The Reformation

The Reformation

by Diarmaid MacCulloch
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The Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch

The Reformation and the Counter-Reformation it provoked are one of the great discontinuities in European and world history. The dramatic changes that began when Martin Luther proclaimed his ninety-five theses in Wittenberg in 1517 were of a different order to anything that had gone before. In the following two hundred years, the Christian world broke apart and the nature not just of religion but also of politics, thought, society and culture all changed utterly. The course of history down to our own time has been decisively shaped by this revolution.

Diarmaid MacCulloch's magnificent new history is the most authoritative and wide-ranging account of these epochal and often bloody events. He brilliantly describes the changing late medieval world into which Luther, Calvin and the other reformers erupted. He proposes an original understanding of the often confusing origins of the exceptionally violent disagreements that divided men and women of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries -- disagreements for which they were prepared to kill and be killed. He examines the personalities of the leading Reformers and their opponents and the mix of ideas, prejudices and accidents that shaped the various versions of Protestantism and Catholicism.

But this is not simply a book about popes, scholars and reformers, religious battles and secular powers. MacCulloch examines the impact of the Reformation on everyday lives -- on sex and love, on the changing sense of being a man and being a woman, on beliefs about life after death and punishment in this life, on belief in witches and ghosts. He shows the power of ideas to ruin lives and rebuild them: to bring hope, fear, hatred, anger and joy to the humblest as well as the most exalted places on the continent.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143035381
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/28/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 864
Sales rank: 201,166
Product dimensions: 5.44(w) x 8.39(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Diarmaid MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University. His Thomas Cranmer (1996) won the Whitbread Biography Prize, the James Tait Black Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize; Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490-1700 (2004) won the Wolfson Prize and the British Academy Prize. A History of Christianity (2010), which was adapted into a six-part BBC television series, was awarded the Cundill and Hessel-Tiltman Prizes. His Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh were published in 2013 as Silence: A Christian History. His most recent television series (2015) was Sex and the Church. He was knighted in 2012.

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Reformation 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
PMurphy More than 1 year ago
The author implies the Roman Church wasn't that bad, and was on the way to reform on its own. MacCulloch majors in minor points of the period and ignores huge swaths of major figures and events. A perusal of the index indicates so little mention of such events as the Council of Constance (Konstanz, his reference), the impact of Wycliffe and Hus. Poor attempt to influence readers ignorant of the Reformation.
Marek More than 1 year ago
Despite the seemingly overwhelming appearance and possible dry subject matter, I found "The Reformation" to be informative and entertaining. To be honest it took a couple of tries for me to get past the first 100 pages or so and to get used to Mr. MacCulloch's writing style but once that was overcome I found him to have an entertaining dry sense of humor mixed with alot of information that a first time reader of this subject found interesting. I expected a strong anti-catholic point of view but found that the author was as adept at skewering Calvin and Luther as the Popes and the Jesuits. I'm sure this is not the ultimate book on the subject, but it has given me the desire to delve into this subject deeper and research different directions.
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This is a great book. We need it for the Nook
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Guest More than 1 year ago
MacCulloch's book is indeed a fine overview of the Reformation across Europe. But as regards Britain, he fails to understand the importance of the Reformation as an expression of our national sovereignty and independence. The Reformation in Britain was largely created by ordinary people, who had less emotional and financial investment in the old order than did the clergy and the landed class. The people of Britain opposed the Church¿s pomps, ceremonies, fasts and holy days, its cults of saints and veneration of images and relics, and its beliefs in ghosts, angels and demons. They opposed mysteries, signs and wonders, and obsessions with Dooms and Last Days. They opposed shrines and pilgrimages, indulgences (remissions of punishment for sins), pardons, the Latin Mass and the cult of intercession on behalf of the dead in Purgatory. They opposed the monastic ideal, which neglected the service of widows, children and the poor in the selfish quest of personal salvation. They opposed the hierarchical, compulsorily celibate, mediating priesthood, and a church hierarchy that claimed proprietorial rights over what people should think and believe. They opposed church decrees (canon law) and the power of the Pope. They forbade appeals to the Pope and payments such as annates and `Peter¿s pence¿. They opposed the claims of revealed religion and the all-embracing medieval Western church which sought to override the sovereignty and independence of Britain. They moved against the religious corporations, the Pope¿s fortresses, which ran vast estates and made huge profits. In 1535 the monasteries¿ total net income was £140,000, when the Crown¿s was £100,000. The monasteries were rentiers for two-thirds of their income, from whole estates put out to farm, from rents taken from smallholders, from tenements and from woods. Even their historian, Dom David Knowles, admitted, ¿monks and canons of England ¿ had been living on a scale of personal comfort and corporate magnificence ¿ which were neither necessary for, nor consistent with, the fashion of life indicated by their rule and early institutions.¿ By the Act of Supremacy of 1534, the monarch became the head of the Church of England, able to appoint its leading officials and determine its doctrine. The Church would no longer be a part of an international organisation, but a part of the British state, tamed and subordinate. Henry VIII permanently suspended the study of canon law in England¿s universities. A series of laws between 1532 and 1540 destroyed monastic life in England and Wales and in half of Ireland too. In 1535 Henry ordered visits to the smaller monastic houses to ensure that they ¿shall not show no reliques, or feyned miracles, for increase of lucre.¿ The Act of Suppression of 1536 ended 376 of the smaller houses. In 1538 Henry dissolved the friaries, which were centralised on the papacy. He dissolved the gilds, voluntary organisations where clergy prayed for the gild¿s membership. The Injunctions of 1538 opposed ¿wandering to pilgrimages, offering of money, candles or tapers to images or relics, or kissing or licking the same, saying over a number of beads, not understood or minded on.¿ In 1539 Henry suppressed the rest of the houses. The Injunction of 1547, Edward VI¿s first year, was to ¿destroy all shrines, covering of shrines, all tables, candlesticks, trindles or rolls of wax, pictures, paintings and all other monuments of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry and superstition.¿ The state finally dissolved the chantries - chapels where priests sang masses for the founder¿s soul - and abolished the laws against heresy. In the parishes of England, all that sustained the old devotion was attacked. The church furniture and images came down, the Mass was abolished, Mass-books and breviaries surrendered. The altars, veils and vestments, chalices and chests and hangings all were gone, the niches were empty and the walls were whitened. Land and properties w
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like this book, but I am nauseated by the Calvinist bias. The Catholic or Lutheran point of view is barely touched on and when it is, it is with a sneering, anti-Catholic, anti-Lutheran view. For example, the author uses the term 'the old church' for the Catholic church, which implies that it is not existing anymore or is passe. He doesn't acknowledge why a Catholic would want to remain Catholic. He doesn't admit how impractical 'the Bible alone' dogma has proved to be as the source of authority in governing the Protestants. I'm reading it because I want to see the Protestant side of the story, but the author is not at all sympathetic to the Catholic side of the story. Readers should also read a book with a Catholic bias, such as 'Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, a 2,000-Year History' or 'How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization' to get the other viewpoint. The issues of the Reformation won't make sense to the reader without reading other books on the topic, such as Salvation Controversy by James Akin, which presents the Catholic point of view of what the Bible says about it. This book seems to glorify the splintering of Christendom into the disunity of Christianity we have today. It shows no grief about this or concern for the effect this has had on society and the disintegration into the relativism we have today. The author justifies the split with the 'abuse theory' that says it was 'the old church's' fault, when the abuse was happening on all sides. It's like he gives one side of the divorce story without telling the other spouse's side. As a pre-Vatican II Catholic, I can see why the traditions such as 40-hours devotion, communion rails, elevation of the host, etc became so entrenched. They were reactions to the times.