Reformation England 1480-1642

February 28, 2013

Author: Peter Marshall
Edition: Second
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 2
Price: £22.99
ISBN: 9781849665292

When the first edition of Peter Marshall’s Reformation England 1480-1642 was published in 2003, the idea of the Long Reformation was still relatively novel. But the notion soon caught on: in 2004, Peter Wallace wrote The Long European Reformation, which extended the chronological boundaries by more than a century at both ends. The approach was more startling to some early modernists than it was to medievalists, many of the latter having long appreciated that Marshall’s sensible new approach was the right one. As I am forever telling students, the 16th-century reformers were the first truly successful heretics. Marshall convincingly portrayed the Reformation as a process rather than an event, taking it up to the English Civil War, which in recent years has prompted greater emphasis on religious causation. Yet his book remains (noting Wallace’s and, more recently, Diarmaid MacCulloch’s European dimension) unique in its chronological parameters - something that ensures its important position in the field of Reformation studies.

This second edition has been expanded and rewritten, primarily to take account of the plethora of recent research on the Reformation, such as George Bernard’s influential 2005 work The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church; it is a necessary update, as a central consideration of this textbook is how historians have interpreted - and continue to interpret - the reform process. (The coverage of the secondary works is strikingly comprehensive.) In this regard, Marshall warns against premature celebrations of a post-confessional stage in research: this caution remains pertinent as studying the Reformation has always allowed for a broad combination of approaches - Catholic, Protestant, radical, conservative, economic and so forth. Students will find the historiographical elements of this book useful, not least with the liberal labelling and identification of “traditionalist”, “revisionist” and “counter-revisionist” viewpoints, tempered by Marshall’s sensible advice to the reader that this classification can oversimplify matters. Marshall’s own position tends to be equable and median, avoiding antagonistic elements. Thus the Henrician Reformation “was not a Protestant Reformation, nor in any meaningful sense ‘Catholicism without the pope’”.

The second edition retains the structure of the first. The chronologically sequenced chapters emphasise the staccato nature of the Reformation’s progress in England, while thematic subheadings break the chapters down into easily manageable chunks that aid students in engaging with academic controversies and debates, updated to include new interpretations of Henry’s reign, the Marian counter-reformation, Puritanism and more. It also encompasses new “multimedia” cultural research, especially into music. Students will find the introductions and conclusions to each chapter helpful, as they will the additions of a timeline and glossary. Only the absence of longer primary sources (not part of the remit of the series of which it is a part) prevents this book from being the complete package. It nonetheless retains its enviable position as an indispensable and thought-provoking textbook.

Who is it for?
Undergraduates studying early modern history.

Presentation:
Clear, both in its main text and abundant referencing.

Would you recommend it?
Yes. It is a vital text for the historiography of the subject and a profitable investment.

 

Recommended

Dominion: England and its Island Neighbours 1500-1707
Author:
Derek Hirst
Edition: First
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 334
Price: £55.00 and £18.99
ISBN: 9780199535361 and 35378

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