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

By Eric Josef Carlson | Go to book overview

DISCIPLINE and PUNISH? MAGISTRATES AND CLERGY IN EARLY REFORMATION NORWICH

Muriel C. McClendon

IN THE HISTORY OF THE EUROPEAN REFORMATION, towns have received considerable scholarly attention. Urban areas had high concentrations of population that were usually more literate than the populations of their surrounding countrysides. Towns were also significant centers of communication, and many were important ecclesiastical centers where a variety of religious institutions were located. These features made them, generally speaking, more receptive to the Protestant message and also allowed them to serve as bases for evangelization.1 In England towns have also been credited with a special role in the reception of the Reformation, but their position was somewhat different from continental cities.2

None of the cities in England, except London, could compare in size and complexity to their continental counterparts. Moreover, English towns did not have political independence similar to that enjoyed by the German Imperial cities. English towns, even the capital city of London, were reliant on the Crown for the continued exercise of their political privileges. Many provincial communities also found it advantageous to seek the patronage of a local gentleman or aristocrat who they hoped would look after their interests when at court or in Parliament. This enmeshment in a larger political,

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1
For a recent discussion of these issues, see Bob Scribner, "A Comparative Overview," in The Reformation in National Context, ed. Bob Scribner, Roy Porter, and Mikulas Teich ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), esp. 219-223. An example of a European town that was not particularly receptive to the Reformation may be found in R. W. Scribner, "Why was there no Reformation in Cologne?" in idem, Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany ( London and Ronceverte, W.Va.: Hambledon Press, 1987).
2
On the role of towns in the English Reformation see for example, Patrick Collinson, The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries ( London: Macmillan, 1988), 32-36, and Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics and Society under the Tudors ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 197-198, 272-274.

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