Religion and the English People, 1500-1640: New Voices, New Perspectives

By Eric Josef Carlson | Go to book overview

CASSANDRA BANISHED? NEW RESEARCH ON RELIGION IN TUDOR AND EARLY STUART ENGLAND

Eric Josef Carlson

HAS CASSANDRA REPLACED CLIO as the muse of history--at least, as the muse of Tudor and early Stuart historians? At a recent conference, Dr. Paul Hammer delivered a paper with the revealing title "The 'Thin' State of Elizabethan Historiography"1 in which he voiced from the podium a version of the sentiments which many historians had been muttering more privately for some time: that the field seemed virtually moribund, that nothing new and interesting was being done. With the death of Professor Sir Geoffrey Elton and the retirements of a number of leading Tudor scholars such as Professor Wallace MacCaffrey and Professor Patrick Collinson, it seemed that many were anxious about the future and what new directions research would take.

During the first half of the 1990s, scholarship on religion in early modern England has, indeed, been dominated historiographically by what are now some rather old arguments. The two books which have garnered the most attention and dominated debate during those years are those of Eamon Duffy and Christopher Haigh.2 Both books essentially develop a revisionist argument which has been well known for more than a decade: that the Reformation in England was basically unwanted and unpopular,

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1
Paper delivered at the North American Conference of British Studies meeting, Washington, D.C., October 1995.
2
Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992); Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics and Society under the Tudors ( Oxford. Clarendon Press, 1993). Duffy's book is the most often-cited book in the footnotes of the essays in this volume.

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