Few events in English history are as familiar to people today as the English Reformation, yet the vast amount of attention it has received...

Few events in English history are as familiar to people today as the English Reformation, yet the vast amount of attention it has received can distort our understanding of it. In Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation (Yale University Press, 2017), Peter Marshall surveys its development over the course of the 16th century in a way that refocuses on its fundamentals as a movement to reform the Catholicism of late medieval England. This Catholicism, as he explains, was not a monolithic belief system but one characterized more by a broad consensus from which calls for reform emerged well before Henry VIIIs famous break with the Catholic Church in the 1520s. Though the reforms were implemented through state policy, the circumstances in which they emerged actually eroded the ability of the government to rule unquestioningly, as the discourse over religious reform and the continually-shifting position of the monarchy towards what form the Christian faith in their realm should take encouraged people to come to their own conclusions as to which creed seemed true. The result by the end of the century was an environment in which Christian pluralism flourished even in spite of the state’s efforts to suppress religious dissent.

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