The people's religion: Creating the religious community in contemporary English Reformation historiography

Pent, Kevin
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University of Guelph

English Reformation historiography (ERH) has historically been an arena of contested space, but never more so than in the last several decades of the twentieth century. These decades have borne witness to marked shifts in fundamental interpretations of the nature of the pre-Reformation religious beliefs and practices and the changes that transpired over the course of the sixteenth century. Though traditionally more resistant to trans-disciplinary interpretive models, ERH has more recently had some exceptions to this characteristic that have contributed to the interpretive shift. Sociological and anthropological models so characteristic of the French 'Annales' school, reflecting the influences of Emile Durkheim and Clifford Geertz, have made inroads into ERH, most notably in Eamon Duffy's 'The Stripping of the Altars' (1992). This work bears testimony to both the strengths and weaknesses of a cultural history that attempts to convey both a model and a 'sense' of religious experience to a secular audience. It is this attempt that sheds light on the problem of historical interpretation, especially that which deals in the area of religion.

English Reformation historiography, religious community, religoius beliefs, historical interpretation, sixteenth century