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The Reformation: A History (Modern Library Chronicles) Paperback – September 5, 2006

3.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

"The Reformation was awash with words," begins the third chapter of this book. "The historian who tries to catch its essence finds his net breaking under the weight of words." Although referring specifically to the truly jaw-dropping literary output of Martin Luther himself, given the primacy granted the Word in Lutheran doctrine, and the key role the printing press played in amplifying Protestantism, Collinson could well have been referring to the ocean of secondary literature on the turbulent religiosity of Europe's long sixteenth century. Yet Cambridge professor Collinson's brief and pithy history navigates smoothly through messy, if fashionable, debates (What is essential Protestantism? Reformation or Reformations? Catholic Reformation or Counter-Reformation? Capital R or not? and so on), and, in almost 300 pages, eloquently argues that the Reformation was indeed the watershed moment it has been mythologized to be--in many ways the inauguration of the modern world. In keeping with the other titles in his publisher's Modern Library Chronicles series, Collinson's elegant introduction is both erudite and highly accessible. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"No revolution however drastic has ever involved a total repudiation of what came before it."

The religious reformations of the sixteenth century were the crucible of modern Western civilization, profoundly reshaping the identity of Europe's emerging nation-states. In The Reformation, one of the preeminent historians of the period, Patrick Collinson, offers a concise yet thorough overview of the drastic ecumenical revolution of the late medieval and Renaissance eras. In looking at the sum effect of such disparate elements as the humanist philosophy of Desiderius Erasmus and the impact on civilization of movable-type printing and "vulgate" scriptures, or in defining the differences between the evangelical (Lutheran) and reformed (Calvinist) churches, Collinson makes clear how the battles for mens' lives were often hatched in the battles for mens' souls.

Collinson also examines the interplay of spiritual and temporal matters in the spread of religious reform to all corners of Europe, and at how the Catholic Counter-Reformation used both coercion and institutional reform to retain its ecclesiastical control of Christendom. Powerful and remarkably well written, The Reformation is possibly the finest available introduction to this hugely important chapter in religious and political history. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Chronicles
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Reprint edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812972953
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812972955
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As author Patrick Collinson writes, this is a book about Western Europe - a period in Western Europe's development that, when drawn on a map, rather interestingly parallels the shape and development of the European Union community. Collinson gives attention at the start to the area of Christendom beyond the Western Church, but makes the point that the evolutionary/revolutionary pattern in the greater Orthodox world is far different from the West, and that it never experienced the kind of events that the Reformation and Counter-Reformation caused in the West.

The Reformation was not a one-time event, but an ongoing process over many centuries. The timeline Collinson provides at the start begins at 1378, the start of the Great Schism, the era of popes and antipopes, which provided some fertile ground for later Reformation in fact if not in theology and ecclesiology. This is of course 150 years prior to Martin Luther's grand pronouncements, followed quickly by John Calvin and others. Collinson's time frame continues up to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in Britain, which finally established the Protestant rule in Britain.

Collinson's explorations show interesting sides to this tumultuous period of history. Luther's conversion story, often retold by Luther himself, changes periodically into not-always-consistent versions. This is part of the tension Collinson describes, the tension between Reformation as a process and Reformation as an historical event. Collinson also develops the idea of Reformation as something not necessarily tremendously radical - Martin Luther, according to many historians quoted by Collinson, can be seen as a medieval rather than a modern man - he `...offered new answers to old questions. He asked no new ones.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Patrick Collinson is hailed on the book jacket as "Regius Professor of Modern History, Emeritus, Cambridge. A renowned scholar of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. . . ." I found this very small book, like any history, to have interesting nuggets, but was disappointed in that it assumed a familiarity with Reformation history I lack --and in fact purchased the book to acquire. The chapter on Calvin and Calvinism, for example counts only 16 small pages. These raced over the subject in a high-speed rattling-off of names, dates, and places, without engaging me in the historical story. One jacket blurb (London Times) recommended this book to readers like myself because of its brevity. I disagree. Find a larger book.
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Format: Hardcover
As a fan of the Modern Library Chronicles series, it was a thrill to read The Reformation. It is a great topic for this small format and the author, Patrick Collinson, handles the job with great intelligence and, surprisingly, a little bit of sly wit. The book ranges from before Luther and carries the story into the seventeenth century and beyond, but the main focus of the work is kept squarely on the revolutionary sixteenth century. The author keeps a balance in his discussion of the topic of the Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation and brings in the work of many previous scholars. The short format, of course, does not allow for great depth in the theological discourse but the author is effective in bringing out the important points in an efficient bite-size manner. A fine piece of work.
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A clearly written, wonderfully readable history for the non-specialist. The author clearly knows not only his material but is a valuable resource for all the other major writing on the subject and generously points the reader in other directions when relevant. Adding to the pleaure of reading this concise summary of vast amounts of historical information is a witty style that entertains as it instructs. The only complaints I have refer to frequent Latin phrases that are infrequently decoded and an occasional presumption of theological concepts that are foreign to the non-Christian (i.e. myself). Also sometimes the brevity leave gaping questions (e.g. when Calvin was made unwanted in Geneva, why was he called back?). Nonetheless, this is a fascinating, engaging work.
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Format: Hardcover
A truly well-written work covering the broad spectrum of the Reformation in the various countries of Europe. Chillson clearly makes distinctions as to the characteristics of the Reformation (and Counter-Reformation) in those countries most affected. One needs to have a reasonably good understanding of the basics of the Reformation to get the most out of this work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a solid introductory summary of a complex and difficult subject in Church history. The author treats the different phases of the Reformation, in all its geographic and sectarian incarnations, with scholarly precision and an admirable even-handedness typical of a master at his craft. There is a slight tendency to get bogged down in some of the minutiae of the time period, which is essentially the only thing keeping this rating from being 5 stars.
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Like a couple of the others who've reviewed this book I believe this book to be a poor choice to get a handle on Reformation history. I think a more "timeline" type approach would have been better. Instead, this work bounces around and throws bits and pieces at you. Makes it difficult to "get your brain around" so to speak. Being an intentionally short work he could have taken a few major paths and fleshed out their effect on Europe rather than trying to hit the highlights of so much. A very difficult read for those without a decent amount of knowledge on the Reformation to begin with.
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