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Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor [Hardcover]

Eamon Duffy
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: 22.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

8 May 2009
The reign of Mary Tudor has been remembered as an era of sterile repression, when a reactionary monarch launched a doomed attempt to reimpose Catholicism on an unwilling nation. Above all, the burning alive of more than 280 men and women for their religious beliefs seared the rule of 'Bloody Mary' into the protestant imagination, as an alien aberration in the onward and upward march of the English-speaking peoples. In this controversial reassessment, a leading reformation historian argues that Mary's regime was neither inept nor backward-looking. Led by the Queen's cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole, Mary's church dramatically reversed the religious revolution imposed under the child king Edward VI. Inspired by the values of the European Counter-Reformation, the cardinal and the queen reinstated the papacy and launched an effective propaganda campaign through pulpit and press. Even the most notorious aspect of the regime, the burnings, proved devastatingly effective. Only the death of the childless queen and her cardinal on the same day in November 1558 brought the protestant Elizabeth to the throne, and thereby changed the course of English history.

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Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor + The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition - Second Impression edition (8 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300152167
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300152166
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 15.6 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 219,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"... refreshingly different." -- Good Book Guide, July 2009

"...sensitive to its subject-matter but unflinching in its conclusion ... Fires of Faith ... is rich in anecdote ... authoritative, animated, controversial." -- John Cooper, Church Times, 3rd July 2009

"...serves an important purpose...brings us much closer to an elusive goal: a rounded history of the Marian church."
-- Jon Wright, BBC History Magazine, 1st June 2009

"...we must rely on historians...to piece together what happened. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it." -- Nigel Nelson, Tribune, 19th June 2009

"Scholarly yet eminently readable...proves his unsurpassed ability to combine stellar academic credentials with the capacity to write engagingly." -- James Kelly, Catholic Times, 5th July 2009

"... a dazzling exercise in historical reappraisal, after which the reign of Mary Tudor will never look quite the same again."
-- Peter Marshall, TLS, 22 July 2009

"... a short, evidence-packed book, exceptionally well provided with illustrations and maps ... [a] rewarding book." -- Lucy Beckett, Spectator Book Club, 17th June 2009

"... a skilled and convincing piece of historical polemic ... an important book... [which] argues a pivotal case... a gripping read." -- Lucy Wooding, Times Higher Education, 18th June 2009

"... despite the title ... it is the work on Pole which is the most exciting."
-- Alec Ryrie, The Tablet, 29th May 2009

"Mary's ... reign can now, thanks to [a] brilliant mastery of the details, be, if not forgiven, at least understood." -- Christopher Howse, Daily Telegraph, 12th June 2009


"... a skilled and convincing piece of historical polemic ... an important book... [which] argues a pivotal case... a gripping read."

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fires of Faith 24 July 2009
I chose this because of a lingering interest in Tudor history from my student days, and the fact that I had recently read another book (Faith of our Fathers) by Eamon Duffy. So, coming to this book as a general reader, how was it? Very interesting! Not only did it reawaken long-dead knowledge, it made me very much aware of prevailing "fashions" in history and the need to be open to new perspectives on the past. I remembered again what drew me to study history all those years ago!
From a student's perspective, I would think that this text is a valuable contribution when reassessing the impact of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in England. It is, I feel, a balanced account. He is not trying to excuse the inexcusable, and it is definitely not a pro-Mary rant! Eamon Duffy has painted a picture of aspects of the Catholic revival in the reign of Mary which goes some way to expose several of the sweeping generalisations and overwhelmingly negative appraisals of the past, while pointing his readers towards a number of historians who, like him, are currently engaged in re-evaluating the evidence soberly and justly.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fires of Faith 4 Aug 2009
By Robert Archer VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book and one that needed to be written. With exhaustive research and an unbiased appraisal of the facts the author has succeeded in producing a book with a wide-ranging appeal.
The book confronts many unpalatable facts about the Marian renewal of Catholicism in England (some 300 people killed for their refusal to renounce their faith) but 16th century England is not today. The fear of harbouring enemies within our midst still exists. When Mary came to the throne in 1553 England was, despite Edward`s actions, still predominantly a Catholic country. The battle between the old and the new faith was real-man`s soul was at (often literally) stake. However, Mr Duffy carefully examines the role and importance of `the word`. Whether in the pulpit or the pamphlet argument is demonstrably seen to have been a vital weapon.
This is a book to be read for its historical interest of a formative period in England and for the legacy which reaches down to us to today
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER
Mary I can be considered England's first undisputed female sovereign. In her five years as Queen (1553-1558), Mary repealed Edward VI's religious laws, re-established Catholicism, and burned 283 (or 284) Protestant martyrs, earning herself the name `Bloody Mary'. Her reign is often seem simply as a cruel and ultimately futile attempt to return England to Catholicism (for which an heir was required) or, at least, to arrest England's progress towards becoming a Protestant nation (which was inevitable once her half-sister Elizabeth was definitely her only heir). But is this a fair assessment of Mary I's reign?

In this book, Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge, argues that the management of the return to Catholicism was not ineptly handled. Instead, Professor Duffy puts forward a case that the process (largely driven by Reginald Pole, Cardinal and the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury) was well planned, and the arrangements put in place were both sensible and practical. Unfortunately, for Mary I's place in history, five years was not sufficient time to bed down these reforms and the pall cast by the burnings overshadows the fact that the Protestantism installed during Edward VI's reign was opportunistic, confused and destructive. The widely held view of Mary is also a consequence of the ultimate victory of Protestantism in England: history is written by the victors.

But looking beyond the fact of the Reformation to the possible causes of it (did the Roman Catholic Church need reforming, or did Henry VIII break with Rome simply to marry Anne Boleyn?) introduces some different possibilities for looking at Mary I's reign.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fires of Faith 8 Aug 2009
By gd
This book is a must read for anyone interested in taking a fresh look at the reign of Queen Mary. Written in an accessible and clear, yet factually rich style, Fires of Faith brings alive many aspects of this fascinating era. Such an account was very much overdue.
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By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 REVIEWER
Reassessing the reign of Mary Tudor was always going to be a tough assignment, even for Eamon Duffy, probably the doyen among historians of English Catholicism. The common view of Mary's reign is of a period marked, as the book's front jacket flap observes, by `sterile repression' and `a doomed attempt to impose Catholicism on an unwilling nation'. Can it have any redeeming features ? Duffy's serious reappraisal makes a strongish case for this being so. And while the burning of `heretics' like Leicester serving-man Thomas More for `refusing to acknowledge the presence of Christ in the pyx' (132) offends, even mystifies, modern sensibilities, Duffy carefully and repeatedly emphasises the horror of such episodes while sketching out the regime's perceived political justification for them. It's a difficult and not entirely successful balancing act: I felt the evidence for Cardinal Pole being a reluctant enforcer of his own policy was rather less than conclusive, for example.

Where the author is more successful is in depicting the seriousness with which Pole and his senior clergy set about preaching (a hitherto under-emphasised aspect of the Cardinal's career) and teaching both the laity and parish clergy; in making the intellectual argument for papal supremacy; and in propagandising for the faith. Duffy was, for me, especially interesting on Pole's encouragement both of devotional literature and pamphleteering: he analyses in detail the reception of Miles Hogarde's work upbraiding Protestants for their `criminal eagerness' in being prepared to die for their `brainsick fantasies' (175), and resurrects for our attention Archdeacon Harpsfield's life of (Henry VIII's Chancellor and proto-Catholic martyr) Thomas More, which enjoyed great popularity when published in January 1557.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I see the Catholics are still apologising.i
Published 1 month ago by Stuff up.
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb work
I write as a layman, not a scholar; but so far as I can judge this is a serious, substantial, and balanced reappraisal of the notorious events of the reign of Mary Tudor, which... Read more
Published on 29 Sep 2010 by ECD
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if a little polemical
I am no expert of any sort on the period or the issues but bought this because it seemed an interesting subject and I was well rewarded. Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2010 by Mr. Adrian Mcmenamin
5.0 out of 5 stars Another engaging and informative work by Eamon Duffy
As always, exceptionally informative and engaging [Eamon Duffy writes very well:] look at the Reformation from the Catholic side. Read more
Published on 8 Jun 2010 by I. Holder
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study
This is an excellent and very well researched study of the religious situation in Mary's reign; it challenges some popular conceptions and misconceptions about the attitudes and... Read more
Published on 28 May 2010 by Mr. Michael Peter Moloney
1.0 out of 5 stars Eamon Duffy - A Catholic Apologia
Well Eamon Duffy purports to be a historian. A revisionist more likely. He could just as well justify Hitler's murder of Jews, Stalin's murders of Russians in exactly the same way... Read more
Published on 3 Feb 2010 by classicstrings
2.0 out of 5 stars A Question of Momentum
Duffy has a flowing rhetorical style which can easily carry the reader along but Foxe is not the only one to write with 'partisan artistry' and perhaps some caution is called... Read more
Published on 6 Nov 2009 by manfriday
1.0 out of 5 stars a disgraceful book
This book is essentially an apologia for the Catholic inquisition. Its a despicable thesis dressed up with appropriate research and taking an unabashidly Roman Catholic world... Read more
Published on 29 Sep 2009 by Tim Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars bloody mary,no less bloody.
Duffy"s new book is a superb interpretation and explanation of a very controversial period in English history. Read more
Published on 16 Aug 2009 by Malcolm Sinclair
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