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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fires of Faith
I have read and purchased several of Eamon Duffy's books - including"The Stripping of the Altars" and "The Voices of Morebath". Being extremely interested in the religious upheavals here in England during the mid sixteenth century, and especially in the Counter Reformation, I was delighted with this latest book.

For far too long, Mary's reign has been...
Published on 30 Jun 2011 by Chalcotribist

versus
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Further rehabilitation of Cardinal Pole
The two pre-eminent historians of the Tudor Church, Eamon Duffy and Diarmaid MacCulloch, disagree on much, but in the 21st Century reassessment of the Reformation, they are united on one thing: Cardinal Pole deserves a much more positive perspective than he has hitherto been given.
After MacCulloch's monumental "Reformation", with a highly favourable excursus on...
Published on 19 May 2012 by R. S. Stanier


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Further rehabilitation of Cardinal Pole, 19 May 2012
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This review is from: Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (Paperback)
The two pre-eminent historians of the Tudor Church, Eamon Duffy and Diarmaid MacCulloch, disagree on much, but in the 21st Century reassessment of the Reformation, they are united on one thing: Cardinal Pole deserves a much more positive perspective than he has hitherto been given.
After MacCulloch's monumental "Reformation", with a highly favourable excursus on Pole, we now have this, Duffy's book on the Marian church and its legacy. Mary herself is almost completely ignored; rather, Duffy's tome is ultimately a reconstruction of Pole's plan for the re-Catholicising of England, and a further argument that Pole's blueprint was not left behind in an English backwater, but rather highly influential in the Counter Reformation across Europe: for example, his plans on seminaries found their way into the contemporary Council of Trent's final text.
There remains an essential disagreement, however, between Duffy and MacCulloch. For MacCulloch and others, there was something much more inevitable about the Reformation event in Europe and in England. Duffy has never accepted this, arguing that such a view comes from secular/ Protestant bias.
In his famous "The Stripping of the Altars", Duffy argued that, far from being on its last legs when the Reformation happened, traditional Catholic religion was flourishing in England right up to the Henrician revolution. Most historians would now agree with him. Here, he extends his argument by three decades: deep into the 1550s, traditional Catholic religion was genuinely popular over most of England: the Protestant martyrs were only popular in London and Kent, and even there a campaign of repressive force was on its way to wiping them out.
Thanks to Pole's policies and patronage, the cathedrals were brimming with bright young things, of deep Catholic conviction (hundreds of them fled post 1558 and ended up in European universities and colleges), and England was well on its way to a secure Catholicism, in part because the people had never ultimately had their hearts converted to Protestant ways.
For Duffy, the only thing that stopped this was the monumental fluke of the deaths of Mary and her Archbishop dying on the same day, which allowed in a deconstruction of Catholic England under Elizabeth and a new archbishop that otherwise might never have happened.
It's a brave thesis. However, I believe this book only takes us halfway there. Yes, historiography has been skewed by ignoring the chance element of Pole and Mary's deaths and we may have therefore tended to see the Elizabeth settlement of Anglicanism as falsely inevitable, as it was true to the 'English spirit', in some way.
But, no, I don't think you can ignore the sheer number of martyrs Mary and Pole needed to slay: these had to have been conviction Protestants and must have been the tip of a pretty decent Protestant iceberg. And, no, I don't think you can ignore entirely the eventual success of the Elizabeth settlement (though some early Stuart/ Civil War historians would disagree.)
Duffy can challenge our view of grassroots religion, but he hasn't got the evidence to prove his case.

The other reviews make good points about the way this book is written. It's dense, and certainly assumes a decent knowledge of the basic historical events: this isn't for firsttimers. Also, it perhaps lacks the flair Duffy has brought to his other books. But even so, his ear for a telling turn of flair has not gone:
at the end of his chapter on burnings, he notes "On both sides, this was an ideological struggle inscribed in the quivering flesh of suffering human beings."( p123)
Strong history, albeit not ultimately convincing.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going, useful but lacking in one key area., 30 Dec 2011
By 
Graham James "graydjames" (Leicester UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (Paperback)
This book is aimed more at the academic than those looking for "easy-going" history but I got much from it nonetheless. As one tired of the popularist notions that place Elizabeth at the topmost postion on the victory podium of English monarchs, it was good to get some positive spin on Mary.

This is by no means the first book I have read about Mary and this is just as well, because this book is hard going with unnecessarily convoluted sentences that can be read three or four times and their meaning still indecipherable. I never understand why high-level academics seem to regard it as compulsory to write in this fashion. It is as if their writing will not be taken seriously if it can be easily understood. It also makes me suspicious. As if the writer is unable to explain his point in clear English.

If anyone is looking for a justification of the burnings, you'll be disappointed. It isn't that. Instead the nub of it is to explain that the burnings, and the policies of Mary and Pole and others, were much more succesful in achieving their objectives of counter-reformation than history has recorded. I got much from this.

The popularist legacy of the burnings, however, is that they were shocking and this has forever blighted any balanced view of Mary's reign, whatever the success or otherwise of the policy in countering the reformation. So what I was looking for was more of a discussion on the legacy. How much was it about numbers; how much of it was about the method of execution. Was it more about the concept of executing people for their beliefs? Why was burning thought to be the most appropriate method of execution for heresy? Was buring actually so terrible compared to say hanging, drawing and quartering? What was the thinking of the day about these issues.

As Duffy states himself, much of the legacy about Mary has been formed with the benfit of "moral hindsight" judged by the standards of the 20th and 21st century. Yet, depsite making this highly relevant point, the book fails to elaborate on this and to get inside the mind of the 16th century policy maker, and especially the Catholic policy maker, and explain more about WHY this was necessary rather than only considering the consequences.

Perhaps Duffy assumes this is obvious; it isn't to me.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fires of Faith, 30 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (Paperback)
I have read and purchased several of Eamon Duffy's books - including"The Stripping of the Altars" and "The Voices of Morebath". Being extremely interested in the religious upheavals here in England during the mid sixteenth century, and especially in the Counter Reformation, I was delighted with this latest book.

For far too long, Mary's reign has been overshadowed by that of her half-sister Elizabeth, viewed as a dark and dismal period in English history; and a futile attempt to turn back the religious clock. This was how it was presented to me at school many years ago. However, that is patently untrue, something which I, and many others, have long suspected.

In fact, as Duffy has amply demonstrated here, and also in his other books, there was considerable support and yearning for the restoration of the Catholic faith along with all its attendant trappings. That this was so has been consistently overlooked (in my view deliberately) in the smoke rising from the fires of those burnt to death for their Protestant beliefs. I am no apologist for burning people to death for their religious faith (and neither is Duffy) but this episode must be viewed in the context of the sixteenth century and not from that of the twenty first.

In time, I suspect, that even the thorny issue of restoring the abbeys and priories and their lands would have been accomplished. Of course, for the time being (and as events turned out for ever) this was thwarted by those who had chiefly profitted from their enforced surrender and destruction - members of the House of Commons - many of whom were clearly as corrupt as many of their successors are today.

But time was not on Mary's side. The only reason that the re-founding of the abbeys and priories was so limited in number and that the restoration of the Catholic Faith here in England did not succeed was due to the unexpected deaths of both Mary and her cousin Cardinal Pole. Had they both lived longer, then the religious appearance and experience of mid-late sixteenth century England may have been markedly different than it ultimately was to be.

In the short space of some five years a very great deal had been achieved, with much popular support. That this was indeed the case is manifestly supported by the subsequent fear that the Elizabethan government had of the Catholics and Catholicism here in England in the latter part of the sixteenth century.

An excellent book and highly recommended.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Serious history, 2 Mar 2011
By 
William (Buckinghamshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (Paperback)
Not being an academic or a student of history, I suppose I have got used to popular history books. Having recently read Anna Whitelock's excellent (and very readable) biography of Mary Tudor, I was drawn to Eamon's Duffy's Fires of Faith. But a word of warning: don't be too seduced by the cover design or the rather racy title. This is a serious, academic defence of Mary and her regime based on a series of lectures. Duffy's prose is very hard going in places and he is not blessed with the common touch. Having said that, I quite enjoyed it and learned a lot.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Duffy's book on Mary Tuddor, 28 Dec 2010
This review is from: Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (Paperback)
This book is not an easy read, being a detailed piece of research into a controversial area of History in England, where we have been taught for hundreds of years to think that the reformation was a Good Thing

and that most people supported the smashing of the Catholic Faith.

Here we see that this version of History has many flaws.

The people rejoiced in the Old Religion returning.

No mention here, though, of the fate of Reginald Pole's mother under Henry V111, or the fate of the Five Wounds Rebellion under Elizabeth 1, to set a context for how brutal an age this was.

The book did read like a series of lectures.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars historical facts, 9 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (Paperback)
Excellent historical facts but not an easy read but I enjoyed it. I learned a lot from this book as not a great deal is available under Mary Tudors reign.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent balance, 16 Feb 2013
By 
Peter - See all my reviews
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This is an excellent counter balance to some of the other books about Mary Tudor and her reign - as usual
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent book by Duffy, 29 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (Paperback)
This books highlights some of the misconceived judgements about Bloody Mary's reign. Duffy asserts that it was not that bloody at all.
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Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor
Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor by Eamon Duffy (Paperback - 3 Aug 2010)
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