Top critical review
22 people found this helpful
Too narrow a perspective
on 16 September 2001
Dr Haigh's book appears to have widespread appeal but there are a number of fault lines running through it.
For the early part of the period there is a failure to come to terms with the essential dynanism of the Henrican reforms. Papal authority was broken, an English Bible translated by reformers introduced, monastries disolved, the cults of relics and shrines virtually ended,there was extensive use of English in church services while the interrelated concepts of purgatory,images and prayers for dead much diminished in importance.There was was a vigorous preaching campaign,ale house discussion and a strong( I suspect already dominant) flow of reformist literature for which figures such as Boleyn, Cromwell,Cranmer, Denny, Butts, Catherine Parr could offer at least partial protection throughout. Macculloch's Cranmer offers more constructive account, of the latter period of Henry's reign which is I think is more convincing than that presented by Dr Haigh.
It is not that the Henrican reforms turned England into a protestant nation but rather that they laid the foundations for rapid advance in Edwards' reign and the early part of Elizabeths' reign. Dr Haigh(Chp 11) for example gives some data for traditional catholic will preambles for Kent taken,I assume, from English Provincial society --Kent by P Clark.These show a collapse under Edward a recovery to around 40% in the latter part of Mary's reign. The critical point is that even with the intensity of the Marian persecution in Kent they never returned to the of the mid-1540's but more importantly fell back sharply again as soon as Elizabeth came to power(9% in 1560).The data must be used with caution but the trend is clear.
From the 1560's onwards Dr Haigh seems to assume that puritanism and protestantism are one and the same thing and hence fails to take account of the power of Cranmer's Prayer Book and the development of a conservative, but nevertheless protestant, Anglicanism. The demand for some form of ceremony or dislike of puritan preaching was just that, not a demand for a catholic restoration.
There are some interesting points but overall the lack of balance and in my view the rather strained use of sources makes this a seriously flawed work.