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The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580 Paperback – 11 Mar 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2nd edition (11 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300108281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300108286
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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76 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Newsletta Chick on 24 Feb 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is not only meticulously researched and exhaustive on all the minutiae of common piety in late medieval/early modern England, it is far more readable and absorbing than such a weighty tome has any right to be. Duffy recreates a lost world in a way that is sensitive and sympathetic - the characters in the brief sketches he can offer from the sources become real people to us. Real quality.
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106 of 121 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Jan 2000
Format: Paperback
During the last 30 years there has been a revolution in our thinking about the 16th century English church. This has been the result of a vast body of and also a great deal of cross-referring to other primary sources, including the church buildings themselves. One of the richest fruits of all this research is this extraordinary book, which manages to capture in less than a thousand pages the full panoply of pre-Reformation liturgy and life, and how it was effectively destroyed by the reformers. This study and others like it confront head-on the received tradition of a moribund and corrupt medieval English church 'rescued' by the Reformation. This tradition arose largely from the enthusiasm of the Oxford Movement, and the Anglican revival for which it was responsible. This harnessed popular anti-Catholic prejudice in the 19th century, to create the illusion of a modern Church of England which had evolved naturally from the church of St Augustine and the mind of the medieval liturgy, stripped of its corruption and excesses. The Reformation was presented by these people as a smooth, evolutionary process, whereby roods, wallpaintings, etc., were removed from churches in the 16th century because of 'new liturgical practices' that no longer required them. Any idea that the Reformation in England was a violent and unpopular fracture was quietly lost. The obvious destruction that had taken place in English parish churches was most often attributed to the ultra-protestant Puritans of a century later. Duffy, however, documents in some detail how the churches of England were comprehensively wrecked between 1538 and 1553, and then again after Elizabeth I's accession in 1558. He uses documentary evidence to show how this happened in specific churches, particularly in East Anglia.Read more ›
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER on 5 Aug 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have owned this book for several years, and while I have used it quite a few times for referencing and finding information, this is the first time I have read it from cover to cover.

It is an interesting book, in that it attempts to explain how the `ordinary' people of the time (1400-1580) `lived' their religion - what they were required to learn, to do, how they were required to show their faith. It was of course a time of great change in England, with the Henrician Reformation, Edward VI, the attempt to return to Catholicism under Mary and the somewhat less fervent religion of Elizabeth I.

What must be borne in mind when reading this is that the author is a staunch Catholic, and this is quite evident throughout the book - sadly, it means that I felt some of the writing needed to be taken with some scepticism, or a healthy dose of temperance anyway.

But this does not detract from the book being both informative and interesting, though you may find yourself feeling that the author has overstated somewhat some of his conclusions, particularly about the vibrancy and reality of Catholic faith in the fifteenth century. I felt you needed to question `conformity' versus `conviction' while reading some of this book; what really motivated many (though certainly not all) English people in their faith. And I'm not sure that Margery Kempe can really be continually referred to as any kind of `normal' English Catholic of the time. I think she would have stood out in any period of history as being somewhat outside the average believer.

A good and worthwhile read. Just don't accept it as the only view on this time in English religious history.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Feb 2010
Format: Paperback
This is one of those books for which the term `magisterial' can be used with complete justification. As a study of popular religion at the time of the Reformation, it's awesome in the breadth of its coverage, enquiring into areas as diverse as the guilds, the cult of the saints, the use of primers to inculcate knowledge of Scripture, the ways in which faith was reflected in Wills, populist preaching and much else. Its conclusion - that faith was much more alive and genuine than has long been thought - is, on the compendious evidence Duffy supplies, amply justified.

The second half of the book paints this popular religion onto the broader political canvas of Henry VIII's reforms, as consolidated by Edward VI and then countermanded by Mary. I thought Duffy was especially interesting on how the language of Wills, especially under Edward VI, disguised obdurate Catholicism in a kind of `civil disobedience' from beyond the grave. The fascinating section on the reforms (under Mary) of Cardinal Pole highlighted what, for me, was the book's one frustration: the failure to clearly depict how a Catholic strand of concern for social justice (as evidenced in the work of Pole) manifested itself in the life of the people. For example, how (if at all) opposition to the burning of `heretics' (either under Henry or Mary) was resisted. But this minor critique aside, a fascinating and mighty tome, surely destined to be the standard `revisionist' text on the period for a generation to come.
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