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Thomas Cranmer: A Life Paperback – February 17, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (February 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300074484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300074482
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Don't go confusing your Thomas Cranmer with your Thomas More; now there is a Tudor faux-pas if ever there was one. Cranmer made the divorce happen, More lost his head over it. Cranmer wrote the Book of Common Prayer, More was the author of Utopia. And it was More who was canonized a saint, while Cranmer was executed by "Bloody" Mary Tudor for his fiendish plotting on behalf of Lady Jane Grey as well as for his embracing an evangelical brand of Protestantism the Catholic queen found wholly disagreeable. In this highly readable biography, we get the first new treatment of Cranmer in three decades, bolstered by recent scholarship and new sources. Think this stuff is remote? Cranmer, as Archbishop of Canterbury, crafted two editions of the English Book of Common Prayer. The success of this book had an enormous impact on the English language, loading terms with meaning and influencing the rhetoric of power for the next two centuries. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

... lucidly written, deeply researched and surprisingly accessible ... In his life, Thomas Cranmer may have lacked the virtues of Thomas ... Becket or Sir Thomas More ... his death showed something of their martyr's grace. -- The New York Times Book Review, Allen D. Boyer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Diarmaid MacCulloch is the author of The Reformation, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Wolfson Prize, and the British Academy Prize, and of Thomas Cranmer, winner of the Whitbread Prize, the James Tait Black Prize, and the Duff Cooper Prize. Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, he was brought up in a country rectory in East Anglia.

Customer Reviews

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In 1549, he compiled the first Book of Common Prayer.
Rick Hunter
I read the book in 9 or 10 days, and never found it to be a chore; in fact, the most difficult thing was putting it down and going to bed!
M. Lee
This is the best biography of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer on the market.
Sleepy Head

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Rick Hunter on November 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
Traditionally, one is to give something up or take something on as a Lenten discipline. I did the latter, albeit inadvertently. Around Ash Wednesday of 1998, I began Darmaid MacCulloch's magisterial biography of Thomas Cranmer (Yale University Press 1996). I finished this magnificent tome on Holy Saturday. As the time passed, I came to realize that this Lent was for me a time to study a key figure in the Church and compare his often--to modern Episcopalians-- unorthodox theology against what I have come to believe.
Thomas Cranmer is a pillar of Episcopal history (and hagiography). One literally cannot participate in a Sunday service without reciting or hearing his words. In 1549, he compiled the first Book of Common Prayer. Many of the collects we say are either his original compositions or alterations upon existing texts. MacCulloch says of the Collects:
There is little doubt we owe him [Cranmer] the present form of the sequence of eighty-four seasonal collects and a dozen or so further examples embedded elsewhere in the 1549 services: no doubt either that these jewelled miniatures are one of the chief glories of the Anglican liturgical tradition, a particularly distinguished development of the genre of brief prayer which is peculiar to the Western Church. Their concise expression has not always won unqualified praise, especially from those who consider that God enjoys extended addresses from his creatures; but they have proved one of the most enduring vehicles of worship in the Anglican communion.
To me, today, the Collects focus and gather the scripture for each service.
Cranmer's beliefs were distinct, certain, and in some respects quite different from what I had thought.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. Lee on May 22, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I took "Thomas Cranmer" on in order to make sense of a seeming paradox: What I already "knew" of him did not square with the theology I had begun to discover in his Collects and Prayer Book. I was curious!

MacCulloch does a masterful job at presenting this complex, and sometimes contradictory figure of the early English Reformation. Despite the derrogatory review given by "a reader," I found very little bias and no axe-grinding in this work. Actually, I came to the book expecting some bias. Even being thusly prepared and properly skeptical, I found only a very few times that MacCulloch let his own opinions show through. (When he does, it is in parentheses with exclamation points!!) You can almost hear him chuckle at times.

I read the book in 9 or 10 days, and never found it to be a chore; in fact, the most difficult thing was putting it down and going to bed! While the book is scholarly, and masterfully written, it is definitely not tedious or boring.

I came to the end of the book with a deep respect for Cranmer. I have many points of disagreement with him, and yet a certain admiration for his eventual willingness to heroically stand where he believed the Gospel compelled him to stand. Fr. James DeKoven, an early Anglican theological hero in Wisconsin, once said "We live at a time when cowardice in matters of religion has been elevated to the status of virtue." Archbishop Thomas Cranmer proved, in the end, to be anything but a coward.

I have corresponded several times now with Professor MacCulloch, and find him to be humble, dedicated, and helpful. I am now reading his "The Reformation: a history," and I plan to read everything else of his that I can get my hands on!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Edward J. Valente on June 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
MacCulloch has penned a prodigious and comprehensive biography of Thomas Cranmer. Serious questions about the development of his thought, theology and ecclesiology are given special attention. These are cast in relations to the contemporary political (local and international) situtations to better enable a reader to understand the man, his times and his influence. Given the stages over which the Henrician and Edwardian church reformations progressed, understanding Cranmer's central and guiding actions seems to be MacCulloch strongest sections. Emphasis, then, on Cranmer's central work in life is properly and comprehensively treated, without being severely colored by all that has been penned about his final days. Nevertheless, MacCulloch has done a convincing job of helping one to see Cranmer's sincerity of reform purposes, his pragmatic concerns about the pace of change, his understanding of the needs of commonfolk (as opposed to the middle and upper classes), his fierce opposition to established orders (friers and, later, radicals [nonconformists]). Especially instuctive is the secion on Cranmer's Prayer Book writing purpose, style and method, his borrowings, his innovations, and his synthses. For a 600 page, book, I found it a thoroughly compelling reading experience from first to last (about 6 days).
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mark Marshall on June 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
Many Anglican history books have an axe to grind. But not this masterful biography. The Thomas Cranmer of MacCulloch is very human, but no villian nor an unblemished hero.

We see his theological evolution from a fairly orthodox Catholic to a stauch Protestant who went to the stake in defiance of Bloody Mary and the "Antichrist" Pope.

MacCulloch also takes the reader into the historical sources and their reliability. These, along with his extensive footnotes will be of interest to any serious student of Anglican history.

Yet this longish book is very readable and rarely gets bogged down, again unlike some other Anglican histories.

If you want to learn about Thomas Cranmer or about early Anglicanism, this book is a must read.

Mark Marshall is the author of God Knows What It's Like to be a Teenager.
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