Heretics and Believers A History of the English Reformation Peter Marshall

Publication date:
02 May 2017
Yale University Press
672 pages: 235 x 156mm
32 b-w illus.

A sumptuously written people’s history and a major retelling and reinterpretation of the story of the English Reformation

Centuries on, what the Reformation was and what it accomplished remain deeply contentious. Peter Marshall’s sweeping new history—the first major overview for general readers in a generation—argues that sixteenth-century England was a society neither desperate for nor allergic to change, but one open to ideas of “reform” in various competing guises. King Henry VIII wanted an orderly, uniform Reformation, but his actions opened a Pandora’s Box from which pluralism and diversity flowed and rooted themselves in English life.
With sensitivity to individual experience as well as masterfully synthesizing historical and institutional developments, Marshall frames the perceptions and actions of people great and small, from monarchs and bishops to ordinary families and ecclesiastics, against a backdrop of profound change that altered the meanings of “religion” itself. This engaging history reveals what was really at stake in the overthrow of Catholic culture and the reshaping of the English Church.

Peter Marshall is professor of history at the University of Warwick, winner of the Harold J. Grimm Prize for Reformation History, and author of numerous books, including The Reformation: A Very Short Introduction. He lives in Leamington Spa, UK.

“Peter Marshall has written a fine history of a momentous time as seen from the bottom up, drawing on a wide range of primary sources and his evident scholarship . . . a riveting account of the losers as well, the English zealots and cynics who wanted a better world, or an unchanging one.”—The Economist

“An eminently readable narrative that avoids flattening out irregularities in the story… Marshall’s analysis, his control of documentary material and his imaginative manoeuvres between the corridors of power and the streets and alehouses is impressive.”—Malcolm Gaskill, Financial Times

“With pleasing dispatch Peter Marshall’s compelling new history of England’s Reformation sweeps all the historians down into the footnotes and just tells the story as he sees it… This is the human story within the grand narrative, written with fluidity and warmth, its scholarship providing a firm foundation without being intrusive, its analysis thoughtful, not polemical.”—Lucy Wooding, Literary Review

“The joy of Peter Marshall’s book is that it makes this most hackneyed of historical epics feel fresh and unexpected. More so than any historian of the period working today, Marshall is equally sensitive and perceptive in dealing with both Protestants and Catholics. . . It is a much-told tale, but I don’t think it has ever been told with more humanity, balance, atmosphere, wit and learning. I wish I’d written it. Buy it, and make time to read it.”
—Alec Ryrie, The Tablet

“Marshall has a knowledge of the personalities and the detail and texture of events which few living scholars can match. He makes masterly use of the enormous range of quotable texts to bring to life the dilemmas that his characters faced.”—G.R. Evans, Church Times