Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

John Foxe and His World

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

John Foxe and His World

Article excerpt

John Foxe and His World. Edited by Christopher Highley and John N. King [St Andrews Studies in Reformation History.) (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing. 2002. Pp. xix, 297. $99.95.)

Scholarly investigation of what Christopher Highley here calls (p. 187) "the vast collaboratively produced text we now refer to as Foxe's Acts and Monuments" is proceeding apace, fuelled by the tantalizing prospect of a forthcoming fully searchable electronic edition collating the various versions produced in Foxe's lifetime. This volume of essays grows out of an interdisciplinary colloquium held at Ohio State University in spring 1999, and betrays evidence of its conference origins. The editors' claim (p. xvi) that the chapters collectively create "a composite portrait of the world inhabited by John Foxe" is an optimistic one. Rather, they represent a series of thematically linked sketches of the intellectual and religious landscape. Yet the editors are to be congratulated for creating order out of what might have been a mere mélange of Foxe-flavored morsels. The collection is book-ended by fore- and afterwords from the volume's dedicatees, Patrick Collinson and David Loades, who respectively consider the reception history of the^cfs and Monuments during and after Foxe's lifetime. In between, fifteen essays are grouped into five thematic clusters: historiographical issues, history of the book, visual culture, Roman Catholicism, women and gender. These are tackled by a mixed team of historians and literary critics, established scholars and graduate students. The interdisciplinarity in general works well, and it is pleasing to report that the essays by Ph.D. candidates easily stand comparison with those of their elders. Inevitably, some pieces are more substantial than others, though all have worthwhile things to say. Highlights in the first sections include Benedict Scott Robinson's discussion of "John Foxe and the Anglo-Saxons," showing how the burgeoning interest in Saxon history raised the alarming possibility that the first truly English church was a papal construction, rather than the pure primitivism of the Britons. It was Foxe's Catholic critic Richard Verstegan who first argued (in 1605) that the English should look for their origins among the Saxons. Equally illuminating is David Scott Kastan's study of "Little Foxes," the abridgements by Timothy Bright and others which may have been in the form in which most readers actually encountered Foxe's text. …

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