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on 2 March 2017
All is OK
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on 26 May 2009
"The Voices of Morebath" has received much acclaim and justly so.

Generally, the histories written of the English Reformation and counter-Reformation have taken a national perspective. This book, however, is an account of how decisions made and policies adopted by members of the Tudor dynasty and its various executives, culturally and geographically remote from a small Devonshire village, so profoundly affected the life of that village and how, with remarkable pragmatism, its equally remarkable priest guided his flock through the upheavals of the iconoclasm and head-spinning changes in liturgical orthodoxy accompanying this turbulent period.

Little of the outside world directly penetrates this small society absorbed with just "getting by" on the upland fringes of Exmoor - Father Trychay tries to shield his flock but there is the occasional rude intrusion; Dean Heynes - one of Thomas Cromwell's creatures, a real piece of work and a sort of 16th century Senator Joseph McCarthy - and the imposition of the 1549 Prayer Book creating fury sufficient for this small village to send men to Exeter, some of whom were accounted in the 4,000 lost in the ill-fated Prayer Book Rebellion of that year.

Professor Duffy provides a seemingly balanced story (an achievement in itself given the polemical nature of the subject) drawn from Christopher Trychay's entries in the parish records. The author puts flesh on the bones of what otherwise might be a detached history to create real people living at the close of a long-established and conservative era, their communal confidence having been shaken and facing an uncertain future. It is difficult not to personally identify with these simple parishioners.

"The Voices of Morebath" could be regarded as a (long!) chapter from Duffy's excellent "The Stripping of the Altars" but it is not necessary to read these works with any conjunction.

"The Voices" is a remarkable book - the value of which in no sense is diminished by the author's occasional lapses of historical objectivity - and a fascinating, unusually well-written account.
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on 4 January 2002
An instructive and at times deeply moving account of the effects of the Tudor Reformation on village life. Although the first half of the book may seem a little tedious in its introduction to the village, people and institutions of Morebath, it is ultimately necessary in understanding the remainder which moves historically through the Reformation period. The book gives a detailed insight into how bewildering it must have been for a conservative rural village to undergo the changes from Catholic to Protestant, back to Catholic under Queen Mary and finally to Protestant again under Elizabeth.
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on 28 December 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.
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on 3 January 2008
Thus ended the career of the parish priest of Morebath, there was he buried, between two religions, two social worlds, two distinct weltanschuung. Taken from his parish register, which gives full details of accounts with a full and interesting commentary by him ,Christopher Trychay, who served the parish from 1520 - 1574, this book gives an interesting account of the minutiae of parish life throughout the events of the 16th century.
I wonder whether it is possible to write of the Reformation without one's own loyalties being obvious, indeed other reviewers have clearly revealed their own, but Professor Duffy , himself a Catholic, certainly writes not only with considerable affection for the pre-Reformation world but also with some appreciation for the Elizabethan one which came to supplant it in England.

Many of us do not believe ,unlike our ancestors were led to believe by their historians -indeed Haigh when he first studied the opposition to the Reformation came to the conclusion that what he had been taught at school about its popularity was erroneous -that the Reformation was welcomed by the people of England, and have been puzzled as to how they accepted such a revolution. Looked at from the centre the answer is perhaps the power and luck of Queen Elizabeth and the relentless persecution , well detailed by Philip Hughes' "The Reformation in England Vol III True Religion Now Established " , of her Catholic subjects, but the localities have been more problematic, although even there as in the time of Thomas Cromwell it could be said that careless talk costs lives.(p 167). Duffy shows how gradually, after limited destruction under Henry VIII and massive destruction under Edward VI, restoration under Mary, and further destruction under Elizabeth, the Old Religion in Morebath gave way. Their parish priest stayed with them, no longer using the requiem vestments for which in his early days so much parish money had been saved, and obediently adopting the new ways. He "eased them into a slow and settled conformity to the new order of things"(p190).Under Mary he probably had looked back on the the Reformation as being "arrogant, destructive, and un-English, a disastrous rebellion against God and the faith of our fathers" but when it triumphed again he adapted to the change. He saw his duty as being to God and Morebath.

No doubt like many others, I was given this book as a Christmas gift, and was delighted to have such a readable, scholarly, and beautifully illustrated addition to my library.
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on 12 November 2003
The long awaited sequel and parallel text to The Stripping of the Altars - an intimate examination of the Reformation in a single Devon parish.
Duffy explores the period 1530-1580 through the churchwardens accounts, minute books, journals and bequests of the remote Devon village of Morebath. If you've already read his "The Stripping of the Altars", this book is like a detective story, trying to answer a single, biting question: if the Reformation in England was so unpopular with the common people, why did it succeed? He comes up with what looks like it might be the answer.
The opening chapters may be heavy going if you haven't already read "The Stripping of the Altars".
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on 16 July 2014
This micro-history of an English West Country parish from the 1520s through to the 1570s is an extraordinary achievement. The lives of ordinary men and women normally never seen let alone heard are vividly brought to life before our eyes and ears thanks to their parish account books. Normally such documents where they survive are dry, bare-bones lists of profit and loss. But the accounts for Morebath on the borders of North Devon and Exmoor are different thanks to the parish priest Christopher Trychay (pronounced Tricky). He did more than just keep the books. Among the figures for Ale receipts and alms lights, Trychay wrote down his opinions as well of those of his parishioners in the most pungent of terms. It is thus that we can glimpse life and death within an unimportant village during a critical period: The Reformation. Duffey weaves his story beautifully. What we see is not only the end of a whole way of life as the religious reforms brought about by Henry VIII's break with Rome reached into every part of the realm, but also a rural world in crisis. This was essentially England's Cultural Revolution and everyone, even in a tiny rural backwater like Morebath, were profoundly affected. These accounts were meant to read aloud to the parishioners and while Duffey provides modern English translations it is very satisfying to attempt to read the originals. It is not as difficult as you may suppose. It is intensely rewarding to read words often taken down verbatim as they are written phonetically so you can not only see what was said but how it was said (in a deep West Country burr). It is genuinely moving to see how a community so deeply rooted in traditions reaching back centuries are forced to give up everything they know. Revolt broke out in 1549. Some relief is provided with the reign of Mary Tudor but with her death and the accession of her half-sister Elizabeth the inexorable journey to a reformed state begins anew. At the end of the story, life in Morebath seems less rich, less colourful and less certain than before. Their world with Elizabeth as Queen is whitewashed and spare. The old ways have gone, this time for ever. Christopher Trychay was parish priest to Morebath for 54 years and and died in 1574. He was buried in his church where the old altar had been at a cost of 6/8d which he had left for his funeral.

This book is a privilege to read. It stands with Montaillou, The Merchant of Prado and The Cheese and the Worms as a masterpiece of "history from below".
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on 6 January 2015
The book very skilfully relates the way a 16th century rector administered his parish against the background of turbulent events which imposed protestantism on a largely catholic population. The author, Eamon Duffy sets the parish in its broader historic and geographic background enabling the reader to understand and sympathise with the priest and his parishioners as they see their traditional and cherished belief system with its local saints swept aside by forces beyond their control. The priest is in every way and admirable figure who sees it as his responsibility to involve all his 32 parishioners in the democratic running of the parish. The book is based on the very detailed accounts which the rector maintained during his more than 50 years in charge. Sir Christopher Trychay is meticulous, honest and at all times conscious of his responsibilities both to his local community and to the wider one, which in the end forces him to accept an alien system. His attitude to the authorities helps the reader to understand why the Reform was effected in such a short time.
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on 30 November 2003
eamon duffy, through his intricate study of sir christopher's (morebath's parish preist's)written acounts of parish life, presents a deliciously partisan and empathetic tale of one man's struggle to fathom the enormity of religious reform in the sixteenth century. a glimpse into the probable reaction of ordinary devon folk to attempts to confiscate church property. duffy shows how the church property belonged to everyone in the parish having been purchased through generous contrbutions to the numerous well-supported parish guilds.
whether morebath is typical of other tudor villages becomes irrelevant as duffy's tooth comb study of sir christopher's acounts reveals priceless, previously-unnoticed details. For instance Duffy's revealation that the small hamlet sent two of it's own to represent them in the 1549 rebellion against the newly imposed prayer book adds creedance to the corner that claims that this rising had predominantly religious motives. on a personal level it sheds light on the desperation of towns like morebath who armed and funded the 6,000 ill fated prayer book rebels.
a fantastic read for historians and non-historians alike. a must for anyone intreged by the english reformation. the centrality of the parish in secular life is portrayed remarkably in this very readable study.
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on 8 July 2014
This is a superb book by one of the giants of Reformation England history, Eamon Duffy. I have made presents of it to friends interested in a fascinating subject--Christianity in these islands, Prof. Duffy's other great masterpiece is 'The Stripping of the Altars', a history of the Reformation in England.
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