A Reformation : Europe's House Divided, Paperback
5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Winner of the Wolfson Prize for history, Diarmaid MacCulloch's "Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490-1700" charts a seismic shift in European culture that marked the beginning of the modern world.

At a time when men and women were prepared to kill - and be killed - for their faith, the Reformation tore the western world apart.

Acclaimed as the definitive account of these epochal events, Diarmaid MacCulloch's history brilliantly re-creates the religious battles of priests, monarchs, scholars and politicians, from the zealous Martin Luther nailing his Theses to the door of a Wittenburg church to the radical Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order; from Thomas Cranmer, martyred for his reforms, to the ambitious Philip II, unwavering in his campaign against Europe's 'heretics'.

Weaving together the many strands of Reformation and Counter-Reformation, ranging widely across Europe and even to the new world, MacCulloch also reveals as never before how these upheavals affected everyday lives - overturning ideas of love, sex, death and the supernatural, and shaping the modern age. "Magisterial and eloquent". (David Starkey). "A triumph of human sympathy". (Blair Worden, "Sunday Telegraph"). "From politics to witchcraft, from the liturgy to sex; the sweep of European history covered here is breathtakingly panoramic.

This is a model work of history". (Noel Malcolm, "Sunday Telegraph" Books of the Year). "A masterpiece of readable scholarship...In its field it is the best book ever written". (David Edwards, "Guardian"). "Monumental..."Reformation" is set to become a landmark". (Lisa Jardine, "Observer"). Diarmaid MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University.

His "Thomas Cranmer" won the Whitbread Biography Prize, the James Tait Black Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize.

He is also the author of "A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years".


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 864 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Humamities
  • ISBN: 9780140285345



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

I've given it five stars. It deserves them but it is not a quick read. It is one of those history books that is packed with information, and no matter how well it is passed on to you the sheer weight of it will slow you down. Despite a module at undergraduate that was nominally on "European History 1500-1800", much of this was new to me, which may say more about my commitment as an undergraduate than the book of course.This book does exactly what it says and covers the international and internal politics and wars of the major European states, the ins and outs of theological disputes (which left my head spinning far more than the politics) and also social change (ranging from witches to sex to commerce). Some of the author's odd quirks - the "British Isles" are the "Atlantic Isles" throughout - could have seemed gimmicky but actually meant that you ended up challenging the lazy match of present attitudes to the past (and indeed whether such attitudes aren't pretty problematic in the present as well).The other point of contemporary relevance is pretty simple - whenever anyone says "Western Europe had the reformation and counter-reformation, and this is why we are modern and enlightened etc etc etc", remember that even if this seems true in hindsight (which I am not entirely sure I accept) it is only true in the very long run. The reformation was chaotic and the most partisan states and individuals were true fanatics. In challenging (as just one example) the myths of English moderation as opposed to the excesses of the Spanish inquisition this is an even-handed and eye-opening book as well.It gives great insight into a formative period in European (and world) history and as an absolute surprise find was one of the best buys of this year.

Review by

A comprehensive - boy, is it comprehensive - analysis of the religious life of Europe spanning two centuries. Just over 700 tightly-packed pages - the remainder comprises notes, bibliography, appendices and a massive index - provide a broadly chronological look at the developments, conflicts, politics and social trends of the Reformation. The broad scope necessarily means that the minutiae of war, politics, doctrine and social trend are overlooked, but 75 pages of notes detailing sources and further reading compensate for this. MacCulloch begins with the an examination of late medieval Catholicism, moves through the early reformers, the Inquisition and the Counter-Reformation to the Thirty-Years' War and the English Civil War, and finishes with a thematic examination of topics including church discipline, the concept of a Protestant work-ethic, attitudes to death, celibacy, marriage, homosexuality, the role of women in the church, witch-hunts and anti-Semitism through the Reformation period. MacCulloch writes with humour, and in an engaging style. He very helpfully cross-references between chapters on a regular basis, making it a little easier for the reader to keep track of who does what where and when. He pulls no punches about the truly ghastly things that people did to one another in the name of Christianity in the period, but generally remains sympathetic to the fact that, however wrong they were, they were often doing what they <i>thought</i> was right. A seriously excellent history book, providing an introduction for the student and an accessible overview for the non-academic.

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