Learn more Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Click Here Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Shop Women's Shop Men's

on 21 August 2017
A tour-de-force look at the Reformation. MacCulloch's writing is humane, considered, at times humorous and witty. He tells some memorable and true stories too. The book is opening my eyes to the vastness of spiritual, emotional and social change the sixteenth century Reformation brought about. Changes which we still feel.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 25 April 2017
An excellent, thought provoking book...
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 March 2017
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 October 2014
Great book. Covers every aspect of the Reformation. Rather heavy going in places, but very well and clearly written and well referenced throughout. Well worth the effort.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 29 May 2017
A long book, taking me a while to get through. But helpful nevertheless insofar as we celebrate 500 years from Reformation this year.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 2 March 2017
Marvellous. As good as a novel
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 April 2017
A fantastic and very long book! It encompasses the reformation across the continents of Europe and the Americas. It concentrates mainly on Europe, however; that is, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden etc. It covers in detail both the reformation and counter-reformation over two or three centuries. It delves deeper into the myriad different, smaller and disunited sub-confessions of Protestantism, mainly, the differences (and antagonisms) between Lutheranism and Reformed Protestantism, but also the myriad of other smaller sub-confessions such as the Quakers, Methodists, Presbyterians, Puritans, Anabaptists, gnesio-Lutherans, Arminians, Huguenots etc. Also, the roles of various orders such as the Society of Jesus, (Jesuits). It also introduces all the major figures of the reformation and counter-reformation, such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer, (countless other theologians); the various Popes, the Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburgs, the monarchs of Spain, Britain and France etc. A very detailed and comprehensive book!
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 2 October 2006
Historians are always torn between writing chronologically or thematically. Here, MacCulloch offers his readers the chance to have their cake and eat it: first, a grand narrative of the Reformation through the 16th and 17th centuries; then, a thematic section treating subjects as varied as witchcraft, idolatry and homosexuality.

It both serves as an introduction to the Reformation, introducing and explaining the key figures and their roles (e.g. Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Borromeo and St Ignatius...), and as a critique on established ways of thinking.

For MacCulloch, it is the ideas behind the Reformation that are most significant and that must take priority over an interpretation of the Reformation that primarily views it as a contest for power e.g. between the Pope and nascent nation states or as a battle for Europe among key elite families.

Thus, he unashamedly has a chapter on St Augustine's theology since he views interpreting Augustine as so central to the issues. In this, overall, he is very convincing. More than that, he is brilliantly lucid. For example, his explanation of the distinction between Calvin's eucharistic theology as opposed to Luther's or Zwingli's (or the Pope's, of course)(p248ff) is both clear and also sympathetic. (Those five pages have allowed me to think through my own eucharistic theology more than any other article I have ever read, theological or historical.) That said, his intellectualism occasionally leads him to make some odd points: e.g. paraphrased from p83, "If there is one explanation of why the Latin west experienced as reformation and the east did not, it lies in listening to the New Testament in the new voice of Greek (not Latin)." Really? That sounds like the bias of an academic to me.

Furthermore, while this is definitely a balanced account, he nevertheless has his heroes. Reginald Pole, perhaps surprisingly, is one of them and it's a pleasure to have MacCulloch rehabilitate him from his reputation as a historical failure: generally, MacCulloch likes people who do their best to promote inclusivity in the Church, even if they failed to achieve their aims. Similarly, from the Protestant wing, he champions people like Philip of Hesse, sponsor of the Colloquy of Marburgh, who resisted a particular confessionalisation in his territories, but wanted a more open scene.

His other, related bias is to those who championed faith on the margins: such as Juan de Valdes, and the others in the Spirituali movement. Thus, MacCulloch may not have an established bias (as with Eamon Duffy and Catholicism) but that doesn't mean he lacks bias per se.

What he does have, however, is a great ability to empathise with religiosity from both sides of the spectrum. His chapter on "The Spirit of Protestantism?" (p528-33), seeing the potency of the locus on the spirit within the togetherness of the congregation, is a marvellous evocation of how a Reformed spirituality really does exist: it's not just a limping beast, as Duffy for example might imply. Yet he's also able, say, to empathise with the discipline and spirituality of the Jesuit movement (p219ff).

Moreover, he pointedly gives credit where it is due as well as highlighting times of shame: for example, he doesn't exonerate the Spanish Inquisition in any way, but he does credit the way it worked tirelessly to prevent burnings for witchcraft (that raged in northern Europe) because it was so sceptical about the phenomenon.

The chapter on sexuality is perhaps more idiosyncratic: do we really know enough to say that homosexuality "formed a common part of the family lifecycle" (p625) sating sexual needs between adolescence and marriage in one's mid-twenties?

But to pick up on and query such examples is really to pick up on how lively and full of vitality this book is. It fully justifies great praise.

It's very readable (though I found it a bit of a slog in the middle, as he explains the seemingly endless French wars of religion. But that's the nature of the subject, I guess) and full of choice anecdotes.

If you want a first introduction to the Reformation, you might be advised to go to Owen Chadwick's book, because that is half the length, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't miss out on MacCulloch.

"Reformation" is a magnificant work of history, but it's more than that. It's an exploration of human spirituality, of how that is shaped by theology, and then what the consequences are when theological convictions are given real political power and influence.

It's a classic.
11 Comment| 87 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 March 2008
I would venture to say that this is the best book there is on the subject of the reformation.
I particularly liked the way he was aware of the limited knowledge of the general reader. He has taken great care to impart his expertise gradually which is to be lauded. Where topics have been mentioned in passing he provides, in brackets, a page reference where the subject is covered in more detail. This is helpful because the reformation is a broad subject and a lot of topics are covered in the book's 700 pages.
He is an eloquent and elegant writer and you really get the sense that this guy knows what he is talking about. He has thoughtfully compartmentalised the book brilliantly as only an expert could do.
Obviously in an overview of the subject, everything is touched upon without going into too much detail. But this isn't a bad thing as he has expertly chosen what he thinks is most important for the reader to gain a full understanding of those tumultuous years.
It is an excellently structured book, never being desultory or hard to follow. The first part gives an introduction to the subject, the second is the reformation and its aftermath, and the short third part gives an insight on what it was like to live through. This final part also devotes a couple of chapters to attitudes to love and sex during the reformation.
If you look at the back of the book, you will not only find references and notes, but Mr Macculloch has also provided a list of further reading that he recommends on subjects that may have piqued your interest.

A more panoramic view of the this period will be hard to find.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 April 2007
I disagree with some of the other reviews here that this is bland or a difficult read - I approached it with some tripidation but found it both reassuringly scholarly and yet immensely readable, probably because the author has a distinctive 'voice' which mediates perfectly through the vast amount of material he covers. MacCulloch knows his material intimately and yet manages to convey the complexities without ever resorting to the fatal dumbing down of many authors. As someone with a vague idea of the history of the period, but little knowledge of religious philosophy, I wasn't sure if this would be too 'technical' but actually I found it fascinating and unputdownable. It dropped a star because at some points I felt MacCulloch was trying to cram in too much e.g. the complexities of religious thought across the whole of Europe, but the third section in particular on the differences the reformation made to actual peoples' lives in terms of the way they thought about sex and the family, for example, more than made up for some of the intricacies. All together a brilliant read.
0Comment| 25 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)