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A Confusion of Tongues: Britain's Wars of Reformation, 1625-1642 [Hardcover]

Charles W. A. Prior

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Book Description

2 Feb 2012
A Confusion of Tongues examines the complex interaction of religion, history, and law in the period before the outbreak of the wars of the Three Kingdoms. It questions interpretations of that conflict that emphasise either the purely doctrinal roots of religious tension, or the processes by which the law gained primacy over the Church, in what amounted to a secular revolution. Instead, religion took its place among a range of constitutional issues that undermined the authority of Charles I in both England and Scotland.

Charles Prior offers a careful reconstruction of a number of printed debates on the nature of the relationship of church and realm: the introduction of altars into the Church of England; the Scottish National Covenant; and the legal consequences of the assertion of clerical power in a system of ecclesiastical courts. He reveals that these debates were concerned with the ambiguities of the relationship of civil and ecclesiastical power that were contained in the statutes that carved out the Church 'by law established'. Instead of being clearly separated as part of an 'Erastian' Reformation, religion and law were bound together in complex ways, and debates on the relationship of church and realm emerged as a vital conduit of political and constitutional thought. A Confusion of Tongues offers a synthetic and nuanced portrait of the politics of religion, and recovers the texture of contemporary debate at a vital point in early modern British history.

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Review

This is a significant contribution to scholarship concerning the bitter arguments over the Caroline church that preceded the Civil War. Prior brings to light so much interesting material and makes so many subtle points about the ecclesiological debates preceding the Civil War that it is impossible to address them all fairly here. Anyone interested in the subject needs to read this book. (William B. Robison, Journal of Church and State)

Prior provides a closely argued and densely documented history of ecclesiological politics in the decades preceding England's wars of religion. (David Cressy, Ecclesiastical History. Vol. 64.2)

Highly recommended. (CHOICE)

concise and elegant. (Dr Mark Williams, Reviews in History)

This is a challenging book, which eschews firm or clear conclusions but which invites the reader to experience the complexity of early Stuart debates. Readers will need to decide for themselves the significance of these debates, and may want to explore further their relationship to the broader history of the period. But Prior has drawn our attention to the confusion of the period in interesting ways, which will enrich future scholarship. (H-Net Reviews)

The subject matter is challenging but the topic is of central importance and Prior's work will be essential reading for anyone interested in the early Stuart period. (Tim Harris, Canadian Journal of History)

This is a significant contribution to scholarship concerning the bitter arguments over the Caroline church that preceded the Civil War ... Prior brings to light so much interesting material and makes so many subtle points about the ecclesiological debates preceding the Civil War ... Anyone interested in the subject needs to read this book. (William B. Robison, Journal of Church and State)

Aimed at advanced undergraduates and beyond, this interesting and scholarly book discusses debates concerning religion, the law, and church-state relations in Britain between the accession of Charles I and the outbreak of Civil War ... Individual chapters discuss important controversies concerning the church and religion (Johann P. Sommerville, Renaissance Quarterly)

Prior already has established his credentials as a historian of early Stuart English church history ... the considerable skill Prior deploys in guiding the reader through complex, highly nuanced debates and in at least posing a challenge for the ways in which historians have framed discussions about the nature of religious controversy within the Caroline Church of England. (Keith M. Brown, American Historical Review)

This thoughtful and meticulously researched book presents a thoughtful and penetrating analysis of the debates over ecclesiology in Caroline England. (Stefania Tutino, Recusant History)

About the Author

Charles W. A. Prior is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is editor of England's Wars of Religion, Revisited (2011), and author of Defining the Jacobean Church: The Politics of Religious Controversy, 1603-1625 (2005).

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