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Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (Yale Nota Bene)
Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (Yale Nota Bene)
by Eamon Duffy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

58 of 76 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Keep your distance!, 28 Dec. 2007
Firstly, I'd just like to point out that I'm a huge fan of Duffy's work : "The Stripping of the Altars" is a masterpiece and "The Voices of Morebath" deserves to be in any book collection worthy of the name.

"Saints & Sinners" is nowhere near the same standard, unfortunately. I looked forward to reading this perhaps more than any other history book I've bought in years and I'm afraid it's a bit of a disappointment. Yes, it's well researched and yes it's readable and, for those reasons at least, enjoyable in it's own way. The major problem, to my mind anyway, is one of objectivity when it comes to the subject matter - in that there's precious little to go round.

"Saints & Sinners" is a blatant revisionist history of the papacy, where bad popes are rehabilitated, their failings and even crimes either apologised for or - worst of all - glossed over or not even referred to. The section on the papacy during the crusades is a whitewash, Duffy all but airbrushes the Vatican out of the Inquisition and as for more modern history, the age of the dictators presents an opportunity for close critical analysis of papal attitudes and behaviour which is passed up in favour of yet more apology and even more whitewash. Institutional anti-Semitism over centuries is hardly mentioned, despite scores of references in papal bulls throughout the ages. The modern pressures on the papacy in an increasingly secular world are left hanging like so many loose ends, missed opportunities to at least add some kind of meaningful analysis to this book.

On the whole, a great shame. Duffy is better than this, believe me. When on form, there is scarcely a living historian who can touch him for sheer ability. He is not on form with "Saints & Sinners".


The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village
The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village
by Eamon Duffy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you for visiting Morebath - Please drive carefully, 28 Dec. 2007
Eamon Duffy brings the village of Morebath in the sixteenth century to life with this excellent piece of research. Using original churchwarden's records and relevant historiography, he reconstructs the life of a community as it's belief system comes increasingly under threat. Duffy's work not only gives us a glipmse into the past, but also shows us the historian's craft in action. So Duffy may become a little wrapped up in his subject matter - his enthusiasm shines out of his work and adds to its appeal, in this case anyway. His love of the period is obvious and is infectious, and he reconstructs the minutiae of village life with gusto, to the point where you too may be sucked into the world of Morebath under the Tudors. No bad thing. It happened to me and I for one was sorry to leave.

This is very much a companion volume to "The Stripping of the Altars", the earlier work grand in scope, while "The Voices of Morebath" focusses on one community and narrows that scope, bringing it under the microscope and revealing it with skill and crystal clarity. Anyone with anything more than a passing interest in early modern history should have this book. What the hell... everyone else should have it too.


The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580
The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580
by Eamon Duffy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

11 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Encyclopedia Duffytanica, 11 Dec. 2007
This work is, without a doubt, the absolute benchmark when it comes to the study of English popular religion on the eve of the Reformation. Duffy brings the lost world of late medieval / early modern English Catholicism to life in such an enthralling fashion that you're almost as sorry about the Reformation even happening as Duffy is himself.


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