Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Windows into Men's Souls: Religious Nonconformity in Tudor and Early Stuart England

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Windows into Men's Souls: Religious Nonconformity in Tudor and Early Stuart England

Article excerpt

Windows into Men's Souls: Religious Nonconformity in Tudor and Early Stuart England. By Kenneth L. Campbell. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield. 2012. Pp. x, 225. $65.00. ISBN 978-0-73916819-6.)

What is primarily a study of the works of the separatists John Robinson, Thomas Helwys, and John Smyth seeks to put them in a very broad context, both temporally and intellectually. This is a work that has proven to be impossible to review without using the term curate's egg. It certainly has strengths, and attention will be drawn to them. However, it also has problems-factual, structural, and conceptual-which cannot be ignored. To begin with the strengths, this is a useful addition to the historiography. Where attention has concentrated on the common ground shared within the Church of England between the godly and the conformist and more recently on the internal tensions among the godly, the more fulsome criticisms, criticisms that were acted on, on behalf of the Separatists have sneaked under the radar of attention. This treatment, building on the work of scholars such as Stephen Brachlow, is a pertinent reminder, and the specific engagements with the Separatists' writings are insightful and thought-provoking, not least in examining the tensions within the conditional loyalty of the Puritans to the Church of England.

That much accepted, the reception is spoiled by unfortunate descriptions and judgments. To describe William Perkins as "an early Puritan" (p. 80), Guy Fawkes as "a disgruntled Catholic terrorist" (p. 113), and Joseph Hall as "the most antiPuritan among the bishops" (p. 186) is simply inaccurate. To speak of the irony that "some of the leading Nonconformists" turned out to be Arminians and to press the case with the sole example of John Goodwin is unconvincing (p. 188), and to suggest that the reluctance of Puritans to eschew "their own economic interests for the sake of religious Nonconformity" is the key to why so few became Separatists before the 1630s serious underestimates the tension between reform from within, pastoral concerns, and heartfelt misgivings about the state of the church. …

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