Belloc, “Characters of the Reformation”

In April, Ignatius Press will release a new paperback edition of Characters of the Reformation by Hilaire Belloc. The publisher’s description follows:

characters-of-the-reformationOne of the most fascinating books ever written by the great Catholic historian Belloc, he presents  in bold colors the 23 principal characters of the Protestant Reformation, focusing primarily on those figures concerned with the events in England, analyzing their strengths, mistakes, motives and deeds which changed the course of history.

Among the characters he examines are Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, St. Thomas More, Mary Tudor, Thomas Cromwell, William Cecil, Mary Stuart, Cardinal Richelieu and many more. Belloc illustrates how the motives of the Protestant leaders were rarely religious in nature, but usually political or economic. He underscores the fact that European Christendom was once a single united entity, under the authority of the Catholic Church, each country viewing itself as a single “province” of the whole.

Many of Europe’s Princes resented the power that the Bishop of Rome held in their own lands. The Reformation, aided by the rise of Nationalism, was a means for the nobles of Europe to shake off Papal authority and rule their territory independently. It also gave European monarchs control over the Church and all of its property in their realm, including the taxes that would normally be sent to Rome.

The nobles grew rich by confiscating the wealth of the Church, and resisted reconciliation if that meant returning the wealth to its rightful owner. In subsequent generations, the fear of this possibility gave the noble classes an incentive to remain in the Protestant camp. Belloc warns that this breakup of Christendom may still destroy our Christian civilization.

Even those who think they do not like history will be unable to put this book down as it brings history vividly to life. As usual, Belloc’s historical perspective offers timeless wisdom and insight rarely seen in modern times.

Lecture: “The Reformation and Law: 500th Anniversary Perspectives” (Apr. 3-4)

In April,  The Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University will host a lecture titled “The Reformation and Law: 500th Anniversary Perspectives.” A brief description of the lecture follows:

emory-university-eventThis lecture, the fourth installment in The McDonald Distinguished Scholar Lectures on Christian Scholarship, will be held April 3 and 4, 2017.

“The Reformation and Law: 500th Anniversary Perspectives,” will be a scholarly celebration of the contributions of the Protestant Reformation to the transformation of theology, art, music, liturgy, church life, politics, economics, and the law. The celebration will include a Bach organ concert by Timothy Albrecht and Presentation of Reformation archives by Pat Graham.

More information on the lecture can be found here.

Kaufmann, “Luther’s Jews”

In March, Oxford University Press will release Luther’s Jews: A Journey into Anti-Semitism by Thomas Kaufmann (University of Gottingen). The publisher’s description follows:

luthers-jewsIf there was one person who could be said to light the touch-paper for the epochal transformation of European religion and culture that we now call the Reformation, it was Martin Luther. And Luther and his followers were to play a central role in the Protestant world that was to emerge from the Reformation process, both in Germany and the wider world.

In all senses of the term, this religious pioneer was a huge figure in European history. Yet there is also the very uncomfortable but at the same time undeniable fact that he was an anti-semite. Written by one of the world’s leading authorities on the Reformation, this is the vexed and sometimes shocking story of Martin Luther’s increasingly vitriolic attitude towards the Jews over the course of his lifetime, set against the backdrop of a world in religious turmoil.

A final chapter then reflects on the extent to which the legacy of Luther’s anti-semitism was to taint the Lutheran church over the following centuries. Scheduled for publication on the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation’s birth, in light of the subsequent course of German history it is a tale both sobering and ominous in equal measure.

Roper, “Martin Luther”

In March, Penguin Random House Press will release Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper (Oxford University). The publisher’s description follows:

martin-lutherThis definitive biography reveals the complicated inner life of the founding father of the Protestant Reformation, whose intellectual assault on Catholicism ushered in a century of upheaval that transformed Christianity and changed the course of world history.

On October 31, 1517, so the story goes, a shy monk named Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper to the door of the Castle Church in the university town of Wittenberg. The ideas contained in these Ninety-five Theses, which boldly challenged the Catholic Church, spread like wildfire. Within two months, they were known all over Germany. So powerful were Martin Luther’s broadsides against papal authority that they polarized a continent and tore apart the very foundation of Western Christendom. Luther’s ideas inspired upheavals whose consequences we live with today.

But who was the man behind the Ninety-five Theses? Lyndal Roper’s magisterial new biography goes beyond Luther’s theology to investigate the inner life of the religious reformer who has been called “the last medieval man and the first modern one.” Here is a full-blooded portrait of a revolutionary thinker who was, at his core, deeply flawed and full of contradictions. Luther was a brilliant writer whose biblical translations had a lasting impact on the German language. Yet he was also a strident fundamentalist whose scathing rhetorical attacks threatened to alienate those he might persuade. He had a colorful, even impish personality, and when he left the monastery to get married (“to spite the Devil,” he explained), he wooed and wed an ex-nun. But he had an ugly side too. When German peasants rose up against the nobility, Luther urged the aristocracy to slaughter them. He was a ferocious anti-Semite and a virulent misogynist, even as he argued for liberated human sexuality within marriage.

A distinguished historian of early modern Europe, Lyndal Roper looks deep inside the heart of this singularly complex figure. The force of Luther’s personality, she argues, had enormous historical effects—both good and ill. By bringing us closer than ever to the man himself, she opens up a new vision of the Reformation and the world it created and draws a fully three-dimensional portrait of its founder.

“Judging Faith, Punishing Sin” (Parker & Starr-LeBeau, eds.)

Next month, Cambridge University Press will release “Judging Faith, Punishing Sin: Inquisitions and Consistories in the Early Modern World,” edited by Charles Parker (St. Louis University) and Gretchen Starr-LeBeau (Principia College).  The publisher’s description follows: 

Judging Faith, Punishing Sin breaks new ground by offering the first comparative treatment of Catholic inquisitions and Calvinist consistories, offering scholars a new cup-colour-logo2framework for analysing religious reform and social discipline in the great Christian age of reformation. Global in scope, both institutions played critical roles in prosecuting deviance, implementing religious uniformity, and promoting moral discipline in the social upheaval of the Reformation. Rooted in local archives and addressing specific themes, the essays survey the state of scholarship and chart directions for future inquiry and, taken as a whole, demonstrate the unique convergence of penitential practice, legal innovation, church authority, and state power, and how these forces transformed Christianity. Bringing together leading scholars across four continents, this volume is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of religion in the early modern world. University students and scholars alike will appreciate its clear introduction to scholarly debates and cutting edge scholarship.

MacCulloch, “All Things Made New”

In September, Oxford University Press will release All Things Made New: The Reformation and Its Legacy by Diarmaid MacCulloch (Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:

All things made newThe most profound characteristic of Western Europe in the Middle Ages was its cultural and religious unity, a unity secured by a common alignment with the Pope in Rome, and a common language – Latin – for worship and scholarship. The Reformation shattered that unity, and the consequences are still with us today. In All Things Made New, Diarmaid MacCulloch, author of the New York Times bestseller Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, examines not only the Reformation’s impact across Europe, but also the Catholic Counter-Reformation and the special evolution of religion in England, revealing how one of the most turbulent, bloody, and transformational events in Western history has shaped modern society.

The Reformation may have launched a social revolution, MacCulloch argues, but it was not caused by social and economic forces, or even by a secular idea like nationalism; it sprang from a big idea about death, salvation, and the afterlife. This idea – that salvation was entirely in God’s hands and there was nothing humans could do to alter his decision – ended the Catholic Church’s monopoly in Europe and altered the trajectory of the entire future of the West.

By turns passionate, funny, meditative, and subversive, All Things Made New takes readers onto fascinating new ground, exploring the original conflicts of the Reformation and cutting through prejudices that continue to distort popular conceptions of a religious divide still with us after five centuries. This monumental work, from one of the most distinguished scholars of Christianity writing today, explores the ways in which historians have told the tale of the Reformation, why their interpretations have changed so dramatically over time, and ultimately, how the contested legacy of this revolution continues to impact the world today.

“A Companion to the Reformation in Central Europe” (Louthan & Murdock, eds.)

Last month, Brill released “A Companion to the Reformation in Central Europe” edited by Howard Louthan (Princeton University) and Graeme Murdock (University of Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:

A Companion to the Reformation in Central Europe analyses the diverse Christian cultures of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Czech lands, Austria, and lands of the Hungarian kingdom between the 15th and 18th centuries. It establishes the geography of Reformation movements across this region, and then considers different movements of reform and the role played by Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox clergy. This volume examines different contexts and social settings for reform movements, and investigates how cities, princely courts, universities, schools, books, and images helped spread ideas about reform. This volume brings together expertise on diverse lands and churches to provide the first integrated account of religious life in Central Europe during the early modern period.

Ever Hear of This Guy?

A book out this summer, on Renaissance banker Jacob Fugger, is getting lots of the-richest-man-who-ever-lived-9781451688559_lgattention. The Richest Man Who Ever Lived claims that Fugger, of whom pretty much no one has ever heard, was one of the most influential people in his age — and all of history, in fact. According to the author, journalist and securities analyst Greg Steinmetz, Fugger is indirectly responsible both for the end of the Catholic Church’s ban on the taking of interest and, in a roundabout way, the Protestant Reformation. From the Washington Post‘s review:

Fugger’s “greatest talent was an ability to borrow the money he needed to invest,” Steinmetz writes. “He convinced cardinals, bishops, dukes, and counts to loan him oceans of money. . . . Financial leverage catapulted him to the top.” But in order to charge and offer interest payments, he had to battle the church’s long-standing ban on usury. Here Fugger’s links to Rome, buttressed through bribes for high church officials, became useful. Through artful lobbying and the staging of a high-profile public debate, he helped persuade Pope Leo X to sign a papal bull acknowledging the legitimacy of interest, which became permissible as long as the loan involved labor, cost or risk on behalf of the lender. “And what loan didn’t involve one of the three?” Steinmetz asks. After this victory, “debt financing accelerated,” he writes. “The modern economy was underway.”

It was a system that soon prompted controversies and suffered attacks, whether peasant revolts or even the Protestant Reformation. Clerical offices were for sale then, and Fugger financed the purchase of an influential job — the archbishop of Mainz, one of the seven electors of the Holy Roman Emperor. In order to repay the loan, the new bishop and the pontiff concocted a scheme: the sale of sin-forgiving indulgences to the faithful, ostensibly to refurbish St. Peter’s Basilica but in large part to repay Fugger. A 33-year-old priest and theologian by the name of Martin Luther was outraged at the church cashing in on popular fears of damnation and posted his 95 Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. You know what happened next.

I’m always suspicious of claims that an author has discovered a previously unknown person who changed the course of history. But who knows? Anyway, the book looks interesting, and it’s nice to see the history of law and religion getting some attention in the  media.

“‘Settling the Peace of the Church’: 1662 Revisited” (Keeble, ed.)

In December, Oxford University Press will release “‘Settling the Peace of the Church’: 1662 Revisited”  edited by N. H. Keeble (University of Stirling). The publisher’s description follows:

The 1662 Act of Uniformity and the consequent “ejections” on August 24 (St. Bartholomew’s Day) of those who refused to comply with its stringent conditions comprise perhaps the single most significant episode in post-Reformation English religious history. Intended, in its own words, “to settle the peace of the church” by banishing dissent and outlawing Puritan opinion it instead led to penal religious legislation and persecution, vituperative controversy, and repeated attempts to diversify the religious life of the nation until, with the Toleration Act of 1689, its aspiration was finally abandoned and the freedom of the individual conscience and the right to dissent were, within limits, legally recognised. Bartholomew Day was hence, unintentionally but momentously, the first step towards today’s pluralist and multicultural society.

This volume brings together nine original essays which on the basis of new research examine afresh the nature and occasion of the Act, its repercussions and consequences and the competing ways in which its effects were shaped in public memory. A substantial introduction sets out the historical context. The result is an interdisciplinary volume which avoids partisanship to engage with episcopalian, nonconformist, and separatist perspectives; it understands “English” history as part of “British” history, taking in the Scottish and Irish experience; it recognises the importance of European and transatlantic relations by including the Netherlands and New England in its scope; and it engages with literary history in its discussions of the memorialisation of these events in autobiography, memoirs, and historiography. This collection constitutes the most wide-ranging and sustained discussion of this episode for fifty years.

Treasure, “The Huguenots”

This month, Yale University Press publishes The Huguenots, by Geoffrey Treasure.  The publisher’s description follows. Huguenots

Following the Reformation, a growing number of radical Protestants came together to live and worship in Catholic France. These Huguenots survived persecution and armed conflict to win—however briefly—freedom of worship, civil rights, and unique status as a protected minority. But in 1685, the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes abolished all Huguenot rights, and more than 200,000 of the radical Calvinists were forced to flee across Europe, some even farther.   In this capstone work, Geoffrey Treasure tells the full story of the Huguenots’ rise, survival, and fall in France over the course of a century and a half. He explores what it was like to be a Huguenot living in a “state within a state,” weaving stories of ordinary citizens together with those of statesmen, feudal magnates, leaders of the Catholic revival, Henry of Navarre, Catherine de’ Medici, Louis XIV, and many others. Treasure describes the Huguenots’ disciplined community, their faith and courage, their rich achievements, and their unique place within Protestantism and European history. The Huguenot exodus represented a crucial turning point in European history, Treasure contends, and he addresses the significance of the Huguenot story—the story of a minority group with the power to resist and endure in one of early modern Europe’s strongest nations.

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