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on 5 August 2017
Obviously I am not worthy so much as to pick up the historical crumbs from under Eamon Duffy's table. I was glad I did read the Introduction first, since after reading, at least in places, what I can only describe as bile, it seemed clear to me that this is a book to be read with the greatest of care and scepticism - it did not appear to me to be balanced. Though of course always well argued, and always supported by facts (though pushing it a bit with the Shakespeare bit I thought). I was put in mind of Diarmaid MacCulloch's quote that "Duffy ceases to be a Tudor historian who is a Catholic, and becomes a Catholic historian". But I did enjoy the chapter on Bishop Fisher, which was one of the reasons I'd bought it, so that was a relief!.
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on 24 April 2015
An excellent and well researched study of England at the time of Henry V111.
Good easy reading and a very enlightening book.
Highly reccomend to those who wish to find out what happened in England in the time of Henry & Elizabeth.
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on 15 September 2017
Tired of all the hype about 500 years since the reformation, I note the mood of little Englanders then as being similar to that of the Brexiteers. We lost much art and music and were submitted to the tyranny of royal whim.

I knew little about John Fisher and, as always, C. S. Lewis got him wrong.

I note that ‘texting’ originally referred to painting biblical texts on the newly whitewashed walls covering up pictures of the saints.

Self-censorship means that we don’t have much documentary evidenced from ordinary people – they didn’t want to risk becoming ‘food for the jackals’.

There were women churchwardens back then.

To stop adoration of the host, communion tables were often curtained off – is this the origin of riddell posts as beloved of Percy Dearmer as an obedience to the ornaments rubric about the chancels being as they were in Edward 6th’s reign? However, images and documentary mentions of early examples (4th Century) often have curtains called tetravela hung between the columns; these altar-curtains were used to cover and then reveal the view of the altar by the congregation at points during services — exactly which points varied, and is often unclear. Altar-curtains survived the decline of the ciborium in both East and West, and in English are often called "riddels" (from French rideau, a word once also used for ordinary domestic curtains). A few churches have "riddle posts" or "riddel posts" around the altar, which supported the curtain-rails, and perhaps a cloth stretched above. In earlier periods the curtains were closed at the most solemn part of the Mass, a practice that continues to the present day in the Coptic and Armenian churches. A comparison to the biblical Veil of the Temple was intended. The small domed structures, usually with red curtains, that are often shown near the writing saint in early Evangelist portraits, especially in the East, represent a ciborium, as do the structures surrounding many manuscript portraits of medieval rulers.

Much stained glass escaped iconoclasm because there wasn’t enough clear glass to replace it.
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on 8 December 2012
Professor Duffy has added more nuances to his views and treatment of the Reformation and its aftermath, including attitudes to Catholicism during the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth, which are not quite what one would expect, and certainly not monolithic. His chapter on Bishop Fisher I found especially interesting.
However I did wonder whether he was barking up the wrong tree altogether in the last chapter on Catholicism in Shakespeare's England: the argument hinges on the famous lines from Sonnet 73, where Professor Duffy takes 'bare ruin'd quiers' to mean literally monastic ruins. Surely this is an image of the tree in autumn, 'where late the sweet birds sang' i.e. they have now migrated for the winter, not necessarily an extension of the choir image. I think it's stretching things to rely on one word ('late')to clinch an argument about late Elizabethan attitudes to the destruction of the monasteries.

On the other hand I may just be very pedestrian!

Read it and see what you think.
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on 25 June 2016
I ordered this book for someone else who was impressed and delighted with it.
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on 19 July 2012
The essays collected in this volume are consistently interesting, grounded in good research, and open out new vistas on the period. But the book is littered with scores of typos, spelling mistakes, and misquotations. Evidently no one bothered to copy-edit or proof-read it. Shame!
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on 10 December 2013
This review applies to all the Eamon Duffy books I have read.He does not shrink from being controversial and when he is, he provides cogent evidence to support his argument.Not a revisionist historian but an historian who demonstrates that revision in historical assumptions is necessary
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on 29 March 2013
This is a very bizarre book indeed - incredibly well researched and cross referenced, there’s almost a suspicion that this attention to detail is to compensate for the unfocused broader content. A largely unsubstantiated diatribe against the Reformation (history tends to be written by the winners, and Duffy is a Catholic), precedes a highly detailed review of changes over centuries to East Anglian churches and then, to my way of thinking, the highlight of the book, a discussion on Cardinal Fisher, Archbishop Cranmer and Cardinal Pole. But Duffy cannot control his own bias, such as on p142 referring to the Convulsio Calumniarum as “a brilliant and stupendously learned defence of the tradition of Peter’s ministry and martyrdom”, or to dismissing anything that doesn’t suit his argument, such as on p144 “The divorce question is much too complicated to go into here”; both comments may be correct, but where’s the substantiation behind them?
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on 8 April 2015
This is a scholarly book but a good read, giving an insight into effects that the establishment of the Church of England, with backup force ready to 'help' those unwilling to change from their former, Catholic, religion, had on Tudor and then Stuart society in the 16th and 17th centuries.
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on 22 June 2012
This is far from being Duffy's best book, rather it offers a short explanation (and justification) of his views on historical revisionism (and why he and others have started to swim against the tide of reformation historiography), an essay which proves to be informative and helpful. Otherwise some of the essays read as précis of or essays from his main (best and most famous) works `The Stripping of the Altars' or `Voices of Morebath'. Not least because the essays focus on particular areas of Church and national life, e.g. Rood Screens and the reformation experience of one local parish Church, something he has done already very well elsewhere - it seem would seem, therefore that there is not much that is new in this volume. That said, his argument that Protestant England begins at the end of Elizabeth's reign (rather than her reign serving as the apogee of English Protestantism) is a new and compelling one.

The sad thing is that Duffy doesn't really develop the arguments put forward in `Stripping of the Altars': that far from being moribund, the pre-reformation Church was vibrant and culturally engaged and that the reformation itself was a period of crisis for the Church, ripped from the comfort of the past and forced to radically alter its doctrines and liturgy. That said, Duffy is a very readable historian and he presents his arguments very well. He does, however, show how anti-Catholic historiography can still be found in English academia and in filmography (e.g. in Shekhar Kapur's `Elizabeth' - a film that, he argues not unreasonably, presents Catholicism as repressive and the final days of the rule of Mary, quasi-demonic). This is important to note, as it shows how much England remains a Protestant nation (albeit and increasingly Secular-Protestant one)) and the historiography of the reformation, still a Protestant one, led by historians such as MacCulloch (a secular-Anglican and former Deacon in the Church of England).

On a personal level, what I find particularly interesting in this volume, is his linking of the closure of the Chantries with the need of the King for cash, though he does not develop this argument further to explore the inflation the stripping and selling of ecclesiastical paraphernalia would have created. This is an argument, however, already explored in his other works and touched on, only briefly in this book.

If I were to be asked to recommend a good book on the reformation I would automatically point them to `The Stripping of the Altars', it is by far the best and most readable book in its field, if polemical and counter-cultural in its argument. This on the other-hand, isn't - it's for the diehard Duffy fan (there are no new arguments here). I would only recommend this book to those who have read and enjoyed Duffy's other books and are looking for more of the same.
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