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Diarmaid MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University. He is the author of Thomas Cranmer, winner of the Whitbread Prize, the James Tait Black Prize, and the Duff Cooper Prize; Christianity, a New York Times bestseller that won the Cundill Prize in History and was chosen by The New Yorker and The New York Times as a Best Book of the Year; and Silence: A Christian History. The Reformation won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Wolfson Prize, and the British Academy Prize A Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society, he was knighted by the Queen for his services to scholarship.
Many standard histories of Christianity chronicle the Reformation as a single, momentous period in the history of the Church. According to those accounts, a number of competing groups of reformers challenged a monolithic and corrupt Roman Catholicism over issues ranging from authority and the role of the priests to the interpretation of the Eucharist and the use of the Bible in church. In this wide-ranging, richly layered and captivating study of the Reformation, MacCulloch challenges traditional interpretations, arguing instead that there were many reformations. Arranging his history in chronological fashion, MacCulloch provides in-depth studies of reform movements in central, northern and southern Europe and examines the influences that politics and geography had on such groups. He challenges common assumptions about the relationships between Catholic priests and laity, arguing that in some cases Protestantism actually took away religious authority from laypeople rather than putting it in their hands. In addition, he helpfully points out that even within various groups of reformers there was scarcely agreement about ways to change the Church. MacCulloch offers valuable and engaging portraits of key personalities of the Reformation, including Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin. More than a history of the Reformation, MacCulloch's study examines its legacy of individual religious authority and autonomous biblical interpretation. This spectacular intellectual history reminds us that the Reformation grew out of the Renaissance, and provides a compelling glimpse of the cultural currents that formed the background to reform. MacCulloch's magisterial book should become the definitive history of the Reformation. (May 3) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Does the world really need another general history of the Reformation? MacCulloch (history of the Church, Oxford Univ.; Thomas Cranmer: A Life, etc.) thinks so, believing that contemporary scholarship needs wider dissemination. To that end, he has produced the definitive survey for this generation. As in similar studies, religious and political disputes are covered thoroughly. What sets this work apart is the sweep of its coverage, both geographically (from Britain and Ireland in the west to Poland and Lithuania in the east) and chronologically (1490-1700). Also noteworthy is the attention to the movement's social impact on such diverse topics as calendar reform, colonization, family life and sex roles, homosexuality, witchcraft, and more. This well-written book is a joy to read, with new facts and interpretations on nearly every page; still, the work's size and information density will make it slow going for those without a basic knowledge of the subject. With that caveat, this is highly recommended for larger public libraries and academic library collections in European and Christian history. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/03.]-Christopher Brennan, SUNY Coll. at Brockport Lib. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Praise for The Reformation "This isn't merely 'a history' of the Reformation, but rather 'the history.' One would be hard put to imagine a more detailed, even-handed, clearly written account of the religious controversies of the sixteenth century. . . . The Reformation is a learned, enlightening, and disturbing masterwork." --Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World "Richly encyclopedic . . . MacCulloch brings the history of the Reformation into vivid focus, providing what must surely be the best general account available." --Financial Times "Monumental . . . The Reformation is set to become a landmark." --Lisa Jardine, The Observer "Handled here with brilliance, this is the kind of history that normally gives even academic historians vertigo." --The Economist "Deserves to become the standard history of early modern Europe religion and its legacy, synthesizing and assessing a quarter-century of international scholarship . . . Like the best of historians, he helps us to understand why we are; and why we need not be so." --Ronald Hutton, The Independent "Wide-ranging, richly layered and captivating . . . This spectacular intellectual history reminds us that the Reformation grew out of the Renaissance, and provides a compelling glimpse of the cultural currents that formed the background to reform. MacCulloch's magisterial book should become the definitive history of the Reformation." --Publishers Weekly (starred review) "A masterpiece of readable scholarship . . . In its field it is the best book ever written." --David Edwards, The Guardian "From Politics to witchcraft, from the liturgy to sex; the sweep of European history covered here is breathtakingly panoramic. This is a model work of history." --Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph "Excellent . . . There are moments of sheer pleasure. . . . MacCulloch's well-paced style makes the book seem half its length." --Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, The Sunday Times