“The latest volume to appear in the Penguin History of Europe. Like its companion volumes, [Christendom Destroyed] is no breezy survey but a masterly synthesis of depth and breadth."—The Wall Street Journal
“The political and religious conflicts of early modern Europe receive high-quality treatment from Greengrass.... an excellent addition to the new Penguin History of Europe.”—Financial Times
From peasants to princes, no one was untouched by the spiritual and intellectual upheaval of the sixteenth century. Martin Luther’s challenge to church authority forced Christians to examine their beliefs in ways that shook the foundations of their religion. The subsequent divisions, fed by dynastic rivalries and military changes, fundamentally altered the relations between ruler and ruled. Geographical and scientific discoveries challenged the unity of Christendom as a belief community. Europe, with all its divisions, emerged instead as a geographical projection. Chronicling these dramatic changes, Thomas More, Shakespeare, Montaigne, and Cervantes created works that continue to resonate with us.
Spanning the years 1517 to 1648, Christendom Destroyed is Mark Greengrass’s magnum opus: a rich tapestry that fosters a deeper understanding of Europe’s identity today.
Though the Reformation is generally described as a period of great change, historian Greengrass (France in the Age of Henry IV) asks readers to consider the weakening of traditions and sources of power that accompanied the transition to the early modern era. The Catholic Church suffered as Copernicus's theories disputed "Aristotelian physics, Holy Scripture, and daily experience," while Martin Luther unexpectedly started a movement following the publication of his 95 theses. Greengrass's detailed explanation of this process makes use of economic concepts like debasement and inflation and delves into specifics, such as regional diets, the inspired invention of the filing cabinet, the impact of climate change on the political landscape, and English Queen Jane Grey's nine-day reign. The book is dense and best read in installments; it offers insight into the extraordinary turmoil that the average European endured in an era typically described through reverent admiration for art, architecture, and intellectual development. Using the histories of well-chosen cities and countries as examples for each discussion, Greengrass reveals that it was "curiosity destroyed Christendom."