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The Birth of Modern Belief is seriously good. It is erudite, insightful, and cogent; but, above all, it enables us to think hard about the relationship between our past and our present.
Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury (1120–70) is one of the iconic figures in British history – a man who most people have not only heard of, but also have an opinion on. Yet, despite the brutality of his murder, such opinions are not always positive. In fact, this medieval archbishop is an unusually divisive figure, and always has been.
Francis Young’s Magic as a Political Crime in Medieval and Early Modern England makes an important contribution to both the historiography of political culture in medieval and early modern England and the historiography of magic. This book develops ideas from Young’s previous monograph English Catholics and the Supernatural, 1553–1829.
This is an extremely ambitious, thought-provoking, challenging and inspiring book.
Martin Ingram’s 1987 book Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570–1640 is celebrated for many reasons.(1) Not least, it is recognised for its importance in rescuing ecclesiastical courts from previous unfavourable assessments that branded them corrupt and inefficient.
I imagine that in recent years John Witte, the series editor of the Cambridge Studies in Law and Christianity, frequently crossed paths with the author of the monograph under review here. Both of them work as faculty at Emory University in Atlanta and are senior members of Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion, with Witte serving as its current director.
Carlos Eire’s Reformations aims to provide a readership of ‘beginners and nonspecialists’ (p. xii) with an introduction to European history between 1450 and 1650. Eire narrows down this immense task by concentrating his narrative on the history of religion.
As Martin Heale states at the very beginning of The Abbots and Priors of Late Medieval and Reformation England, ‘the importance of the late medieval abbot needs no particular emphasis’. This was a group of men with responsibility for the spiritual and material wellbeing of thousands of monks and canons.
Frances Yates’ seminal book Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964), which established a longstanding scholarly orthodoxy that Renaissance magic derived from interpretations of the Hermetic Corpus, has been challenged in its details by Bruno scholars and others.
This book is concerned with the paradoxes and oxymora (p. 80) inherent in a longue-durée of Western thought, rooted in Christian theology, about political and religious violence: liberty and coercion; violence and peace; cruelty and mercy; shedding blood to achieve peace; violence and martyrdom, election and universalism, old and new, and even, in a sense, the state and the church.