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The Age of Reform, 1250-1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Mediaeval and Reformation Europe Paperback – 1 Jul 1981


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About the Author

Ozment is McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History at Harvard University.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x9710d9c0) out of 5 stars 14 reviews
94 of 95 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96252a98) out of 5 stars Great at establishing CONTEXT. . . 4 May 2000
By Jason Jewell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Ozment does a wonderful job of showing that the story of the Reformation does NOT begin with the posting of the 95 theses in 1517. Rather, the events of the 1500s were the culmination of a centuries-old search for truth. Ozment's account of the Reformation as something unfolding out of the Middle Ages is much more instructive than the standard view, which treats the Reformation as a starting point for this or that development. This book grounds Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and Ignatius firmly in the tradition of medieval scholastic, mystic, and ecclesio-political thought, as well as Renaissance humanism. Additional chapters are devoted to clerical marriage and resistance to tyranny, two legacies of Protestantism that Ozment finds particularly compelling. To top it off, the author has obviously done his homework; every significant interpretation by previous scholars receives due note here. I think this should the FIRST book anyone reads on the Reformation.
54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96252aec) out of 5 stars Outstanding Piece of Intellectual History 4 July 2001
By Daryl Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is simply a fantastic presentation of the historical, theological, and philosophical background of the Reformation. This book apparently won the 1981 "Philip Schaff Prize of the American Society of Church History" award, and is certainly worthy of it. Ozment traces the course of scholasticism, mysticism, monasticism, the papacy, humanism, etc., all in a masterful way that shows how these diverse and complex movements culminated in the Reformation. The text is well documented, and, thankfully, uses footnotes rather than endnotes so one does not have to constantly turn to the end of the book to view the source of a citation. In my opinion this is one of the best works on intellectual and church history that I have ever read. Be warned, however, this book is not for the feint hearted. It is definitely a graduate level text, or for the serious student of the late Medieval and Reformation periods.
49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9680187c) out of 5 stars Reforms and Re-formations 24 Jun. 2006
By benjamin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It is quite amazing that of all the books that exist on the Protestant Reformation, very few chart the intellectual and theological history as being the primary moving force of the Protestant movement. It is still further disheartening that many books wish to treat the Reformation as if it were some sort of absolute novelty and break with the whole of the medieval Western European tradition. Steven Ozment's brilliant study - winner of the Phillip Schaff Award in 1980 - not only bucks the trend on both of these issues, but even traces relevant facets of cultural history - such as the printing press - as he puts the Protestant Reformation into both context and continuity with the medieval era.

More than half the book is spent detailing the medieval world and various theories that would be of the utmost importance to the Reformers: salvation and certainty of knowledge, in particular. The picture that emerges is one in which the Reformation is, in many ways, the absolutely logical outcome of the major trends in believing and practicing the faith after St. Thomas Aquinas. The harmonious worldview that Aquinas sought to put forth in his synthesis of Aristotle and Catholic revelation is largely rejected after the 14th century (re: after the Black Death, in which nearly 40% of Europe's population died).

It has become popular - and for good reason - to note that the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries have a number of trends that are continuous with the Protestant Reformers, although they are rejected by Roman Catholicism. The conciliar movement is well documented by Ozment, as are the tensions between "mystical" and "scholastic" theology that were commonly spoken of at that time. Popular movements such as the Devotio Moderna, which sought to return the Western Church to her more simple foundations of the ancient Councils, Fathers and the Scriptures are also discussed. Medieval "heretics" such as Jan Huss and John Wycliffe are noted as having little influence, however, upon the Reformers - the one exception being Martin Luther, who seemed to be well conscious of his unintentional continuity with a number of the reforming movements of the 14th and 15th centuries.

As Ozment progresses, he notes the major differences between the various Protestant Reformation movements (note the plural!). For example, whereas Luther's movement was started in a backwoods university with a debate concerning the nature of salvation, the Swiss started their Re-formation with a few rebellious priests defiantly eating sausages during Lent! Minor and radical reformers such as John Knox - whose influence would be felt in the later 16th and early 17th century in England - are also looked at; Knox is particularly interesting because his stance on civil matters is so different from that of Luther and Calvin. In short, Knox believed that if the state would not defend a particular form of the reformation - basically, Knox's version of the Reformation - then Christians could rise up and overthrow the state! Luther advocated martyrdom; Knox advocated rebellion. Luther considered people like Knox to be "fanatics" and reformers such as Knox considered Luther to be a failure. Thus, in the end, we can see that the Protestant Reformation has no single legacy but multiple, incompatible legacies that were incompatible from the very beginning.

Of particular interest are the social changes wrought by the Reformation in family life and sexual morality. Despite their differences, all the Reformers agreed that marriage was not a sacrament (it conveyed nothing of God's grace). The huge movement of monks and nuns breaking their monastic vows and being married (which was considered deeply scandalous at the time); the exponential rise in polygamy throughout Europe (its psychological impact was certainly greater than any long-term cultural change); the advocacy of incompatibility as an acceptable reason for divorce among the Protestants; all of these led to what amounts to a sexual revolution for the time period, and all understandings of modern divorce go back to the Reformation.

The book is well illustrated, with woodcuts in particular, and it serves to place the polemical facets of the Reformation into rather sharp relief. It is interesting to note that Lutherans, for instance, understood themselves to stand in perfect continuity with high medieval saints such as St. Francis of Assisi who is depicted as looking with great consternation at the Roman church from heaven in one of the woodcuts.

This is a thick read. It is a little more than 400 pages, but the pages are all oversized (which helps a good bit with the illustrations) and the subject matter can be quite dense. After all, the Reformers all had Scholastic backgrounds and just as they sought to think against their heritage, they also couldn't help but thinking from inside of it; Protestant theology is just as dense and nuanced as that of the Scholastics that came before them. All who take Reformation studies seriously - whether as a scholar or as an "armchair" historian or theologian - can do no better than to consult this volume for the major and minor trends in high medieval and early Reformation thought.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96252d74) out of 5 stars Still the best on this topic 29 Aug. 2005
By Nathan Rein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Ozment is a brilliantly clear writer, always engaging, never dry or confusing. I've always thought this work is an example of how a textbook ought to be written. Accessible for undergraduates (if a little too information-dense at times) but never oversimplifying the material (a problem with Lindberg's European Reformations). He even manages to tie the whole book together with a narrative structure that keeps you involved as the story unfolds. He was my teacher, so I guess I'm biased, but not TOO biased.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96252f24) out of 5 stars Profound, insightful, accessible, and interesting! 16 Aug. 2005
By Q - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Steven Ozment's writing stands head and shoulders above that of most historians. He makes the difficult and thorny religious issues of this period accessible and interesting. At the same time, he goes in depth and never oversimplifies the complicated issues at stake in this period. Even scholars very familiar with this period will learn from this book. Most histories of the Reformation skim over lightly the medieval background. A great strength of this book is the in-depth treatment of the late medieval religious and intellectual period. Ozment gives insightful treatments of Thomism, late-medieval nominalism, mysticism, Renaissance humanism, anti-clericalism, and how all these contributed to the Protestant Reformation and modernity. Although he focuses on intellectual and religious history, he also discusses the political and social history since religion, politics, and culture cannot be separated in this period. Another notable feature of Ozment's treatment is that he recognizes and discusses the interpretive controversies of Reformation and Renaissance historians. He gives very fair summaries of the positions of the leading scholars, including their strengths and weaknesses; these summaries are very handy for graduate or undergraduate students who need to write an essay on this period. I give this book my highest recommendation. For anyone interested in Christianity and its role in the development of modernity, this book is essential!
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