This is the book that has long needed to be written. A clear, reader-friendly overview of the reformation and how it affected common life in England, which is non-judgemental and doesn't support any side. It doesn't push a case about whether the reformation was a good or bad thing (no rhetorical shots are taken at anyone), instead it deftly explains what happened, and how.
The stress is very much on the effect of those transformations on people at the bottom: this is firmly about the common man. The book balances what happened in London, as against in larger towns, and in rural villages. It also discusses the differences in regions/counties. And care is taken to assess the experiences on all sides of the religious equation, pointing out that there were versions of protestantism across the country.
Where possible Professor Ives does cite individual examples, explaining what happened to specific ordinary people, and quoting the statements and comments of individuals living through unsettling change.
This is the best book of the reformation in England I have ever read; and it has changed the entire way I see history in that turbulent century.
on 15 November 2015
This is easily the best account of the Reformation I have read. Starting with a careful review of the late medieval church, following the spiritual struggles of those who sought to reform the church, the author shows how polarisation defeated their attempts and led to the divisions that are still with us; he then offers a detailed and balanced description of the several stages which the English church passed through in the 100 years from the late 15th to the late 16th centuries. The narrative is at once erudite and readable, and the assessments proposed are measured and informed. Above all, the author brings a theological, liturgical and spiritual literacy to his examination of the historical record.