Susan Wabuda, Caroline Litzenberger, ed. Belief and Practice in Reformation England: A Tribute to Patrick Collinson from his Students. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998. 293 pp. $99.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-85928-430-8.
Reviewed by Tom Betteridge (School of Humanities, Kingston University, Surrey)
Published on H-Albion (August, 2001)
Norman Jones opens this volume by claiming that, "Patrick Collinson has changed the way we think about early modern England" (p. 1). This is an un-controversial, even obvious claim. Collinson has made a profound contribution to the study of early modern English history. His influence has extended well beyond the field of Elizabeth religion. Indeed recently much of Collinson's work has been concentrated on Elizabethan political culture and Tudor historiography. What makes Jones's claim really noticeable is that if one were making it about any of Collinson's contemporaries one would have to acknowledge its problematic and contentious nature. Such qualifications are, however, un-necessary in the case of Collinson who has managed the rare achievement of both having a profound impact on his field of research while not falling out with many of those working in the same area. This is because Collinson has always combined rigorous scholastic methods with academic integrity and intellectual generosity. Belief and Practice in Reformation England is an attempt by some of Collinson's students to start to replay some of these debts. And certainly it rates as a substantial down-payment, if not a full clearing of the account.
The real strength of Wabuda's and Litzenberger's collection is the extent to which the essays it includes invariably reproduce Collinson's concern with detailed and demanding historical research. The weaknesses of some of the essays in Belief and Practice in Reformation England can be put down to their failure to aspire to the kind of historical reach and literary skill that Collinson does in his work. History is not simply a question of reporting back from the archives; it is a public debate over the meaning of the past. Reading some of the essays in this volume I was left admiring their scholarship while not knowing why it matters.
It would be wrong, however, to give the impression that this is anything other then an impressive and important collection of essays. The high-points of this collection include Norman Jones's generous and interesting Introduction and Susan Wabuda's insightful piece, "The woman with the rock: the controversy on women and Bible reading." The essays by Alexandra Walsham, Kate Peters, and Beat Kümin are also very good. The chapters that stand out for me in this collection are, however, Damian Nussbaum's excellent piece on John Foxe's Acts and Monuments and Caroline Litzenberger's chapter entitled, "Defining the Church of England: religious change in the 1570s." In this piece Litzenberger makes the important point that, "the Elizabethan church did not need to look beyond the realm for its Others: English Catholics and radical Protestants served the function quite well" (p. 151).
Belief and Practice in Reformation England is a worthy tribute to Patrick Collinson and is an important collection in its own right. Certainly it should be required reading for anyone interested in Elizabethan and early Stuart religious history.
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Tom Betteridge. Review of Wabuda, Susan; Litzenberger, Caroline, ed., Belief and Practice in Reformation England: A Tribute to Patrick Collinson from his Students.
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