I picked this up because I knew almost nothing about the Reformation, and I felt like I should at least have the basic history straight for events which were so vital to the shaping of the modern world.And, it mostly covered me for that He did an excellent job of putting you inside the very alien worldviews and socio cultural arrangements of the time, and illustrating just how revolutionary and sudden a change the Reformation really was He gave engaging and detailed sketches of most of the mai I picked this up because I knew almost nothing about the Reformation, and I felt like I should at least have the basic history straight for events which were so vital to the shaping of the modern world.And, it mostly covered me for that He did an excellent job of putting you inside the very alien worldviews and socio cultural arrangements of the time, and illustrating just how revolutionary and sudden a change the Reformation really was He gave engaging and detailed sketches of most of the main actors involved in the religious, political, and cultural arenas He covered enough of the intricate theological problems which developed and were fought out, but not so much as to make my eyes glaze over And he did an excellent job of taking you down to the level of everyday people and looking at how and why they embraced such a sudden change in such a vital part of their existence, and what the consequences were for their way of life going forward.Where he fell down just a bit was in connecting the ground level with the elite, and the religious with the political and especially the military He did a good job on the elites insofar as they related to religion, but the political history was pretty thin He also certainly covered all of the major conflicts of the time, but they always seemed like something that happened in the background and only flashed into full view at a few crisis points I came in with a vague idea of how and why the French Wars of Religion, the English Civil War, and the 30 Years War were fought, and left with a not much clearer one.Of course, any one of those conflicts can and has merited many an extensive history of its own, but I think he could have done a better job of fully describing them and linking themthoroughly and organically with the political, social, cultural and religious turmoil that caused and sustained them The 30 Years War especially seemed to be elided over Constraints of space were probably a big concern, as the book still came in at over 700 pages, but I would have rather read another 100 or so and been left with acomplete picture.Still, pretty minor quibbles for a book that taught me lot about a subject I came in with little background on, and that had plenty of major strengths to outweigh that one notable weakness Definitely read if you want a solid social, cultural, religious, and basic political history of the Reformation from a modern point of view If you reinterested in the military history or in any of the specific conflicts, pick up aspecialized history of the case in question The story of the Reformation is long and complex, and so are many of MacCulloch s sentences, but never mind This is a rich and full account of the Reformation, in which the motivations of faith and feeling, power and practicality are woven fine, the players in the drama are presented as whole people, and the meaning of this chapter of Western cultural history is modeled in the round Rakow and Torda are meaningfully placed in it, as are Calvin s two foils Michael Servetus and Marguerite de N The story of the Reformation is long and complex, and so are many of MacCulloch s sentences, but never mind This is a rich and full account of the Reformation, in which the motivations of faith and feeling, power and practicality are woven fine, the players in the drama are presented as whole people, and the meaning of this chapter of Western cultural history is modeled in the round Rakow and Torda are meaningfully placed in it, as are Calvin s two foils Michael Servetus and Marguerite de Navarre The effort of concentration sometimes demanded is relieved by memorable and meaningful stories, and richly rewarded in the end.MacCulloch gave me a better understanding and appreciation of two figures active in Italy during the Reformation Juan de Valdes and Reginald Pole Valdes developed a circle of friends and admirers, wealthy or talented or both, who shared his passion for humanist learning and his deep commitment to promoting a vital, engaged Christian faith It included Bernardo Ochino, Peter Martyr, Vittoria Colonna, Giulia Gonzaga, Gasparo Contarini, and Pole Pole, a cousin of Henry VIII with a better claim to the English throne, was in Italy because he sided with the king s wife, Catherine of Aragon, and was exiled Divergent themes naturally emerged from such a creative and articulate group, yet central was a renewed emphasis on the grace which God sent through faith, together with a consistent urge to reveal the Holy Spirit as the force conveying this grace so that associates of the movement were soon characterized as Spirituali Valdes believed that some favoured children of God would be led to ever deeper union with Christ, and the Scriptures might not be the only or the chief illumination on the way He died in 1541 the next year the Roman Inquisition was created, and many in his circle fled Italy to influence the Reformation in Switzerland, southern Germany and eastern Europe Pole remained in Italy and was a papal legate to the Council of Trent When the death of Pope Paul III offered an opportunity to turn the tide of authoritarianism in the Roman Church, Pole was one of the favourite candidates to succeed him a tribute to the continuing respect in which he was held There were many diverse hopes invested in him too many and too diverse for his own good Even the dying Paul III had recommended him The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V approved of him because he had championed Charles s aunt Catherine of Aragon, because he was of royal blood, and because he was not Italian Pole s upbringing linked him to the high minded, tidy minded clergy and their royal admirers who had made early Tudor England one of the best run parts of Christendom His cosmopolitan education made him a humanist scholar at the centre of a cultured international circle worthy of Erasmus His patronage and friendship had attracted some of the most creative minds of southern Europe and he was generally recognized as one of the most thoughtful churchmen of his day Perhaps only Marguerite de Navarre could rival him as a magnet for reformers who wished to remain true to the old Church Yet Pole failed the proceedings became drawn out it was one of the longest conclaves in papal history and Pole did not have the stomach for a face to face fight in such atmospheres of bitterness Oncehe drew back from the brink instead of seizing the hour and the last chance passed away for a Reformation such as Erasmus had sought Who knew In portraits like these are food for thought about today s leaders and the import of their choices And of yours At a time when men and women were prepared to kill and be killed for their faith, the Protestant Reformation tore the Western world apart Acclaimed as the definitive account of these epochal events, Diarmaid MacCulloch s award winning history brilliantly re creates the religious battles of priests, monarchs, scholars, and politicians from the zealous Martin Luther and his Ninety Five Theses to the polemical John Calvin to the radical Igantius Loyola, from the tortured Thomas Cranmer to the ambitious Philip IIDrawing together the many strands of the Reformation and Counter Reformation, and ranging widely across Europe and the New World, MacCulloch reveals as never before how these dramatic upheavals affected everyday lives overturning ideas of love, sex, death, and the supernatural, and shaping the modern age This was excellent readable, smooth, as comprehensive and unbiased as one can hope for I now understand a whole lot of thingsclearly, and know about a host of other things of which I was ignorant I recommend this to anyone with an interest in European intellectual and social history I especially recommend it to anyone who ever thought the Reformation was boring but that they ought to knowabout it. Magisterial MacCulloch s scholarship is formidable It took me a month to read and yet I never felt the urge to put it away He gives in depth coverage to areas I ve read little about despite having read a lot of books about the Reformation One example I remember is a solid review of the Reformation in the Netherlands It is not an easy read but it is a worthwhile one. Confronted with the challenge of writing about an era too well known, Lytton Strachey advised how the explorer of the past would proceed He will row out over the great ocean of material, and lower down into it, here and there, a little bucket, which will bring up to the light of day some characteristic specimen, from the far depths, to be examined with a careful curiosity This magisterial history of the Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch is a prolonged exercise in doing just that.This is a s Confronted with the challenge of writing about an era too well known, Lytton Strachey advised how the explorer of the past would proceed He will row out over the great ocean of material, and lower down into it, here and there, a little bucket, which will bring up to the light of day some characteristic specimen, from the far depths, to be examined with a careful curiosity This magisterial history of the Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch is a prolonged exercise in doing just that.This is a subject I know a thing or two about, yet his text is liberally sprinkled with facts, insights and interpretations new to me, all of it told in an off hand style that makes it seem as if he s just sitting and chatting with you in a diffident way Yet never did I feel that his examples were mere curiosities invariably they illuminated the topic under discussion.The section of New Possibilities Paper and Printing 70 76 is a case in point Many have made the connection between the invention of movable type and the rapid spread of the ideas of Luther and other Reformers But MacCulloch thinks further The rapid proliferation of affordable books made it worthwhile to learn to read this, before 1516 In turn, the proliferation of profitable printers created an opportunity for new texts The modern concept of author had its birth then And it surely wasn t accidental that it was only then that the Index was created an attempt to control which of the new flood of books should not be read.I also found enlightening his assertion that the Reformation can be seen as a conflict within the legacy of Augustine, with Luther emphasizing the inability of a human to work toward his or her own salvation, making him or her utterly dependent on God s grace, while his opponents oriented themselves on Augustine s stress on the need for obedience to the church to attain salvation.The author shows throughout how much can be gained by considering how social, economic and political aspects of life then factored into the Reformation yet at the same time maintains the centrality of theology People then were in dead earnest about matters of belief.One feature of the book is its continent wide scale Too often, an emphasis on German speaking Europe obscures the interesting developments to the east Another is that after 500 pages of roughly chronological treatment, the author adds a section entitled Patterns of Life dealing with a variety of topics such as the use of images, the frenzy with regard to witches, and matters related to family and sexuality, focusing both on aspects that remained the same despite the split in Western Christianity, as well as what changed.This is a thick book my paperback copy has 700 pages of text set in small type, supplemented by suggestions for further reading, notes and an index It may bethan the casual reader cares to digest But with the 500th anniversary of the outbreak of the Reformation rapidly approaching, I say with confidence that if you read only one book on the topic, this would be an excellent choice Comprehensive, but dry. Lengthy and somewhat informed I m no expert on the Reformation, hence my reading of the book, but I have read around in theology and history Social Backdrop MacCulloch provides extensive social and civic background to the Reformation that is invaluable He draws a confluence of courses all converging upon this varied yet singular event As a social history, it is superb He also, very wonderfully, shows how, prior to The Reformation, there were thousands of tiny little reformations Monks, p Lengthy and somewhat informed I m no expert on the Reformation, hence my reading of the book, but I have read around in theology and history Social Backdrop MacCulloch provides extensive social and civic background to the Reformation that is invaluable He draws a confluence of courses all converging upon this varied yet singular event As a social history, it is superb He also, very wonderfully, shows how, prior to The Reformation, there were thousands of tiny little reformations Monks, priests, friars, nuns, bishops, lords, barons, princes, kings, and so on all of whom formed so many various organizations and institutions of reform in their own ways, that it is difficult to study The Reformation without them In narrating this account, MacCulloch has done us all an excellent service For instance, Luther was not the only one disgusted with the sale of indulgences There was therefore a ready audience for anyone who cared to speak out against what was happening Explaining the social and civil workings of the Reformation has got to be MacCulloch s strongest suit The book is chocked full with social details and facts In fact, it can become overwhelming going back and forth between minute details all over Europe One may even say that this book represents MacCulloch s attempt to interpret what is seen popularly as a religious divine movement in terms strictly as a civil social movement.Areligious bias.Perhaps the book s greatest deficit is lack of the author s eye to God s providence, the absence of true belief, and lack of love for his subject Take not my words for it At the beginning of the book, MacCulloch notes his passing indifference to any one sect of Christianity, and hints at his removed coolness to the religion as a whole He retains a warm affection for quaint memories of the Church of England, but excuses himself from actual adherence to any dogma This attitude comes off in his retelling of the history of the Reformation a story in which nothing very good on either side Catholic or Protestant is mentioned, as measured in religious, civil, moral, academic, or economic terms The majority of his narrative varies from mild amusement to uninvited criticism the church on either side in the West was in a series of civil blunders, moral failings, intolerance, greed, ignorance, insincerity, superstition, soft exploitation, power grabs, and impious compromise So subtle but persistent is MacCulloch s detached air, one gets the felling that not even the Church believed in Christianity The church could neither tolerate nor understand itself, the civil or natural world, nor even other churches such as the Eastern Orthodox 1400s Muslims, however, who invaded, slaughtered, and conquered formerly Christian Eastern lands receive such warm treatment as follows By comparison the Turks were remarkably tolerant of non Muslim faith communities once they had taken Constantinople and adapted its greatest church of Hagia Sophia as a magnificent mosque, they did much to enhance the Patriarch of Constantinople s position against his various rivals in the eastern Churches, considering this a good way of controlling their Christian subjects When eastern scholars fled west after Constantinople s fall, western Christians showed a notable lack of interest in finding out about Orthodox theology and liturgy they really only esteemed these refugees for the hitherto unknown classical manuscripts that they might bring It was not surprising that many eastern Christians werewilling to acquiesce in Ottoman rule and preserve their faith intact than to accept help on very unequal terms from western Europeans Notice, the Muslims were remarkably tolerant , they adapted the Hagia Sophia They didn t invade, slaughter, conquest, destroy, pillage, overthrow They adapted Christians in the West, however, didn t even care to welcome fleeing Eastern Christians But MacCulloch does not address why, if the Turks were so tolerant and adapting, Christians were fleeing Luck vs Providence Instead of God s providence, mentioned above, MacCulloch sees luck at play in history There were many elements of luck which came together in Luther s position in Wittenberg The hand of God almighty is replaced with sociological developments to explain the Reformation in a sort of inexorable sense it arose as the natural evolution of society at the time Ehrman esque textual criticism and erudite mockery MacCulloch thinks little of the middle ages transmission of texts and truth by monks In earlier centuries, monks cheerfully forged documents on a huge scale for the greater glory of God, particularly charters proving their monastery s claim to lands and privileges They lived in a world where there were too few documents, and so they needed to manufacture the authority to prove things which they knew in their hearts to be true He uses the statement to illustrate their forgery and mistransmission of biblical texts One wonders of MacCulloch s views on the truthfulness and inerrancy of Scripture a marked tenant of the Reformation Lack of Theological Awareness.I think this stems from MacCulloch s disinterest in religion He does not describe with sufficient detail the theological and doctrinal ideas of the Reformed movements, but shallowly When he does describe them, such as Luther s view on indulgences, Zwingli s view on the Lord s Supper, Calvin s view on civil government, or Cranmer s view on the English church, he characterizes them in the worst possible light often as having developed from ill begotten motives Luther wallowed in his paradoxes, Zwingli was two faced with the anabaptists, Calvin was a destructive radical, and Cranmer was motivated by expediency Nor are the consequences of ideas discussed Or, when they are, nothing positive AT ALL is mentioned Society was the worst off for the Reformation At very least, reading this book, one does not come to any attachments to the Reformation At most, one comes to view it with a despised condescension Tangled writing MacCulloch s writing is ambling and at times incessantly stringed Each sentence leads to another idea whose reasoned connection one traces like a bottle rocket without a tail Added to the difficulty is that his syntax compiles too many thoughts on top of themselves so as to make reading like climbing a mountain of clam shells This is a typical sentence pair We have already encountered the charismatic Franciscan Giovanni di Capistrano when the Turks first tried to capture Belgrade in 1456, Capistrano s preaching stirred thousands of humble crusaders from central Europe in a successful effort to beat them off The Magyar vojvoda military prince J nos Hunyadi, whose personal army was also prominent in relieving Belgrade, was uneasy about these hordes, and dismissed them as soon as victory was won, preventing a full follow up of the Turks defeat How do the two sentences follow one another Such is his retelling of the entire era It is painting with two hands on two different canvases at the same time Here s another example of an outstretched single sentence It was an imitation of the many local inquisitions of the Church, which under Dominican leadership had investigated heresy in Europe since the thirteenth century, but now it was organized by the monarchy, and after complicated royal haggling with Pope Sixtus IV between 1478 and 1480 to create its legal framework, it settled down to work against Judaizers in the kingdom of Castile, burning alive around 700 of them between 1481 and 1488 Whew.Historical balance.MacCulloch leaves out important detail in his historical narrative The background to the Reformation included the Crusades and the Inquisition, granted MacCulloch goes into detail how the Spanish Christians violently treated the nondescript Jews and Muslims who just happened to be living there passively Thus disoriented, leaderless, and caught between the enthusiasms of two conflicting religions while trying to deal with their crisis, the conversos Jews were easy prey He does not discuss the atrocities committed by the Muslims bent on conquest of Christian lands Nor does he suggest motives for Christian reaction to said invasions other than political posturing, power, and money No theology is discussed, nor are the Jewish or Muslim actors described in equal detail Reading MacCulloch, one gets the idea that, again, Christians did only or mostly wrong at every turn.Anachronistic bent After official Spain decisively rejected the peninsula s multicultural past, it is not unfair to see Spanish Christianity as a major exponent and practitioner of ethnic cleansing The invasion of Muslims through war and battle is not multiculturalism , a term whose concept emerges centuries after this period Spain was not multicultural in any modern usage of the word It was Christian and Spanish, and from those pillars rejected foreign intrusion Update I ve discovered the key to reading MacCulloch s book Read him like you read Barth either the first sentence of each paragraph or the first clause of each sentence, but noThe rest is convolution This makes for enjoyable reading, and nothing of substance is lost 500 years after the Reformation, Diarmaid MacCulloch examines how the announcement of a university seminar in Germany led to the division of Europe He examines the ideas of Martin Luther, where they came from and why they proved so revolutionary, tracing their development and influence, and reflecting on what they mean for us today500 years after the Reformation, Diarmaid MacCulloch examines how the announcement of a university seminar in Germany led to the division of Europe He examines the ideas of Martin Luther, where they came from and why they proved so revolutionary, tracing their development and influence, and reflecting on what they mean for us today This is simply put the best popular history book I ve ever read The subject is the Reformation, but MacCulloch goes far beyond the traditional Luther to Westphalia timeline, using the first few chapters to flesh out the world of Latin Christianity as it existed during the century or so before Luther arrived on the scene Geographically the book also extends well beyond the borders of what we often view to be the main sphere of the Reformation Germany, France, and England to explore how th This is simply put the best popular history book I ve ever read The subject is the Reformation, but MacCulloch goes far beyond the traditional Luther to Westphalia timeline, using the first few chapters to flesh out the world of Latin Christianity as it existed during the century or so before Luther arrived on the scene Geographically the book also extends well beyond the borders of what we often view to be the main sphere of the Reformation Germany, France, and England to explore how the same forces for reform and spiritual experimentation were alive in Italy, Spain and other countries usually seen as solidly and stolidly orthodox Catholic The lands east, north and south of Germany, including Transylvania, Bohemia, the Balkans and Scandinavia are also given a muchdetailed examination than usual.Nor is this at all accidental MacCulloch is clearly determined to eliminate what he sees as blank spots and misinterpretations in the popular conception of what the Reformation was and how it came to be The role of such famous characters as Erasmus and Loyola, Bethlen Gabor and Archbishop Laud, are reexamined, and pains are taken to give those who are often dismissed as bit characters or historical peculiarities Zwingli, for example, who is so often overshadowed by thewell known Calvin are given back their true significance The book is thick with detail if there is a flaw to it, it s that some readers may well be exhausted by the book, but it s all put together so skillfully that most readers will, I think, end up working their way through the whole massive tome in record time.Despite all this detail within the main text, MacCulloch sets aside a few chapters at the end to deal with specific questions gender roles and sexuality, for example in aspecific manner These are excellent resources, and ones which would have been difficult to include in the main text without either having to dilute them considerably in order to fit with thechronological narrative of the rest of the book or breaking up the flow.All in all, an excellent piece of work Considerably better, in my opinion, than his nevertheless quite good History of Christianity, which suffers from the sheer vastness of the subject set into a single volume The Reformation, on the other hand, shows what MacCulloch can do with a rich but temporallylimited subject, and the result is a thing of beauty