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The Reformation: A Very Short Introduction 1st Edition

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199231317
ISBN-10: 0199231311
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Editorial Reviews Review

The Reformation: Questions for Consideration and Discussion

  • Was the Reformation inevitable?
  • Did ordinary people in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries really understand or care about theological concepts?
  • How was Christianity "exported" beyond Europe during the Reformation and what were the difficulties of doing this?
  • Did the Reformation(s) make European societies more tolerant or more intolerant?
  • What is the relevance of the Reformation in today's world?
  • Review

    Besser kann man es nicht machen [it couldn't be done better] Peter Blickle, Historische Zeitschrift It has hardly ever been told better Alec Ryrie, English Historical Review This is history as it should be written: meticulous, provocative and intelligent. By studying the past for its own sake, and on its own terms, it also illuminates the present and the future William Whyte, Church Times

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    Product Details

    • Paperback: 168 pages
    • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (November 23, 2009)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0199231311
    • ISBN-13: 978-0199231317
    • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.5 x 4.3 inches
    • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
    • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John D. Sens on December 2, 2009
    Format: Paperback
    The casual reader of European history will likely have some familiarity with all of of the leading persons, events, and philosophies discussed by Peter Marshall. What distinguishes this book is that Marshall brings the material together in a convincing, rational overview. Marshall shows that the Reformation period was part of an ongoing balancing of religious and political power between and among the various interests. But that's not all. Marshall discusses society and the roles of art and music of the period in protestant and catholic venues.

    The author assists the general reader by defining terms that may be strange by giving definitions in blunt, everyday English in parentheses such as "tonsure (shaved head)." Also the use of idiomatic expressions such as the possibility of something being done "being kicked into the high grass," or that bishops would no longer be able to "swan around" are delicious verbal tidbits along the way.

    Yes, there is the British spelling which some complain about, but I like it. It adds something.
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    9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Adam Shields VINE VOICE on May 14, 2012
    Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
    This is the third book I have read in the Oxford Very Short Introduction series. And I continue to be impressed. I have done some reading on the reformation and taken two different History of Christian classes that included the reformation. But even at only 135 pages of content, this book was able to add to knowledge of the Reformation. The plan of this book is to debunk some of the myths while showing how much the different sides of the reformation really agreed. Here is the thesis statement from the book:

    "Myths are not lies, but symbolically powerful articulations of sensed realities. It is probably safer to believe that all the myths about the Reformation are true, rather than that none of them are. The goal of producing a totally unmythologized account of the Reformation may be an unachievable, or even an undesirable, one. Nonetheless, this little book - drawing on the best, not always impartial, modern scholarship - will attempt to explain what sort of phenomenon the Reformation was, to assess its impact across religious, political, social, and cultural areas of life, and the character of its legacy to the modern world."

    What I most appreciated was the focus on the areas of agreement theologically. Without glossing over areas of disagreement, the areas of disagreement were often exemplified by a "mentality widespread in the Reformation era, and still with us in various secular and religious guises: a desire to shore up the identity of the majority group by stereotyping and dehumanizing an excluded minority."

    The book starts with a brief history of the Reformation. Marshall takes a broad view of what the Reformation consisted of, so it looks at Luther to the mid 1700 when the main religious wars of Europe were concluding.
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    5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Karen S. Garvin on September 24, 2012
    Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
    Peter Marshall did an excellent job of making the Reformation (actually, Reformations) understandable. Although I am still unclear on some of the theological and philosophical divides between Catholicism and Protestantism and their ideological offshoots, I have a much better grasp of the subject matter thanks to Marshall's clear writing.

    In about 130 pages, Marshall explores the philosophical, cultural, and political effects of the religious movements collectively known as the Reformation. There is a valuable chronology at the back of the book that will make this a go-to reference material even after you've read the text. As with the other Very Short Introductions in the Oxford series, this has fairly short chapters that are broken down into several headings, which makes the book easy to read and easy to go back and find passages later.

    For a potentially hot topic, the text seemed well balanced and did not appear to favor either religious camp, so there was a distinct lack of "us-versus-them" mentality in the text -- as it should be for an academic work.

    Marshall also mentioned Max Weber and his "Protestant work ethic," in which Weber argued that it was the Protestant work ethic which drove Protestant nations to develop faster and more thoroughly than Catholic nations with similar resources at their disposal. Marshall offered some brief, but insightful, reasons why Weber may have been way off base in his conclusions, arguing cogently that it was a combination of factors that dictated how nations developed rather than a single philosophical difference.

    I would recommend this as a first read on the Reformation, although there may be some names that person new to the subject would still need to look up.
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    3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mike smith on October 11, 2013
    Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
    This book is way over my head. I hate it when my true IQ emerges and I realize I'm just not that smart. However, I always seem to learn more when attempting to read a book that uses so many words I have to look up. This book is no exception. I have learned more about the Reformation from this book than everything else I've read. It's hard reading but worth the investment.
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    2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John E. Drury VINE VOICE on March 7, 2013
    Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
    Grappling with the meaning of Mendelssohn's "Reformation" Symphony, and the composer's use of the well known Lutheran hymn "Ein Feste Burg," in his powerful final movement, I came upon Peter Marshall's compact, enlightening book on the Reformation published in 2009 by Oxford University. Lucid, thoughtful, wide ranging, at times even wry, this is a modern, even-handed dissection of the sixteenth century beginnings of the Protestant faith which explains the Catholic counter reformation as well. Marshall is a superb writer - well equipped for these short succinct history treatises - who packs his tight sentences with meaning, never wandering on incidentals while moving through his points effortlessly. He ends, eschewing overstatement, with this compelling thought: the Reformation advanced the meaning and purpose of human existence, enhanced the mutual obligations of people in a society and exposed "the balance of conscience and political obedience" in a rational society. I look forward to reading more of these short histories by the Oxford University Press.
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