Christianity in the West, 1400-1700, Paperback Book

Christianity in the West, 1400-1700 Paperback

Part of the OPUS series

2.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


A study not of the institution of the Church but of Christianity itself, this book explores the Christian people, their beliefs, and their way of life, providing a new understanding of Western Christianity at the time of the Reformation.

Bossy begins with a systematic exposition of traditional or pre-Reformation Christianity, exploring the forces that tended to undermine it, the characteristics of the Protestant and Catholic regimes that superseded it, and the fall-out that resulted from its disintegration.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of religion
  • ISBN: 9780192891624



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

This is a set book for an Open University course I am taking. It gives a fascanating insight into how everyday people (rather than theologians and academics) experienced Christianity during this period.

Review by

John Bossy's Christianity in the West, 1400-1700 is very learned, but very opaque. This book is not directed toward the general educated reading public. If you did not major in the history of religion or at least in your college's Great Books Program, do not even try to read this book. The book traces some subtle and some not at all subtle changes in the way Christians thought during the relevant period. Bossy assumes the reader knows all about Anselm's abstruse doctrine of the Trinity and the major fissures rent in Christian thought by the Protestant Reformation. He points out that "Reformation" may be a misnomer in that the word seems to imply improvement over what preceeded it. He jumps from Calvin to Zwingli to Hus with little explication of how their views differed from Anselm or from one another. He is more specific in discussing Luther and Erasmus. On the positive side, the book also contains a number of neat factoids not commonly known: (1) the 15th Century saw a revolution in the analysis of Christian ethics replacing avoidance of the seven deadly sins with obeying the Ten Commandments as the basic obligation; (2)invention of the confession box in the 16th century; and (3) the introduction of pews as a cause of making church attendance more personal and less communal.My gripe is Bossy's syntax. Nearly every sentence is an attempt to sound professorial rather than to communicate. Try reading the likes of this for 171 pages:"If we believe that a change in Christianity must be an effect of some other change thought to be closer to the bone of human experience, we can point to the objectifying and delimiting process as having eventuated, within this period, in modern conceptions of property and the State; or, if we prefer, in a Holy Family which excluded such non-resident kin as John the Baptist. One objection to taking such changes to be nearer the bone than those already cited would be that, except in the case of the State, they do not seem to evoke any convincing motor event in the world of things: few, I guess, will be prepared to swallow the proposal that the emergence of 'market society' was such an event." Come again?! I think the preceeding sentences can be parsed, but the exercise is not worth the effort. Does he mean that the emergence of a 'market society', being an objectifying and delimiting process, caused changes in Christianity, or maybe not? I found myself struggling to identify the subject and the predicate of too many sentences, and having done so, trying to link the thought expressed to the ostensible topic of chapter in which they appear.(JAB)

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