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Thomas Cranmer: A Life [Paperback]

Diarmaid Macculloch
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
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Book Description

4 Dec 1997
This prizewinning biography provides the definitive account of Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, architect of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, King Henry VIII's guide through three divorces, and ultimately a martyr for his Protestant faith. English Reformation scholar Diarmaid MacCulloch draws on new manuscript sources in Britain and elsewhere to create this vivid new study -- the first on Cranmer in over thirty years."This book looks marvelous -- extremely good to read as well as being a definitive biography". -- Robert Harris, The Times (London)"This lucidly written, deeply researched and surprisingly accessible biography of the man who served Henry VIII as Archbishop of Canterbury ... ably explores both Cranmer's drive and his persistent doubts". -- Allen D. Boyer, New York Times Book Review"At last we have the truth about Archbishop Cranmer, the most controversial bigwig in the history of the English Church.... The best biography of Cranmer, sympathetic and candid about Cranmer's shortcomings". -- A.L. Rowse, Evening Standard"Definitive....An intellectual biography of a man whose most dramatic personal moments, despite the blood-letting all around him, took place in his mind and soul". -- Stuart Ferguson, Wall Street Journal

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Product details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (4 Dec 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300074484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300074482
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.6 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 276,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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THIS BOOK TELLS A man's life-story, and tries to do it as far as possible in sequence. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
76 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent treatment of a great Archbishop 9 Mar 2002
Format:Paperback
Thomas Cranmer was one of the inexperienced of all the 103 Archbishops of Canterbury when he was elevated from his brief tenure as Archdeacon of Taunton, after 20 years as a don at Cambridge, however despite this was to prove one of the most significant occupants of St Augustine's throne: his liturgy, the Act of 39 Articles, most of them identical to his 42 Articles, and the Royal Supremacy remain on the statute book to this day. In this magnificent and beautifully written book, MacCullock weaves together the theological and political parts of Cranmer's life, and provides a comprehensive account as to how these two motivations, often in conflict, impacted upon him.
Thomas Cranmer is a complex character, and MacCullock deals fully with his contradictions: burning with hatred for the heresies of Rome, yet unusually (for the times) compassionate and often forgiving to his critics; uncertain and treading a very cautious path with Henry VIII, yet showing an absolute determination to push the Church of England towards a more evangelical perspective whenever he was given a free hand; weakened and broken by his imprisonment, yet finally triumphant in his last denunciation of all that Mary's church stood for. MacCullock clearly admires the Archbishop, but this does not make him blind to his faults: in praise or censure however he always presents all of Cranmer's actions in their political and theological context.
While the book is fully comprehensive on the political aspects of the mid 16th century, where MacCullock really stands out in is his detailed and highly precise awareness of theological controversies of the time. MacCullock has studied a vast array of 16th century theologians, and examined how they fitted into Cranmer's life.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
MacCulloch has penned a prodigious and comprehensive biography of Thomas Cranmer. Serious questions about the development of his thought, theology and ecclesiology are given special attention. These are cast in relations to the contemporary political (local and international) situtations to better enable a reader to understand the man, his times and his influence. Given the stages over which the Henrician and Edwardian church reformations progressed, understanding Cranmer's central and guiding actions seems to be MacCulloch strongest sections. Emphasis, then, on Cranmer's central work in life is properly and comprehensively treated, without being severely colored by all that has been penned about his final days. Nevertheless, MacCulloch has done a convincing job of helping one to see Cranmer's sincerity of reform purposes, his pragmatic concerns about the pace of change, his understanding of the needs of commonfolk (as opposed to the middle and upper classes), his fierce opposition to established orders (friers and, later, radicals [nonconformists]). Especially instuctive is the secion on Cranmer's Prayer Book writing purpose, style and method, his borrowings, his innovations, and his synthses. For a 600 page, book, I found it a thoroughly compelling reading experience from first to last (about 6 days).
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive biography 15 Nov 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Traditionally, one is to give something up or take something on as a Lenten discipline. I did the latter, albeit inadvertently. Around Ash Wednesday of 1998, I began Darmaid MacCulloch's magisterial biography of Thomas Cranmer (Yale University Press 1996). I finished this magnificent tome on Holy Saturday. As the time passed, I came to realize that this Lent was for me a time to study a key figure in the Church and compare his often--to modern Episcopalians-- unorthodox theology against what I have come to believe.
Thomas Cranmer is a pillar of Episcopal history (and hagiography). One literally cannot participate in a Sunday service without reciting or hearing his words. In 1549, he compiled the first Book of Common Prayer. Many of the collects we say are either his original compositions or alterations upon existing texts. MacCulloch says of the Collects:
There is little doubt we owe him [Cranmer] the present form of the sequence of eighty-four seasonal collects and a dozen or so further examples embedded elsewhere in the 1549 services: no doubt either that these jewelled miniatures are one of the chief glories of the Anglican liturgical tradition, a particularly distinguished development of the genre of brief prayer which is peculiar to the Western Church. Their concise expression has not always won unqualified praise, especially from those who consider that God enjoys extended addresses from his creatures; but they have proved one of the most enduring vehicles of worship in the Anglican communion.
To me, today, the Collects focus and gather the scripture for each service.
Cranmer's beliefs were distinct, certain, and in some respects quite different from what I had thought.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MacCulloch on Thomas Cranmer is a masterpiece 7 Oct 1997
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Exquisely researched and engagingly written, Diarmaid MacCulloch brought to life a figure who played a substantial role in both English and church history during the Reformation, and whose legacy lives on. I feel that for the first time in more than 30 years of bumping into Henry VIII's Archbishop of Canterbury, and of regularly using the Book of Common Prayer that he master-minded, I have properly met the man. MacCulloch obviously adores Cranmer, but is not blind to his shortcomings. He also shows the cost to Cranmer of bringing about fundamental change in the English Church -- ultimately losing his life. I came away from the book marveling at the richness and stature of the Anglican way of believing, and the part Cranmer played in making it happen. I have been heralding it from the housetops! Like all good books, I was sorry when it ended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece
A simply marvellous piece of scholarly biography, written by a man with a thorough knowledge but a lightness of touch which made the reader feel that they were included at all... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Daniel Park
4.0 out of 5 stars Is gripping an appropriate description?
I was recommended to read this by an Irish Anglican presbyter courrently resident in the States. A very detailed account of Cranmer's life which gives great insights into how he... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Laymin
5.0 out of 5 stars MacCulloch reigns supreme
I have always been a fan of Prof. D. MaCulloch, this book is a fine addition to any library. I recommend it to students of the Reformation, The Anglican Church, and The Prayer... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Martin D Steele
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous insight into the man and the religious upheaval of his time
Purchased this volume because I have a long-standing interest in the religious change during the period. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Sebastian Cross
5.0 out of 5 stars Too intense maybe
I am afraid that this book was way over my head. I couldn't get myself interested in the details. A little bit too much religion in it for me to be able to connect.
Published 13 months ago by Zlata Konevski
4.0 out of 5 stars Cranmer
A good read that gives a good account of the early development of the English church.
Macculloch's sentence structure can make reading a slow unscrambling. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Colin Ratcliffe
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and comprehensive
As other reviewers have commented, this is not light reading, but contains a huge amount of information of interest to anyone interested either in history or theology. Read more
Published on 6 Aug 2011 by Mr. Ian C. Kemp
5.0 out of 5 stars THomas Cranmer: A Life
Brilliant! Full of fascinating information about Cranmer and the times he lived in. A must for anyone studying the period.
Published on 9 Jan 2010 by S. E. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars Supplementary reading
Provides supplementary reading for Michael Davies classic, Cranmers Godly Order.
Published on 9 Jun 1999
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