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Analyzing The English Reformation Essay

1755 words - 7 pages

Analyzing the English Reformation The English Reformation occurred in the 16th century, and had ramifications long afterwards. Within England there was growing discontent regarding papal authority and clerical activities. Eventually England had broken all ties with Rome, thus giving the English monarchy control of the church and its affairs. By 1558, after the reign of Queen Mary, Protestantism had become a strong religion within England. This period is one of great debate between various historians, primarily because of the lack of concrete evidence pertaining to this particular era. Analyzing the arguments set out by five different historians who studied the English Reformation show such a debate. These historians include A. G. Dickens, Christopher Haigh, J. J. Scarisbrick, Eamon Duffy, and Caroline Litzenberger. There are different sorts of evidence by which these historians rely. Dickens uses the "Biographical Register of Early English Protestants"¦ 1525-1558," which was written by Dr. John Fines, as well as John Foxe's "Acts and Monuments." These are two very important sources for names and biographies during this time. Dickens states different reasons why information regarding early Protestantism is so incomplete; such reasons as loss of archives, and people not recording their beliefs because of the fear of being burned for their Protestant beliefs. One of the most important sources of evidence according to Dickens are the wills of deceased; this is what most of these five historians have in common. Dickens particularly thinks that wills from this period indicate trends of opinion among the population. Most of the Catholic wills show the deceased leaving their souls to their saints in heaven, whereas most of the wills written by the Protestants show the deceased leaving their souls to God or Christ. According to Haigh, the history of the Reformation has been evidenced through various sorts of printed evidence. One being the criticisms of Protestants and the other is the law passed by parliaments. Through the complaints of the Protestants can be seen that they were tired of the Catholic Church being corrupt and superstitious and therefore they believed that it needed reform. Haigh particularly concentrates on the historical evidence set forth by Roger Martyn. This was a man who was upset by the change of religion within England that had put a stop to his Catholic actions and teachings. He also uses such evidence as Churchwardens' accounts, wills of the deceased, consistory records, and all these sorts of evidence must be used with extreme caution. He believes that through this evidence we can see the viewpoint of the Catholics and not just the parts of the population that was against the Catholic Church, namely the Protestants.Like Haigh and Dickens, Scarisbrick believes in wills as a valid source of evidence. He particularly uses this sort of evidence to prove that the society of England during the Pre-...

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