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This review is from: The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580 (Paperback)
This is one of those books for which the term `magisterial' can be used with complete justification. As a study of popular religion at the time of the Reformation, it's awesome in the breadth of its coverage, enquiring into areas as diverse as the guilds, the cult of the saints, the use of primers to inculcate knowledge of Scripture, the ways in which faith was reflected in Wills, populist preaching and much else. Its conclusion - that faith was much more alive and genuine than has long been thought - is, on the compendious evidence Duffy supplies, amply justified.
The second half of the book paints this popular religion onto the broader political canvas of Henry VIII's reforms, as consolidated by Edward VI and then countermanded by Mary. I thought Duffy was especially interesting on how the language of Wills, especially under Edward VI, disguised obdurate Catholicism in a kind of `civil disobedience' from beyond the grave. The fascinating section on the reforms (under Mary) of Cardinal Pole highlighted what, for me, was the book's one frustration: the failure to clearly depict how a Catholic strand of concern for social justice (as evidenced in the work of Pole) manifested itself in the life of the people. For example, how (if at all) opposition to the burning of `heretics' (either under Henry or Mary) was resisted. But this minor critique aside, a fascinating and mighty tome, surely destined to be the standard `revisionist' text on the period for a generation to come.