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on 23 February 2011
Marshall's book draws together a number of articles previously scattered through the literature supplemented by three new chapters. It is an impressive work. The individual topics serve to tease out a common theme which emphasises the the very fluid nature of religious beliefs before confessional identities became fully formalised in the second half of the century. Hence examples of doctrinal conservatives participating in the elimination of many traditional institutions and practises and the evangelical Robert Packington taking comfort from a traditional Eucharist service.

A significant part of the book is devoted to the core of traditionalist Catholics and one of the new chapters discusses the neglected area of catholic exiles. On the other side of the coin, two equally important chapters help explain the vigour and broad base of the hard-hitting evangelical campaign against the intercession of saints and purgatory .

The author's views are modestly stated and refreshingly free from dogmatic certainties.

Any caveats of mine only amount to a call for further elaboration. Marshall is sceptical of humanism as a driver of reform, but the influence of Erasmus and Erasmianism emerges clearly enough. Is he implicitly distinguishing between the wider humanist educational agenda and the more targeted influence of Erasmus and those influenced by him? Packington's background suggests that he saw the Eucharist in Lutheran real presence terms rather than more narrowly defined transubstantiation and hence that this was not a break point at this time. Elaboration of Marshall's thinking on this issue would be helpful. On similar note, was the shift towards fully reformed views detected at the end of Henry's reign really shared by educated influential laymen of whom Packington was an early example? Or was it largely confined to the evangelical elite at that stage?

Any collection of essays will inevitably leave gaps in the narrative flow and my qualifications only relate to this. Really a 9 out of 10 but going for 4* in the hope that some of the gaps will be filled in. An important, stimulating work.
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