The sixteenth-century Reformation in England is notorious for its swerving and switchback character. Starting with the break with Rome in 1533-4, the country experienced a succession of dramatic swings in official religious policy: the intensification of, and then partial retreat from, reform in the second half of the reign of Henry VIII; the implementation of iconoclastic Protestant measures under Edward VI; the restoration of Roman authority by Mary I; the reintroduction of a (significantly modified) form of reformed Protestantism by Elizabeth I. It is often supposed that the cumulative effect of these processes was to confuse and disorientate the population, and to encourage varying degrees of passive conformity as the default response to religious change. This paper (anticipating some of the arguments of Marshall’s forthcoming book, Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation) takes a different tack. It will argue that the volatility of religious policy, and the government’s need to persuade as well as coerce, had a fundamentally ‘catechizing’ effect, promoting understanding of the content and significance of disputed matters of religion to an unprecedented degree. At the same time, the inconsistency, and at times incoherence, of government policy created opportunities for variant forms of ‘bottom-up’ confessionalization, and ensured the precocious establishment in England of an entrenched religious pluralism.
March 27 from 4pm to 6pm
Location is Goldring 206
, a native of the Orkney Islands, has since 2006 been Professor of History at the University of Warwick, and is a leading expert in the history of the Reformation and its impact in the British Isles and beyond. He is a winner of the Harold J. Grimm Prize for Reformation History, and has been shortlisted for the Longman/History Today Book of the Year Award. He is a frequent reviewer for the TLS, Literary Review, Tablet and other periodicals, and a regular lecturer to school and community groups. He is married with three daughters, and lives in Leamington Spa.