The Reformation and Counter-Reformation represented the greatest upheaval in Western society since the collapse of the Roman Empire a millennium before. The consequences of those shattering events are still felt today—from the stark divisions between (and within) Catholic and Protestant countries to the Protestant ideology that governs America, the world’s only remaining superpower.
In this masterful history, Diarmaid MacCulloch conveys the drama, complexity, and continuing relevance of these events. He offers vivid portraits of the most significant individuals—Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Loyola, Henry VIII, and a number of popes—but also conveys why their ideas were so powerful and how the Reformation affected everyday lives. The result is a landmark book that will be the standard work on the Reformation for years to come. The narrative verve of The Reformation as well as its provocative analysis of American culture’s debt to the period will ensure the book’s wide appeal among history readers.
Many standard histories of Christianity chronicle the Reformation as a single, momentous period in the history of the Church. According to those accounts, a number of competing groups of reformers challenged a monolithic and corrupt Roman Catholicism over issues ranging from authority and the role of the priests to the interpretation of the Eucharist and the use of the Bible in church. In this wide-ranging, richly layered and captivating study of the Reformation, MacCulloch challenges traditional interpretations, arguing instead that there were many reformations. Arranging his history in chronological fashion, MacCulloch provides in-depth studies of reform movements in central, northern and southern Europe and examines the influences that politics and geography had on such groups. He challenges common assumptions about the relationships between Catholic priests and laity, arguing that in some cases Protestantism actually took away religious authority from laypeople rather than putting it in their hands. In addition, he helpfully points out that even within various groups of reformers there was scarcely agreement about ways to change the Church. MacCulloch offers valuable and engaging portraits of key personalities of the Reformation, including Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin. More than a history of the Reformation, MacCulloch's study examines its legacy of individual religious authority and autonomous biblical interpretation. This spectacular intellectual history reminds us that the Reformation grew out of the Renaissance, and provides a compelling glimpse of the cultural currents that formed the background to reform. MacCulloch's magisterial book should become the definitive history of the Reformation.
A reformation is by definition to change or improve, however Martin Luther and his ilk strictly wanted to leave the Roman Catholic Church and form their own churches and do whatever they believed or wanted to minus the influence of the Papal Authority. Thus it should be labed the Protestant Revolution not the ill used Protestant Reformation label. Just remember, the bigest racists are the people, who label those who oppose their view poinsts as racist because this is their only defense, when facts do not suppor their arguments, and they wish to censor oppositon by labeling.
Excellent book. Ignore the religious zealots who don’t like the title
Excellent book. Seems odd to have to say this, but please ignore the apparently xenophobic Roman Catholic reviewer who disputes the term “Reformation” since it offends his religious biases. This is a work of history, and a good one.