Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations

Article excerpt

Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations, By Eamon Duffy, Bloomsbury/Continuum, 320pp, Pounds 20.00, ISBN 9781441181176, Published 21 July 2012

To begin with, an irritation: historians long ago lost the battle to have footnotes where they should be, at the foot of each page, but there can be no excuse for a serious publisher to stick them at the back of a book without at the top of the pages involved giving an indication of the pages to which the notes relate. Without this provision they might just as well be omitted, since the lack of such indications makes it extremely difficult to find the relevant pages.

To proceed to a serious criticism: the publishers promise us "a wide- ranging book" in which the author "explores the broad sweep of the English Reformation and the ways in which that Reformation has been written about". Eamon Duffy in his introduction slightly modifies this picture by referring to "the essays which make up the chapters of this book". It is thus only on page 293, which is to say right at the end of the book in the acknowledgements, that the truth emerges that with the apparent exception of chapter 9, all these essays have appeared in previous publications or were given as lectures. I think we should have been told this at the beginning, for among other things it would have helped to explain the curiously incoherent course the book takes, despite Duffy's efforts in the introduction to give some sort of sense to it.

I had hoped that the curious way that the book was put together might have explained what is otherwise an inexcusable omission. In 2005, G.W. Bernard published The King's Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church, by any account a major reinterpretation of the events that are supposedly central to Duffy's book. In fact, it does get three insignificant footnotes (this discovered after much searching), but no mention at all where it should have figured, namely in chapter 2, "Reformation Unravelled", which is a historiographical survey. But this chapter was first given as a lecture at the University of Nottingham in 2009, so my attempt to find an excuse for the omission does not really work. A different explanation might be that it is a deliberate slight, which would be a pity if it were the case. I had thought that since the demise of Geoffrey Elton, the internecine wars between Tudor historians had come to an end, but I may have been too optimistic.

My grandmother might have characterised this book as "mutton dressed as lamb", but mutton well cooked can be appetising: despite my criticisms there are plenty of good things to be found here. …

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