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Popular Politics and the English Reformation (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History) [Kindle Edition]

Ethan H. Shagan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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  • Print ISBN-10: 0521808464
  • Print ISBN-13: 978-0521808460
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Book Description

This book is a study of popular responses to the English Reformation. It takes as its subject not the conversion of English subjects to a new religion but rather their political responses to a Reformation perceived as an act of state and hence, like all early modern acts of state, negotiated between government and people. These responses included not only resistance but also significant levels of accommodation, co-operation and collaboration as people attempted to co-opt state power for their own purposes. This study argues, then, that the English Reformation was not done to people, it was done with them in a dynamic process of engagement between government and people. As such, it answers the twenty-year-old scholarly dilemma of how the English Reformation could have succeeded despite the inherent conservatism of the English people, and it presents a genuinely post-revisionist account of one of the central events of English history.

Editorial Reviews


"Ethan Shagan set out to fire controversy and in this he will succeed." Thomas F. Mayer, Augustana College

"[A] fascinating interpretation of the English Reformation...Shagan asks imaginative and fresh questions of the evidence...Lucidly and incisively written, Shagan's work offers much to ponder." William Wizeman, S.J., Fordham University, Sixteenth Century Journal

"Shagan explores the key social, religious, cultural and governmental elements in England's conversion to a Protestant nation...[a] comprehensive text..." Northwestern

"...an impressive response to revisionists who argue that the English were inherently conservative and resistant to religious change." Religious Studies Review

"A well-written, innovative work that makes an important and provocative contribution to the debate about why Catholicism lost its hold on the English people." Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"One of the most thought-provoking books of the last decade on this much-worked topic." Renaissance Quarterly

"This is a book that students of the English Reformation must read, as much for its historiographical arguments as for its case studies...This book is an effective attempt to move the debate over the English Reformation off dead center...Based on extensive archival work, this volume does not pretened to be a history of the Reformation; rather, is presents an argument about how reformation occurred. It refreshingly quits trying to count converted noses and conservative faithful and asks a most reasonable question: what did people do in the face of reform from above?" - Journal of Modern History, Norman Jones, Utah State University

Book Description

This is a study of popular responses to the English Reformation, analysing how ordinary people received, interpreted, debated, and responded to religious change. It differs from other studies by arguing that the subject cannot be understood simply by asking theological questions about people's beliefs, but also must be understood by asking political questions about how they negotiated with state power. Therefore it is as much political as religious history, making a fundamental argument that even at the popular level, political and theological processes were inseparable in the sixteenth century.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3774 KB
  • Print Length: 360 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (October 17, 2002)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #696,994 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is brilliant January 3, 2007
By C-Rock
The fundamental question Ethan Shagan's book seeks to answer is how a government without a bureaucracy, police force, or standing army managed to affect the English Reformation. Shagan answers that it was an act of negotiation between the people and the government, an "act not done to the people [but] done with them" (25). Shagan's book represents one of the first post-revisionist attempts to understand the English Reformation. He eschews the most common questions asked by revisionist historians: To what extent was the Reformation a process of national conversion? Was that national conversion rapid from below or slow from above? When did England become a Protestant country? Instead of chasing these "phantasmagoric" questions, Shagan reconceptualizes the Reformation as "a piecemeal process in which politics and spiritual change were irrevocably intertwined" (7).To get at this process, Shagan examines court records, royal proclamations and propaganda, sermons, and theological tracts. Divided into three parts, Shagan's book looks at the political and social processes of Reformation from the Act of Supremacy (1534) to the end of Edward VI's reign in 1553.

"Popular politics" is a crucial term in Shagan's book because it identifies the locus where state and society negotiated Reformation. According to Shagan, revisionist historians have too often associated Reformation with theology, thereby leading them to discount the crucial process of politicization required for it to happen in the first place. Because the Reformation was an act of state, negotiated between it and the people, the concept of "resistance" is a problematic one. Instead, Shagan prefers to use the term "collaboration" to describe the interaction between the people and the government in making reform.
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