4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2014
This book by Peter Marshall, in the excellent OUP Short Introduction series, is superb. The Reformation can be a broad, diffuse and often contentious subject and Marshall handles its various elements very clearly and fairly. He takes no particular partisan stance and this will make the book equally acceptable to Protestant and Catholic alike. He accepts that although dating the start of the Reformation is fairly easy with Luther and a few notable predecessors, deciding when it ended is more of an issue. Marshall takes us through the causes and development of the Reformation's various stages from the church-reforming 'blunt instrument' of Luther to the 'sniper-rifle' precision theology of Calvin. He explains the disagreements between Lutherans and Calvinists and how they each influenced the history of Europe in different ways, not least in the Catholic Counter-Reformation that they unleashed. He traces the impact of the reformed churches and their interactions with the state, and summarises this well at the end. Marshall also examines specific themes relating to the Reformation and its world-view on things: art, theatre, music, witchcraft and others. He makes the link between how what was produced by the Reformation interlinked with the development of the Enlightenment, a more secularly driven movement, and his series of paradoxes at the end of the book may bring a wry smile too. Not all movements achieve quite what they set out to. This is a brilliant survey of the Reformation and one of the very best of the Short Introduction series.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The Reformation is one of the pivotal moments in all of World History, and not just history of Religion. It encompassed almost all of the Christendom, and its ramifications had been felt far beyond it. Most Christians today live in the palpable shadow of Reformation, and yet very few are completely aware of its extent and history. Although the full history is probably beyond any single book's reach, this very short introduction provides us with an excellent and informative overview. One of the things that I like the most about this book is the fact that it doesn't treat reformation in vacuum, but it rather puts it in context of other political and religious upheavals of the 16th and 17th centuries. It also doesn't make the (protestant) reformation as much of a discontinuity as most people have come to think of it over the past few centuries, but it rather points out many points of contact and continuity within and without the Catholic Church in late Middle Ages. In fact, there is such a thing as Catholic reformation and this book dedicates a considerable amount of space to it. The book shuns two extreme views of reformation - as a completely societal development and as a purely religious one. It acknowledges the great importance that religion had in people's lives at the time, which can be very counterintuitive to many people today, but it also doesn't downplay the purely secular considerations as well. In fact, the distinction between the two would have been very hard to grasp for people at that time. The book also talks about the major figures of Protestant Reformation - Luther, Calvin and Zwingli - and discusses the contributions that each one of them made. The timeframe that this book covers is approximately that of late 15th century until the early 18th. As it is quite obvious, this is a lot of history to put in a single book, but Peter Marshall does a remarkable job of accentuating the highlights of that period that pertain to Reformation and does so with remarkable ease. The result is a book that is very readable and informative, and a good stepping stone for further exploration of this fascinating subject.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2010
Refreshingly clear and balanced, insightful, precise and comprehensive, witty - excellent! In fact, I would say this little book is the best introduction to the 'Reformation' that I have read to date. (Perhaps not as strong in the theological section as the other sections in the book.)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2015
I haven't yet finished reading it hence not 5 stars yet but up to now I have learnt so much. The Reformation was a bit of history I new little about and this book has been so interesting to me. As a descendant of the Huguenots I knew little about them let alone the fact that the very word Huguenot is a nickname!! I'll keep reading - maybe more surprises
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2013
Used this book as background for essay, very helpful, full of very helpful information in a concise way. would recomend