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Popular Politics and the English Reformation (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History) [Paperback]

Ethan H. Shagan
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Book Description

17 Oct 2002 Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History
This book is a study of popular responses to the English Reformation. It takes as its subject not the conversion of English subjects to a new religion but rather their political responses to a Reformation perceived as an act of state and hence, like all early modern acts of state, negotiated between government and people. These responses included not only resistance but also significant levels of accommodation, co-operation and collaboration as people attempted to co-opt state power for their own purposes. This study argues, then, that the English Reformation was not done to people, it was done with them in a dynamic process of engagement between government and people. As such, it answers the twenty-year-old scholarly dilemma of how the English Reformation could have succeeded despite the inherent conservatism of the English people, and it presents a genuinely post-revisionist account of one of the central events of English history.

Product details

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (17 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521525551
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521525558
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 844,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'What impresses me especially about this work is the way it tackles the vast array of intractable and often obscure primary sources. Shagan has proved to have an extraordinary nose for investigation in manuscript material; he has come up with some gems of neglected sources and has exploited them to the full. He has also acquired a sense of context: that indispensable sense of the shape of the English landscape, and how one area relates to another. In sum, this study will become a central statement in our understanding of the English Reformation.' Diarmaid MacCulloch, University of Oxford

'This book deserves careful reading because it challenges many accepted views and offers us a new angle from which to understand these momentous changes in our island's history.' Contemporary Review

'Shagan has presented a refashioned study of the ever-engrossing interplay between the governed and the governors of the early English Reformation.' Susan Wabuda, H-Albion

'This is one of the most important books ever written in its field and a must-read for specialists and students alike.' History

'… an important book … consistently intriguing.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History

'Ethan Shagan's new study of the early years of the English Reformation is a tour de fource. What Popular Politics and the English Reformation attempts to do is to take on and defeat a number of the revisionist shibboleths that have become largely accepted within current historical thinking on the English Reformation. [This book] is an excellent volume, well written, polemical and persuasive - a real contribution to our understanding of the early English Reformation.' Reformation

'This is unusually interesting, clever and learned book. … He must be congratulated on uncovering so much exciting and complicated detail on the huge canvas of sixteenth-century English religion.' Recusant History

Book Description

This is a study of popular responses to the English Reformation, analysing how ordinary people received, interpreted, debated, and responded to religious change. It differs from other studies by arguing that even at the popular level, political and theological processes were inseparable in the sixteenth century.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The centrepiece and actualising principle of the English Reformation was not a theological doctrine, like Luther's justification by faith alone, but an act of state: in November 1534, after years of extorting concessions from parliaments and clerical convocations, Henry VIII was endowed with the authority of 'supreme head of the Church of England'. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important and stimulating work. 18 Nov 2002
Ethan Shagan is to be congratulated on writing the first book of post-revisionist Reformation history.
In a direct challenge to Haigh's view of the Tudor 'juggernaut' state imposing a 'political' reformation from above on an uninterested populace, this study teases out the degree of subtle interplay between the objectives of the state and the aspirations of the 'meaner sort'.
By using concepts such as collaboration and accomodation Shagan is able to reveal the Reformation as part of the dialogue between the interests of the central authority and those of the populace generally, revealing the greater participation of 'the people' in the political process than has often been allowed.
As such it is part of an important body of recent work by scholars such as Andy Wood, Tim Harris, Steve Hindle and Alistair Bellany which is helping to illuminate Early Modern politics and society in new and exciting ways.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is brilliant 3 Jan 2007
By C-Rock - Published on Amazon.com
The fundamental question Ethan Shagan's book seeks to answer is how a government without a bureaucracy, police force, or standing army managed to affect the English Reformation. Shagan answers that it was an act of negotiation between the people and the government, an "act not done to the people [but] done with them" (25). Shagan's book represents one of the first post-revisionist attempts to understand the English Reformation. He eschews the most common questions asked by revisionist historians: To what extent was the Reformation a process of national conversion? Was that national conversion rapid from below or slow from above? When did England become a Protestant country? Instead of chasing these "phantasmagoric" questions, Shagan reconceptualizes the Reformation as "a piecemeal process in which politics and spiritual change were irrevocably intertwined" (7).To get at this process, Shagan examines court records, royal proclamations and propaganda, sermons, and theological tracts. Divided into three parts, Shagan's book looks at the political and social processes of Reformation from the Act of Supremacy (1534) to the end of Edward VI's reign in 1553.

"Popular politics" is a crucial term in Shagan's book because it identifies the locus where state and society negotiated Reformation. According to Shagan, revisionist historians have too often associated Reformation with theology, thereby leading them to discount the crucial process of politicization required for it to happen in the first place. Because the Reformation was an act of state, negotiated between it and the people, the concept of "resistance" is a problematic one. Instead, Shagan prefers to use the term "collaboration" to describe the interaction between the people and the government in making reform. However, just because it was central for the people to collaborate with the Tudor regime does not mean, according to Shagan, that the Reformation was popular. In fact, Part One, the Break with Rome and Crisis of Conservationism, goes to lengths to show that it was not. Chapter one, the most provocative of the three in this section focuses on debates over royal supremacy and argues that through its effective use of propaganda, the regime effectively politicized the Reformation making the prime issue not theology but loyalty. In doing this, the King divided opinion among between "conformist" and "non-conformist" Catholics, patronizing the former while making the latter traitors of the state.

Part II, Points of Contact: the Henrician Reformation and the English People, is divided into three chapters and looks at anti-clericalism, the dissolution of the monasteries, and public religious debate. These well-worn themes of English Reformation historiography are reexamined by Shagan with the intention of "analyzing [them] within the context of popular politics" (133). In doing so, Shagan removes these questions from the theological framework in which they have traditionally been analyzed and examines them in terms of how the Reformation fundamentally reordered the assumptions, which guided social behavior. Here, the example of the dissolution and spoliation of the abbey of Hailes is instructive because he shows how the members of the once traditional community "internalized" the rhetoric of the Reformation and plundered a once sacred building.

In part Three, Sites of Reformation: Collaboration and Popular Politics under Edward VI, Shagan looks at popular engagement with the Reformation during the Reign of Edward VI. In these two final chapters, Shagan most forcefully argues that the Reformation was brought about through a negotiation between people and state. He shows how the Edwardian government appealed to decidedly political and economic reasons in their quest for evangelical reform through the idiom of "commonwealth ideology." An especially interesting example, and one with which Shagan concludes his book, is the story of John Boller who was brought before the Star Chamber in 1550 for supposedly rejecting the king's authority to strip the parish altar at Highworth parish. However, according to a deposition made under oath, we find out that the real issue was not Boller's slandering of the King but the assertion of his right, as the farmer of the vicarage, to possess the recently dismantled altar stones. Shagan makes the point that in this case, the stripping of the altars does not represent all that was harmful and destructive in the English Reformation, as Eamon Duffy does, but shows how both individuals empowered themselves through co-opting the Reformation and how economic issues could be just as significant, if not more so, than confessional ones.
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