The Secularization of Early Modern England: From Religious Culture to Religious Faith / Edition 1

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Overview

Secularization is a subject of daunting size and is filled with ambiguity. Through the use of insights gained from anthropology and sociology, and by studying an earlier period than is usually considered, this provocative work overcomes the usual obstacles to exploring and explaining why various aspects of life--art, language, work, play, technology, and power--became divorced from religious values in early modern England. Sommerville helps modern readers understand what life was like in an age in which society was suffused with religion and was as basic to thought as the structure of language. Concentrating not only on a decline of religious belief, which is the last aspect of secularization, he shows that a transformation of England's cultural grammar preceded the loosening of belief, and that this was largely accomplished between 1500 and 1700, much earlier than commonly believed. Sommerville asserts that only when definitions of space and time changed, and language and technology were transformed (as well as art and play) could a secular world view be sustained. Demonstrating that the process was more political and theological than economic or social, Sommerville shows that as aspects of daily life became divorced from religious values and controls, religious culture was supplanted by religious faith--a reasoned, rather than an unquestioned, belief in the supernatural. The first large-scale treatment of the history of secularization, The Secularization of Early Modern England will greatly interest students of history, religion, sociology, anthropology, and literature.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Sommerville] sweeps generalizations from works on politics, language, anthropology, architecture, theater, and iconology into a readable and unfailingly suggestive narrative."—Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Sommerville's book is a useful summary...of the secularizing efforts of the Tudor and early Stuart governments. It also makes interesting connections between these political initiatives and some of the intellectual and artistic trends of the period."—Journal of Social History

"Sommerville has worked through the most recent historiography in an astonishing range of areas from politics to literature to journalism to music to technology and work, and his clear, judicious arguments wear this learning gracefully."—Choice

"This is a provocative and interesting book on a topic of fundamental importance to historians of early modern England. Its arguments are original and it offers a genuinely new approach to the religious history of the period."—Michael MacDonald, University of Michigan

"A good supplementary reader for an undergraduate or graduate course on the Tudor-Stuart period. By relating developments in religious thought and practice to changes in science, industry, government, philosophy, language, art, and politics, Sommerville underscores the importance of ideology in understanding the historical process."—The Historian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195074277
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/1992
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Florida, Gainesville
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Table of Contents

1 The Study of Secularization 3
2 The Secularization of Space 18
3 The Secularization of Time and Play 33
4 The Secularization of Language 44
5 The Politics of Secularization (1529-1603) 55
6 The Secularization of Technology and Work 72
7 The Secularization of Art 82
8 The Politics of Reaction (1603-1659) 98
9 The Secularization of Power 111
10 The Secularization of Personhood and Association 129
11 The Secularization of Scholarship and Science 144
12 Religious Responses to Secularization 165
13 Antecedents, Causes, and Conclusions 178
Notes 189
Index 221
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