The best books on the Reformation 📚

Browse the best books on the Reformation as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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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

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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

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Book cover of Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525–1590

Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525–1590

By Karl Gunther

Why this book?

This incisive account of the development of Protestant extremism reveals that the beliefs of the Pilgrims were not novel. Dr Gunther traces their development back to the early years of the Reformation. When the religion of images and priests was replaced by the religion of words and preachers the implications for the English church could only be extensive and devastating. When the Bible was translated into the vernacular and increasing numbers of Christians read it for themselves it is clear (though only in hindsight) that the centre could not hold. People were driven by conscience to oppose, not only their…

From the list:

The best books on the background of the Pilgrim fathers

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Book cover of The Irish Church and the Tudor Reformations

The Irish Church and the Tudor Reformations

By Henry A. Jefferies

Why this book?

Since the later sixteenth century, historians have been trying to explain why the Irish refused to follow their political leaders into the newly established protestant church. Jefferies’s book highlights the scale of the problem – showing that by the turn of the seventeenth century, seventy years after the beginnings of protestant reform, the number of native Irish converts amounted to little more than one hundred. Pushing against the triumphalism that marked an older way of writing the history of the reformation, Jefferies demonstrates the popularity of the late medieval church and argues that historians should reframe their research questions.

It…

From the list:

The best books on the history of Christianity in Ireland

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Book cover of Q

Q

By Luther Blissett

Why this book?

Q takes place in strife-ridden 1500s central Europe. At the center is an Anabaptist revolutionary, of many names, hunted by a Papal spy, Q. Identities mutate in Q. Thus, Q is an espionage novel, with disguises, code, counterfeiting. Commoners build egalitarian communities in Q. But rulers cannot tolerate egalitarianism. It might be catching. Thus, Q is also a war novel, with battles, skirmishes, narrow escapes. 

Is Q an allegory for modern revolution? The take-away seems to be, “Use the new technology and dissimulate.” A seems self-evident. But B? Would I even know, if they’re dissimulating? An idea-filled, engrossing,…

From the list:

The best fiction books set in the 16th century

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Book cover of The Sword Bearer: John Knox and the European Reformation

The Sword Bearer: John Knox and the European Reformation

By Stewart Lamont

Why this book?

My upbringing taught me to believe that John Knox was the Antichrist but that only piqued my curiosity to know more about the Thundering Scot. What fired his driving ambition? Why did the ordained priest reject the Roman Catholic Church? How did he become leader of the Scottish Reformation? Was the twice married preacher who wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women really such a rampant misogynist? How did his public persona differ from the private family man? Rev Lamont answers these questions and more in an exciting non-fiction account that reads more like…
From the list:

The best books on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people

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