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The Reformation: A History

by Diarmaid MacCulloch

Library Journal 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.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly 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.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal What made the Reformation so powerful? Ask this award-winning historian. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list In the West, religious conviction is generally viewed as a private matter, and tolerance is enshrined in our secular creed. So it may seem incomprehensible that a few centuries ago Europeans enthusiastically slaughtered each other over what, today, seem trivial doctrinal differences. MacCullouch, an Oxford University professor, makes clear in this comprehensive and superbly written history of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation that men of the sixteenth century did not regard these differences as trivial. He seamlessly weaves his account of religious differences into the fabric of political disputes between German princes, the papacy, and monarchs of nation-states. In his portraits of the major personalities, including Luther, Calvin, and Ignatius of Loyola, it is striking that most of them claimed to desire a return to a purer or more catholic Christianity as envisioned by the church fathers. This is an outstanding work that examines fairly and objectively a definitive epoch in the history and spiritual development of the Western world. --Jay Freeman Copyright 2004 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Choice This book is expansive in both size and scope. MacCulloch (Oxford Univ.) attempts in one volume to reclaim the broad strokes of narrative history and examine one of the key moments in the history of the West. He looks not only at Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, but also at the impact of the Reformation in Poland and Hungary and other less-well-known places. The scope of the book is one of its best selling points, but also one of its great weaknesses. The book is, frankly, too long for practical use as a text in an undergraduate class and not in-depth enough in any one area to be of use in a graduate course. For example, MacCulloch makes a one-sentence reference to the fact that the idea of Reformation verses Reformations is quite current in scholarly fields, but then says that he's going to stick with convention. Why? No explanation is given. Likewise the footnotes and the bibliography leave much to be desired. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers. D. M. Whitford Claflin University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.