Top critical review
8 people found this helpful
Objectivity is an illusion.
on 31 July 2014
There are no objective historians nor unbiased reviewers, This respected academic is by his own admission an Irish cradle Catholic. So when he produces a huge detailed work on popular English religion from late medieval to Elizabeth it is no surprise that he has a warm appreciation of Catholic piety and very little to say about the martyrs of Bloody Mary. He presents a pre-reformation England as one of a vibrant Catholicism, the dominant unifying force in the land and loved by the common people. Duffy was born in 1947 so he could be as well writing about the Ireland of his youth. This English Protestant reads a very lengthy description of superstition and ignorance fostered by the unreformed church of Rome.
If the English Reformation starts with Henry breaking with the Pope and installing himself to primacy in the church, we see that the start of reformation was more due to politics than theology. What is then observed throughout the Tudor time is religious change with a top down impetus. As in all of life there was an innate conservatism, a resistance to change among the people and change came slowly. This is well documented here. One also clearly sees the politics which inhibited Cranmer under Henry who was not a Protest king, merely an anti-papal one.
One senses Duffy's sympathy with those who wanted to resist Protestant iconoclasm. His illustrations show plenty of evidence that there was no complete cleansing of the superstitions I suspect Duffy of both theological, historic and aesthetic opposition to the stripping of the altars and other iconoclasm. As an unabashed iconoclast I understand the motivation of the iconoclasts was a triumph of theology over aesthetics.
Overall a very informative work though so detailed that the reader may resort to some skimming.