This new collection of essays from Oxford on the Protestant Reformation looks very interesting: The Oxford History of the Reformation. The editor is historian Peter Marshall (Warwick). The blurb from Oxford credits the Reformation for creating the pluralist world in which we live. That might be a bit of an overstatement. As Harold Berman and others showed, pluralism has been a big part of Western culture from at least the High Middle Ages. But there’s no denying, as the blub says, that the Reformation transformed pluralism into something even the Reformers didn’t expect. Here’s the description from the Oxford website:
The Reformation was a seismic event in history whose consequences are still unfolding in Europe and across the world.
Martin Luther’s protests against the marketing of indulgences in 1517 were part of a long-standing pattern of calls for reform in the Christian Church. But they rapidly took a radical and unexpected turn, engulfing first Germany, and then Europe, in furious arguments about how God’s will was to be ‘saved’.
However, these debates did not remain confined to a narrow sphere of theology. They came to reshape politics and international relations; social, cultural, and artistic developments; relations between the sexes; and the patterns and performances of everyday life. They were also the stimulus for Christianity’s transformation into a truly global religion, as agents of the Roman Catholic Church sought to compensate for losses in Europe with new conversions in Asia and the Americas.
Covering both Protestant and Catholic reform movements, in Europe and across the wider world, this compact volume tells the story of the Reformation from its immediate, explosive beginnings, through to its profound longer-term consequences and legacy for the modern world. The story is not one of an inevitable triumph of liberty over oppression, enlightenment over ignorance. Rather, it tells how a multitude of rival groups and individuals, with or without the support of political power, strove after visions of ‘reform’. And how, in spite of themselves, they laid the foundations for the plural and conflicted world we now inhabit.
Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that the Tudor Family had an outsized impact on church and state in the West. A current exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York explores Tudor politics and personalities–as well as the dynasty’s artistic legacy. The Yale University Press has released a companion volume, The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England by Met curators Elizabeth Cleland and Adam Eaker. The publisher’s description follows:
A fascinating new look at the artistic legacy of the Tudors, revealing the dynasty’s influence on the arts in Renaissance England and beyond
Ruling successively from 1485 through 1603, the five Tudor monarchs changed England indelibly, using the visual arts to both legitimize and glorify their tumultuous rule—from Henry VII’s bloody rise to power, through Henry VIII’s breach with the Roman Catholic Church, to the reign of the “virgin queen” Elizabeth I. With incisive scholarship and sumptuous new photography, the book explores the politics and personalities of the Tudors, and how they used art in their diplomacy at home and abroad.
Tudor courts were truly cosmopolitan, attracting artists and artisans from across Europe, including Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8–1543), Jean Clouet (ca. 1485–1540), and Benedetto da Rovezzano (1474–1552). At the same time, the Tudors nurtured local talent such as Isaac Oliver (ca. 1565–1617) and Nicholas Hilliard (ca. 1547–1619) and gave rise to a distinctly English aesthetic that now defines the visual legacy of the dynasty. This book reveals the true history behind a family that has long captured the public imagination, bringing to life the extravagant and politically precarious world of the Tudors through the exquisite paintings, lush textiles, gleaming metalwork, and countless luxury objects that adorned their spectacular courts.
Historians debate what caused the interest in religious toleration in late 17th-Century Britain. Did writers like Locke reflect an older Christian ethic, a new Enlightenment worldview, or simply the exhaustion that had resulted from a century and more of religious debate and violence? A forthcoming book from Manchester University Press, Reformation without End, by Robert Ingram (Ohio University) no doubt addresses these issues. The publisher’s description suggests the author believes the final factor was the most important:
This study provides a radical reassessment of the English Reformation. No one in eighteenth-century England thought that they were living during ‘the Enlightenment’; instead, they saw themselves as facing the religious, intellectual and political problems unleashed by the Reformation, which began in the sixteenth century. Moreover, they faced those problems in the aftermath of two bloody seventeenth-century political and religious revolutions. Reformation without end examines how the eighteenth-century English debated the causes and consequences of those revolutions and the thing they thought had caused them, the Reformation. It draws on a wide array of manuscript sources to show how authors crafted and pitched their works.
On this 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation, we continue with our list of new and forthcoming works on Martin Luther. From Baker Academic Press, here is a new biography of the Reformer — looking rather skeptical on that jacket cover, come to think of it — by German medievalist Volker Leppin (University of Tübingen), Martin Luther: A Late Medieval Life. The description from the publisher’s website:
This brief, insightful biography of Martin Luther strips away the myths surrounding the Reformer to offer a more nuanced account of his life and ministry. Coinciding with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, this accessible yet robustly historical and theological work highlights the medieval background of Luther’s life in contrast to contemporary legends. Internationally respected church historian Volker Leppin explores the Catholic roots of Lutheran thought and locates Luther’s life in the unfolding history of 16th-century Europe. Foreword by Timothy J. Wengert.
Here is another in the flood of books commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this year, A World Ablaze: The Rise of Martin Luther and the Birth of the Reformation (Oxford), by BYU history professor Craig Harline. Looks interesting. Here’s a description from the publisher’s website:
October 2017 marks five hundred years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg and launched the Protestant Reformation. At least, that’s what the legend says. But with a figure like Martin Luther, who looms so large in the historical imagination, it’s hard to separate the legend from the life, or even sometimes to separate assorted legends from each other. Over the centuries, Luther the man has given way to Luther the icon, a polished bronze figure on a pedestal.
In A World Ablaze, Craig Harline introduces us to the flesh-and-blood Martin Luther. Harline tells the riveting story of the first crucial years of the accidental crusade that would make Luther a legendary figure. He didn’t start out that way; Luther was a sometimes-cranky friar and professor who worried endlessly about the fate of his eternal soul. He sought answers in the Bible and the Church fathers, and what he found distressed him even more — the way many in the Church had come to understand salvation was profoundly wrong, thought Luther, putting millions of souls, not least his own, at risk of damnation. His ideas would pit him against numerous scholars, priests, bishops, princes, and the Pope, even as others adopted or adapted his cause, ultimately dividing the Church against itself. A World Ablaze is a tale not just of religious debate but of political intrigue, of shifting alliances and daring escapes, with Luther often narrowly avoiding capture, which might have led to execution. The conflict would eventually encompass the whole of Christendom and served as the crucible in which a new world was forged.
The Luther we find in these pages is not a statue to be admired but a complex figure — brilliant and volatile, fretful and self-righteous, curious and stubborn. Harline brings out the immediacy, uncertainty, and drama of his story, giving readers a sense of what it felt like in the moment, when the ending was still very much in doubt. The result is a masterful recreation of a momentous turning point in the history of the world.
All this year, we’ve been noting the many books that publishers are releasing for the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses, the document that initiated the Protestant Reformation. Out today from Penguin Random House is a new translation, The Ninety-Five Theses and Other Writings, by Luther scholar William Russell. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:
For the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, a new translation of Martin Luther’s most famous works by leading Luther scholar and pastor William Russell
This volume contains selections from Martin Luther’s most evocative and provocative writings, freshly translated, for the 21st century. These documents, which span the Reformer’s literary career, point to the enduring and flexible character of his central ideas. As Luther’s reform proposals emerged, they coalesced around some basic priorities, which he delivered to wide-ranging audiences–writing for children, preaching in congregations, formulating academic treatises, penning letters to family and friends, counter-punching critics, summarizing Biblical books, crafting confessions of faith, and more. This book demonstrates that range and provides entry points, for non-specialists and specialists alike, into the thought and life of the epoch-defining, fascinating, and controversial Martin Luther. With attention to the breadth of his literary output, it draws from his letters, sermons, popular writings, and formal theological works. This breadth allows readers to encounter Luther the man: the sinner and the saint, the public activist and the private counselor, the theologian and the pastor. These writings possess a practical, accessible arc, as Luther does not write only for specialists and church officials, but he applies his chief insights to the “real-life” issues that faced his rather wide variety of audiences.
In June, Yale University Press will release Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation by Peter Marshall (University of Warwick). The publisher’s description follows:
A sumptuously written people’s history and a major retelling and reinterpretation of the story of the English Reformation
Centuries on, what the Reformation was and what it accomplished remain deeply contentious. Peter Marshall’s sweeping new history—the first major overview for general readers in a generation—argues that sixteenth-century England was a society neither desperate for nor allergic to change, but one open to ideas of “reform” in various competing guises. King Henry VIII wanted an orderly, uniform Reformation, but his actions opened a Pandora’s Box from which pluralism and diversity flowed and rooted themselves in English life.
With sensitivity to individual experience as well as masterfully synthesizing historical and institutional developments, Marshall frames the perceptions and actions of people great and small, from monarchs and bishops to ordinary families and ecclesiastics, against a backdrop of profound change that altered the meanings of “religion” itself. This engaging history reveals what was really at stake in the overthrow of Catholic culture and the reshaping of the English Church.
This month, Chatto & Windus released The Catholics: The Church and its People in Britain and Ireland, from the Reformation to the Present Day by Roy Hattersley (The Guardian). The publisher’s description follows:
In May, the University of Toronto Press will release Cultures of Communication: Theologies of Media in Early Modern Europe and Beyond edited by Helmut Puff (University of Michigan), Ulrike Strasser (University of California, San Diego), and Christopher Wild (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows:
Contrary to the historiographical commonplace “no Reformation without print” Cultures of Communication examines media in the early modern world through the lens of the period’s religious history. Looking beyond the emergence of print, this collection of ground-breaking essays highlights the pivotal role of theology in the formation of the early modern cultures of communication. The authors assembled here urge us to understand the Reformation as a response to the perceived crisis of religious communication in late medieval Europe. In addition, they explore the novel demands placed on European media ecology by the acceleration and intensification of global interconnectedness in the early modern period. As the Christian evangelizing impulse began to propel growing numbers of Europeans outward to the Americas and Asia, theories and practices of religious communication had to be reformed to accommodate an array of new communicative constellations – across distances, languages, cultures.
This month, Bloomsbury Publishing released Reformation Divided: Catholics, Protestants, and the Conversion of England by Eamon Duffy (Cambridge). The publisher’s description follows:
Published to mark the 500th anniversary of the events of 1517, Reformation Divided explores the impact in England of the cataclysmic transformations of European Christianity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The religious revolution initiated by Martin Luther is usually referred to as ‘The Reformation’, a tendentious description implying that the shattering of the medieval religious foundations of Europe was a single process, in which a defective form of Christianity was replaced by one that was unequivocally benign, ‘the midwife of the modern world’. The book challenges these assumptions by tracing the ways in which the project of reforming Christendom from within, initiated by Christian ‘humanists’ like Erasmus and Thomas More, broke apart into conflicting and often murderous energies and ideologies, dividing not only Catholic from Protestant, but creating deep internal rifts within all the churches which emerged from Europe’s religious conflicts.
The book is in three parts: In ‘Thomas More and Heresy’, Duffy examines how and why England’s greatest humanist apparently abandoned the tolerant humanism of his youthful masterpiece Utopia, and became the bitterest opponent of the early Protestant movement. ‘Counter-Reformation England’ explores the ways in which post-Reformation English Catholics accommodated themselves to a complex new identity as persecuted religious dissidents within their own country, but in a European context, active participants in the global renewal of the Catholic Church. The book’s final section ‘The Godly and the Conversion of England’ considers the ideals and difficulties of radical reformers attempting to transform the conventional Protestantism of post-Reformation England into something more ardent and committed. In addressing these subjects, Duffy shines new light on the fratricidal ideological conflicts which lasted for more than a century, and whose legacy continues to shape the modern world.