Pollmann accomplishes this task with great success in part because she uncovered an amazing array of unpublished sources from clerics and from laymen and laywomen who experienced the upheaval of rebellion, war, and religious conflict. Largely overlooked by historians, these diaries, spiritual journals, poems, chronicles, and even a songbook, along with an extensive body of published narratives, form the bulk of her source material. She handles these sources with dexterity, extracting a great deal out of them yet without universalizing her evidence. Interspersing firsthand accounts throughout the various phases of the political and religious narrative enables Pollmann to contextualize the sources appropriately and to illuminate the critical moments of action from local perspectives. …

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