In July 1876, three girls in Marpingen, Germany, claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared to them. Blackbourn (history, Harvard) has deftly mined a host of sources both pro and con, official and private, that sets the event in the context of Bismarkian Germany and the Kulterkampf that pitted the state against the Catholic Church. Much of the conflict arose from the clash of cultures: "ignorant" peasants against the progressive, liberal statesmen; Protestant against Catholic. Combining history, sociology, psychology, and religion, Blackbourn gives us a picture, seen from several perspectives, of one small German town at a critical period, and, at the same time, examines the wider significance of what at first glance would seem an insignificant, parochial event. Recommended for both general and specialized collections.-Augustine Curley, Newark Abbey, N.J.