The best books about the English Reformation

1 authors have picked their favorite books about the English Reformation and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

By Patrick Collinson,

Why this book?

Thirty years after its first publication, Patrick Collinson’s elegantly written account of how Protestantism transformed English society remains fresh, challenging and surprising. Focusing on art and culture, urban life, the family and ideas of nationhood, it persuasively argued that it makes more sense to see the Reformation as a drawn-out process rather than a dramatic ‘event’, and as one that was coming to fruition only in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. It is also a triumphant demonstration of how short books can punch above their weight.

From the list:

The best books on the English Reformation

Book cover of The Social Universe of the English Bible: Scripture, Society, and Culture in Early Modern England

The Social Universe of the English Bible: Scripture, Society, and Culture in Early Modern England

By Naomi Tadmor,

Why this book?

At the heart of the Reformation in England was an insistence that people be allowed access to Scripture in their own language, but translation was invariably a selective and creative process. Tadmor brilliantly shows how the translators of the Hebrew Bible (‘Old Testament’) remade the ancient world in the image of contemporary Tudor society, editing out many references to slavery and polygamous marriage, and merging together distinct forms of political governance through consistent reference to the authority of a ‘prince’. The findings are eye-opening, and the book should be required reading for modern biblical fundamentalists.

From the list:

The best books on the English Reformation

Book cover of Providence in Early Modern England

Providence in Early Modern England

By Alexandra Walsham,

Why this book?

In the world of the Reformation, nothing happened by chance. Providentialism was the belief that every event in the human and natural world was a result of the direct will of God, and was infused with meanings for people to interpret. With great sensitivity and insight, Walsham draws us into these unfamiliar ways of thinking, where everything from a bout of bad weather to the unmasking of a political plot could be a message from God demanding an urgent collective response.

From the list:

The best books on the English Reformation

Book cover of The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village

The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village

By Eamon Duffy,

Why this book?

Eamon Duffy’s justly acclaimed ‘microhistory’ transports us away from the world of bishops, parliament and the court in order to track, across four crucial decades, the experiences of a tiny village on the edge of Exmoor in Devon, based on meticulous recordings in the ‘church book’ by the long-serving parish priest. It is a story in miniature of the tragically destructive aspects of the Reformation, but also an uplifting one in its depiction of the capacity of ordinary people to survive and adapt.

From the list:

The best books on the English Reformation

Book cover of Rural Rides

Rural Rides

By William Cobbett,

Why this book?

Describing a series of journeys on horseback and by foot through south-east England and the Midlands during the 1820s, Rural Rides is one of the great travelogues. Cobbett was a man of many parts – journalist, soldier, farmer, politician, and social reformer. In Rural Rides he blends lyrical description with fist-shaking fury about the injustices he encountered. He writes so well that you feel that you are travelling through the countryside with him.

From the list:

The best books evoking the spirit of the British countryside

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