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50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fires of Faith
I chose this because of a lingering interest in Tudor history from my student days, and the fact that I had recently read another book (Faith of our Fathers) by Eamon Duffy. So, coming to this book as a general reader, how was it? Very interesting! Not only did it reawaken long-dead knowledge, it made me very much aware of prevailing "fashions" in history and the need to...
Published on 24 July 2009 by MC

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10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Question of Momentum
Duffy has a flowing rhetorical style which can easily carry the reader along but Foxe is not the only one to write with 'partisan artistry' and perhaps some caution is called for.

Note for example the self imposed, but very restrictive terms of reference. This is a history of Mary Tudor's institutional church, emphatically not a history of religion in her...
Published on 6 Nov 2009 by manfriday


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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb work, 29 Sep 2010
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ECD (Great Britain) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor (Hardcover)
I write as a layman, not a scholar; but so far as I can judge this is a serious, substantial, and balanced reappraisal of the notorious events of the reign of Mary Tudor, which earned her the nickname of Bloody Mary. It certainly compels one to think again.
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10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Question of Momentum, 6 Nov 2009
This review is from: Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor (Hardcover)
Duffy has a flowing rhetorical style which can easily carry the reader along but Foxe is not the only one to write with 'partisan artistry' and perhaps some caution is called for.

Note for example the self imposed, but very restrictive terms of reference. This is a history of Mary Tudor's institutional church, emphatically not a history of religion in her reign. Duffy hiself says he has virtually nothing to say about the Protestant underground or the exiles. He also has little to say about those,Erasmians and Henricans, who accepted part of the reformers' package but not the whole. Gilpin, for example, was not just a waverer but one of a very large body of the educated and political nation who occupied a genuine middle ground and who,only a little later, were won over to Elizabeth(see biog in ODNB). The failure to consider the fluidity of the situation is a heavy price to pay for loss of rhetorical momentum(see intro).

Most importantly Duffy has little to about the group into which, Elizabeth the most significant figure of all, falls----the Nicodemites. Those who kept their heads down, watched, waited, sometimes helped, sometimes planned. In the flow of the work it is easy to overlook how remarkably quickly, easily and smoothly Elizabeth asssumed power with the enthusiam of the populace. Any survey of the literature will produce a long list of Protestant supporters among the most powerful figures in the country. Even among that most vulnerable group, the higher clergy, 11 out of the first 28 episcopal appointments went to non-exiles.(Usher). It is simply and self evidently wrong to suggest or imply that the Protestant hydra had been decapitated by the end of Mary's reign. Some hydra some heads!!

There are a range of other points but one stands out--the response to the burnings. Duffy is correct to warn that we must not judge the burnings by the the standards of the C21st.That is quite different from saying that they were popular and as I read it Duffy does not suggest this, but the burnings were of quite exceptional intensity and he is, I think, too ready to gloss over the evidence suggesting just how unpopular they were. Mary was advised against by Paget, by Renard and indirectly by Phillip, Gardiner was rapidly disenchanted. Sympathy for the martyrs is noted by Spanish, French and Venetian observers and even by Hogarde in addition to other English sources. The extraordinary security precautions point fear of disturbance and the ability of activists to melt away into the crowd would be impossible without the support of the crowd. One could go on. A close reading of the work itself suggests that by the end the reign driving force was Mary herself and a small inner core of the clergy. The burnings slowed because the secular nation was did not support them and Elizabeth was the heir.

This really is not a very good book. There is little which is actually new and is some case conclusions are drawn which the evidence does not suppport.In a period of intense persecution the work is too willing to see conformity as consent. It is of course impossible to see the hyrda's many heads unless you look for them. Proper historical comparisons e.g. with the literary and preaching output of Edwards' reign would establish a context, which is too often missing.

The structure of the book and the flow of the prose does make it essential to read it with other works, which may need some digging out. I suggest Loades' chapter in Edward and Truman's recent work as a short survey while chapters in his biography of Mary Tudor are essential reading. Articles by Usher and less directly by Freeman look under the surface of Marian religion. The chapters in Brigden's, London Reformation probably also rank as essential reading,
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19 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a disgraceful book, 29 Sep 2009
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This review is from: Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor (Hardcover)
This book is essentially an apologia for the Catholic inquisition. Its a despicable thesis dressed up with appropriate research and taking an unabashidly Roman Catholic world viewpoint. The book presents the point of view that the 300 or so people murdered on religious grounds count for nothing. They are reduced in the book to ciphers while the author exerts every attempt to shift sympathy to the suffering judges and other state minions who carried out the executions. They really didn't want to burn people alive. The fanatical protestants made them do it by not recanting. The title of the book is particularly offensive in its obvious reference to burning people.

Duffy deals with the moral questions of his argument by saying that morality is irreliavant to the study of history. What matters is the goals of the Marians (saving Roman Catholic England) and effectiveness of those goals (Duffy of course sees them as successful). The fact that people are being burned alive is meaningless trivia.

In Duffy's view, England under Mary was a happy Roman Catholic country suffering from an evil "problem" of a protestant minority. Duffy wants is to undestand that state violence was really about literally saving the souls of men. When the inquisition tortured or burned, they were doing it out of love for the souls of troubled men.

In the end, Duffy presents us with the Marian system as being utterly and absolutely successful. The Protestants would have been exterminated in total if not for the early death of Queen Mary right on the brink of victory. And they were so successful, that the noble English Catholics spread all over Europe in their inexplicable flight from the evil protestants were responsible for the entire counter-reformation!(?)! Duffy isn't satisfied with rehabilitating Mary and making her victorious, he has to go beyond with a chest-thumping theory that has the English Catholics saving all Catholic Europe. Its just too much.

Duffy has been building up to this book over a number of years. It would seem that even he knew that there would be some second thoughts over directly jumping into a rehabiliation of Queen Mary and her methods. But over the course of his several works, he has established the groundwork well. The Catholics are now the overwhelming majority and all Protestants are insane raving fanatics. Rather than the Marian system being a reactionary policy against a rising tide of protestants, it is a enlighted plan to save the Catholic English majority from an alien system. Rather than repression, the Catholics of England wanted to save souls through their burnings and torture. And the real policy of course was an intellectual argument for Catholoicism. The burnings were just something that happened to insane people who could not see reason.

Duffy goes to great lengths to call out a variety of sources that don't line up with his version of history as basically protestant lies. While his methods are not incorrect, they are subjectively applied based on the religious outlook of the source material. It is a double-standard in its most basic form.

Duffy attempts to defend himself within the book by attempting to frame himself as a man bringing truth in the face of false protestant triumphalism. But rather than the truth, what he has produced is mearly a one-sided defense of all things Roman Catholic. He has produced the mirror image of what he claims to be correcting: A bigoted Catholic reactionary history to go next to the proestant versions on the shelf. The truth is always to be found in shades of grey and in the middle. Duffy is not to be found there.

The problem in the end for Duffy in general is that he lays out a case where reactionary Roman Catholicism could not help but inevitably triumph. And yet it does not.
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9 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Eamon Duffy - A Catholic Apologia, 3 Feb 2010
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This review is from: Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor (Hardcover)
Well Eamon Duffy purports to be a historian. A revisionist more likely. He could just as well justify Hitler's murder of Jews, Stalin's murders of Russians in exactly the same way - yes they had efficient state machinery, and they had effective propaganda. But that does not mean they were right, or that they were justified by the ends.
OK we cannot apply the judgments of the 21st century to the mid 16th, but nevertheless even the people of the those times knew that burning for religion was wrong. Did they not read the bible? OK so Elizabeth had 200 people hung, drawn and quartered over a 50 year period - but these were threatening her assassination (including the pope).
This book made me very angry indeed. I have read his other books - The Voices of Morebath is a very good history.
I am an atheist, it is a pity that Eamon Duffy does not own up to his religion - is he ashamed of it?
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Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor
Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor by Eamon Duffy (Hardcover - 8 May 2009)
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