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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A look back with affection at something irretrievably lost, 18 July 2009
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
Amidst the current welter of interest in the achievements of Henry VIII, books like this one giving the perspective `from below' are very much needed. Scarisbrick's premise is that `on the whole, English men and women did not want the Reformation, and most of them were slow to accept it when it came ` (1). He shows that, right up until the dissolution of the monasteries, people were still enthusiastically leaving money (and sheep, and crops, and barrels of fish...) to a church for which they still evidently retained great fondness. They were also still endowing the extensive, and enormously impressive, social welfare networks (the chantries and guilds) that provided not only funerals and prayer for the souls of the departed, but also such things as midwifery services and sea defences.

Scarisbrick argues that muted criticism of the papacy in the early sixteenth century was more the product of indifference to a foreign potentate than a lack of interest in matters of faith per se, and sees the spoliation of the monasteries as the work of a `predatory crown' (135) rather than a hostile populace. In similar vein, he laments the crown's failure to use the wealth it gained from the spoliation to endow educational establishments, as happened elsewhere in reforming Europe at the time. Overall, a very interesting perspective on a much-studied period from a venerable Catholic scholar. It does sometimes feel that the author is making a lot of fairly meagre evidence, but it's well-written, stuffed with fascinating detail, and imbued with a genuine appreciation - affection, even - for something of tremendous value now irrevocably lost.
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The Reformation and the English People
The Reformation and the English People by JJ Scarisbrick (Paperback - 28 Nov 1985)
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