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27 May 1993
The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c.1400-c.1580 
by Eamon Duffy.
Yale, 704 pp., £29.95, November 1992, 0 300 05342 8
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... threatened the end of mediation, propitiation and spiritual solace: the loss of community between the dead and the living. It is this lost physical and mental world, as well as this desolation, which EamonDuffy discovers and, wishing it had been otherwise, movingly describes. In the first part of the book, Duffy wants to show the vitality and appeal of late medieval Catholicism; and to prove that it ...

The Crowe is White

Hilary Mantel: Bloody Mary

24 September 2009
Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor 
by Eamon Duffy.
Yale, 249 pp., £19.99, June 2009, 978 0 300 15216 6
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... to the Catholic queen, he had done most harm. The burnings were a spectator sport; at Dartford in the summer of 1555, ‘thither came … Fruiterers wyth horse loades of Cherries, and sold them.’ EamonDuffy says: ‘We should not project modern sensibilities onto the people of the past.’ But in a cruel world, these were exemplary cruelties. Those who saw 11 men and two women burned together in ...

In Good Estate

Eamon Duffy

2 January 1997
Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets: Kingship and the Representation of Power 1200-1400 
by Paul Binski.
Yale, 241 pp., £45, May 1995, 0 300 05980 9
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... Every year, two and a half million people visit Westminster Abbey. Two-thirds of them, deterred no doubt by the combination of a tight tour schedule and the charge which is levied at this point, leave without ever penetrating beyond the choir, to the shrine of St Edward behind the High Altar and the royal tombs which surround it. Yet this was the heart of medieval Westminster, and the reason for the ...

Hew their bones in sunder

Eamon Duffy: Lancelot Andrewes

3 August 2006
Lancelot Andrewes: Selected Sermons and Lectures 
edited by Peter McCullough.
Oxford, 491 pp., £90, November 2005, 0 19 818774 2
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... Much of the modern reputation of Lancelot Andrewes stems from an essay T.S. Eliot published in 1926, in which he ranked the sermons with ‘the finest English prose of their time, of any time’. Eliot’s essay marked the tercentenary of the death of a contemporary of Shakespeare, who between 1588 and his death had been successively or simultaneously vicar of St Giles Cripplegate; master of Pembroke ...

Common Thoughts

Eamon Duffy: Early Modern Ambition

23 July 2009
The Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfilment in Early Modern England 
by Keith Thomas.
Oxford, 393 pp., £20, February 2009, 978 0 19 924723 3
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... Keith Thomas prefaces this book with a quotation from the greatest of English medievalists, F.W. Maitland: ‘A century hence . . . by slow degrees the thoughts of our forefathers, their common thoughts about common things, will become thinkable once more.’ That aspiration, to recover ‘common thoughts about common things’, was a novelty in Victorian historiography. In the century since Maitland’s ...

Brush for Hire

Eamon Duffy: Protestant painting

19 August 2004
The Reformation of the Image 
by Joseph Leo Koerner.
Reaktion, 494 pp., £29.95, April 2004, 1 86189 172 5
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... There seems to be something paradoxical, even self-contradictory, in the very notion of a Reformation image. The movement of religious protest inaugurated by Martin Luther in Wittenberg in 1517 quickly targeted the veneration of images as a damnable superstition, the idolatrous confusion of gross matter with an invisible God who was pure and eternal spirit. The 15th century had seen a great flowering ...

Conspiracy Theories

Eamon Duffy: Charisma v. Authority

29 January 2009
Flesh Made Word: Saints’ Stories and the Western Imagination 
by Aviad Kleinberg, translated by Jane Marie Todd.
Harvard, 340 pp., £19.95, May 2008, 978 0 674 02647 6
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... Aviad Kleinberg’s clever, wide-ranging and tendentious book begins by recounting an experience which he cannot quite decide whether to classify as a moment of blinding insight or one of personal weakness. He was watching a television interview with Mother Teresa, in which she told of her first encounter with a dying leper. The leper had asked her why she was caring for him, and she had answered ...

The Unlikeliest Loophole

Eamon Duffy: Catherine of Aragon

28 July 2011
Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen 
by Giles Tremlett.
Faber, 458 pp., £9.99, April 2011, 978 0 571 23512 4
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... Catherine of Aragon was Henry VIII’s first and longest-lasting queen, at the heart of his glittering court for almost two decades. In the early years of their marriage, the Spanish princess, daughter of the most glamorous monarchs in Europe, must have seemed every bit as regal as her husband. Yet in the historiography of Tudor England she has become a shadowy figure, a sad frump eclipsed by her savage ...

The Perfect Pattern of a Prelate

Eamon Duffy: Pius XII and the Jews

26 September 2013
The Life and Pontificate of Pope Pius XII: Between History and Controversy 
by Frank Coppa.
Catholic University of America, 306 pp., £25.50, February 2013, 978 0 8132 2016 1
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The Pope’s Jews: The Vatican’s Secret Plan to Save Jews from the Nazis 
by Gordon Thomas.
Robson, 336 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 1 84954 506 8
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Soldier of Christ: The Life of Pope Pius XII 
by Robert Ventresca.
Harvard, 405 pp., £25, January 2013, 978 0 674 04961 1
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... The reputation of Eugenio Pacelli, who reigned as Pope Pius XII from March 1939 until his death in October 1958, is an object lesson in the fragility of popularity and public esteem. Pacelli was a favoured son of Rome’s ‘black nobility’, the cluster of families whose 19th-century fortunes were built on service to the papacy. In these circles, the Pacellis ranked very high, described by one historian ...

Rolling Back the Reformation

Eamon Duffy: Bloody Mary’s Church

7 February 2008
... The reign of Mary Tudor has had few friends among historians, and the regime’s religious dimension has provided most of the copy for the bad press. Until comparatively recently, almost everyone who wrote about what has been routinely described as the ‘Marian Reaction’ agreed that to a greater or lesser extent the Catholic Church during her reign was backward-looking, unimaginative and reactionary ...

Through Trychay’s Eyes

Patrick Collinson: Reformation and rebellion

25 April 2002
The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village 
by Eamon Duffy.
Yale, 232 pp., £16.95, August 2001, 0 300 09185 0
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... EamonDuffy’s celebrated The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c.1400-c.1580 (1992), which opened our eyes to the vitality of late medieval English Catholicism, was a book born when its ...

Remember Me

John Bossy: Hamlet

24 May 2001
Hamlet in Purgatory 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Princeton, 322 pp., £19.95, May 2001, 0 691 05873 3
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... Instead, we have a body of historians much more appropriate to Greenblatt’s intuitions, as well as more representative of the state of 16th-century history: Natalie Zemon Davis, David Cressy, EamonDuffy. More privately, there is the story he tells us in his prologue about his acceding, if sheepishly, to the unspoken wishes of his dead father by saying Kaddish for him. Which seems a more human ...

Protestant Country

George Bernard

14 June 1990
Humanism, Reform and the Reformation: The Career of Bishop John Fisher 
edited by Brendan Bradshaw and Eamon Duffy.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £27.50, January 1989, 0 521 34034 9
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The Blind Devotion of the People: Popular Religion and the English Reformation 
by Robert Whiting.
Cambridge, 302 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 521 35606 7
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The Reformation of Cathedrals: Cathedrals in English Society, 1485-1603 
by Stanford Lehmberg.
Princeton, 319 pp., £37.30, March 1989, 0 691 05539 4
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Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Weidenfeld, 271 pp., £25, October 1989, 0 297 79343 8
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The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the 16th and 17th Centuries 
by Patrick Collinson.
Macmillan, 188 pp., £29.50, February 1989, 0 333 43971 6
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Life’s Preservative against Self-Killing 
by John Sym, edited by Michael MacDonald.
Routledge, 342 pp., £29.95, February 1989, 0 415 00639 2
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Perfection Proclaimed: Language and Literature in English Radical Religion 1640-1660 
by Nigel Smith.
Oxford, 396 pp., £40, February 1989, 0 19 812879 7
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... their conscience or to accept death. Such a man deserves to be studied in a broader context than is offered by the many biographies that approach Catholic hagiography. This was Brendan Bradshaw and EamonDuffy’s purpose in organising a conference in 1985 to mark the 450th anniversary of Fisher’s execution. The proceedings of this are now published as Humanism, Reform and the Reformation. Several ...

How did we decide what Christ looked like?

Frank Kermode: How Jesus Got His Face

27 April 2000
The Image of Christ 
edited by Gabriele Finaldi.
National Gallery, 224 pp., £14.95, February 2000, 1 85709 292 9
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... one’s time in purgatory, and it seems that in the late Middle Ages people went about doing so in a very business-like manner, storing the indulgences they had collected by many different methods. EamonDuffy in his great book The Stripping of the Altars says the accumulation of indulgences resembled ‘the transfer of credit to an overdrawn current account from an abundant deposit account’, the ...

Something about Mary

Diarmaid MacCulloch: The First Queen of England

18 October 2007
Mary Tudor: The Tragical History of the First Queen of England 
by David Loades.
National Archives, 240 pp., £19.99, September 2006, 1 903365 98 8
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... only a few side-glances at much recent fascinating reassessment of Mary’s religious policies: where A.G. Dickens half a century ago described a Marian ‘reaction’, a posse of historians led by EamonDuffy, Christopher Haigh, John Edwards and Loades himself have found a reformation as full of potential as anything that Protestants did, indeed the largest-scale attempt to restore Catholicism up ...

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