The Reformation

The Reformation

Additional Formats
  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101563953
  • 864 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


The Reformation and Counter-Reformation represented the greatest upheaval in Western society since the collapse of the Roman Empire a millennium before. The consequences of those shattering events are still felt today—from the stark divisions between (and within) Catholic and Protestant countries to the Protestant ideology that governs America, the world’s only remaining superpower.

In this masterful history, Diarmaid MacCulloch conveys the drama, complexity, and continuing relevance of these events. He offers vivid portraits of the most significant individuals—Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Loyola, Henry VIII, and a number of popes—but also conveys why their ideas were so powerful and how the Reformation affected everyday lives. The result is a landmark book that will be the standard work on the Reformation for years to come. The narrative verve of The Reformation as well as its provocative analysis of American culture’s debt to the period will ensure the book’s wide appeal among history readers.


Wolfson History Prize – winner


Praise for The Reformation

“A learned, enlightening, and disturbing masterwork . . . This isn’t merely ‘a history’ of the Reformation, but rather ‘the history.’”
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

“One of the most magisterial and stylishly written historical works to be published in a decade . . . MacCulloch’s analyses of the lives, personalities, ideas, and struggles are at once sharp and profound. . . . A lasting work.”
—Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic

“Evenhanded, learned, and profound . . . It is difficult to imagine anybody writing a better book about the Reformation.”
—Karen Armstong, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Superb . . . MacCulloch brings the history of the Reformation into vivid focus, providing what must surely be the best general account available.”
—A. C. Grayling, Financial Times

“Dazzling . . . A magnificent achievement . . . It is hard not to admire a book that is such a masterpiece of learning, and yet written with a disarming lightness of touch.”
—Michael Howard, The Times Literary Supplement

“A masterpiece of readable scholarship . . . In its field it is the best book ever written.”
—David Edwards, The Guardian

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
List of Illustrations and Maps


1. The Old Church, 1490-1517
Seeing Salvation in Church. The First Pillar: The Mass and Purgatory. Layfolk at Prayer. The Second Pillar: Papal Primacy. A Pillar Cracks: Politics and the Papacy. Church Versus Commonwealth?

2. Hopes and Fears, 1490-1517
Shifting Boundaries. The Iberian Exception. The Iberian Achievement: The Western Church Exported. New Possibilities: Paper and Printing. Humanism: A New World from Books. Putting Renewal into Practice. Reform or the Last Days? Erasmus: Hopes, Fulfilled, Fears Stilled?

3. New Heaven: New Earth, 1517-24
The Shadow of Augustine. Luther: A Good Monk, 1483-1517. An Accidental Revolution, 1517-21. Whose Revolution? 1521-22. Evangelical Challenges: Zwingli and Radicalism, 1521-22. Zürich and Wittenberg, 1522-24. The Years of Carnival, 1521-24

4. Wooing the Magistrate,1524-40
Europe’s Greatest Rebellion, 1524-25. Princely Churches or Christian Separation, 1525-30. The Birth of Protestantisms, 1529-33. Strassburg: New Rome or New Jerusalem? Kings and Reformers, 1530-40. A New King David? Münster and It’s Aftermath

5. Reunion Deferred: Catholic and Protestant, 1530-60
A Southern Revival. Ignatius Loyola and the Early Jesuits. Hopes for a Deal: The 1541-42 Crisis. A Council at Trent: The First Session, 1545-49. Calvin in Geneva: The Reformed Answer to Münster . Calvin and the Eucharist: Protestant Divisions Confirmed. Reformed Protestantism: Alternatives to Calvin, 1540-60

6. Reunion Scorned, 1547-70
Crisis for the Habsburgs, 1547-55. 1555: An Emperor’s Exhaustion, a Pope’s Obsession. A Catholic Recovery: England, 1553-58. 1558-59: Turning Points for Dynasties. The Last Session of the Council of Trent, 1561-63. Protestants in Arms: France and the Low Countries, 1562-70


7. The New Europe Defined, 1569-72
Northern and Southern Religion. Tridentine Successes. The Catholic Defense of Christendom, 1565-71. Militant Northern Protestants, 1569-72. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew, 1572. Poland 1569-76: An Alternative Future? Protestantism and Providence

8. The North: Protestant Heartlands
Defining Lutheranism: Toward the Formula of Concord. The “Second Reformation” in Germany. Baltic Religious Contests: Poland-Lithuania and Scandinavia . The Northern Netherlands: Protestant Victory. The Northern Netherlands: The Arminian Crisis . A Reformed Success: Scotland. Elizabethan England: A Reformed Church?. Ireland: The Coming of the Counter-Reformation

9. The South: Catholic Heartlands
Italy: The Counter-Reformation’s Heart. Spain and Portugal: King Philip’s Church. The Counter-Reformation as World Mission

10. Central Europe: Religion Contested
The Empire and Habsburg Lands: A Shattered Church. Habsburgs, Wittlelsbachs, and a Catholic Recovery. Transylvania: A Reformed srael. France: Collapse of a Kingdom, 1572-98. France: A Late Counter-Reformation

11. Decision and Destruction, 1618-48

12. Coda: A British Legacy, 1600-1700
New English Beginnings: Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrews. Early Stuart England: The Church’s Golden Age? War in Three Kingdoms, 1638-60. A Spectrum of Protestantisms, 1660-1700. American Beginnings


13. Changing Times
Time Endings. Hearing God’s Voice. Fighting Antichrist: Idols. Fighting Antichrist: Witches

14. Death, Life, and Discipline
Negotiations with Death and Magic. Telling out the Word. Godly Discipline. A Spirit of Protestantism?

15. Love and Sex: Staying the Same
A Common Legacy. The Family in Society. The Fear of Sodomy

16. Love and Sex: Moving On
The “Reformation of Manners”. Catholicism, the Family and Celibacy. Protestantism and the Family. Choices in Religion

17. Outcomes
Wars of Reformation. Tolerating Difference. Crosscurrents: Humanism and Natural Philosophy. Crosscurrents: Judaism and Doubts. The Enlightenment and Beyond

Appendix of Texts: Creeds, Lord’s Prayer, Ten Commandments, and Hail Mary
Further Reading

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