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Reviewed by:
  • Reform and Expansion 1500–1560
  • Paul F. Grendler
Reform and Expansion 1500–1560. Edited by R. Po-Chia Hsia. [The Cambridge History of Christianity, Vol. 6.] (New York: Cambridge University Press. 2007. Pp. xxii, 749. $205.00. ISBN 978-0-521-81162-0.)

This is a history of what most scholars call the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, plus a small section about the reception of Christianity in [End Page 610] parts of the non-European world. The editor announces that the work has three goals. The first is to “provide an exposition of the . . . classic common places of the history of the Reformation and confessional conflicts” (p. xv), in other words, the Lutheran, Calvinist, and radical Reformations, plus Catholicism. The second goal is to include “themes that transcend the Protestant-Catholic divide, themes of social and cultural history that have animated a generation of recent historical scholarship” (ibid.). The third goal is to study the history of Christianity in the larger world, meaning Christianity’s relations with Judaism and Orthodoxy, plus how a few non- Europeans looked at Christianity. The book does not provide accounts of the introduction of Christianity into Latin America, North America, or Asia. Thirty-one authors, many quite distinguished, have written twenty-nine short chapters (seventeen to twenty-five pages) and one longer chapter on the topics assigned them. In most cases they are established authorities on their subjects. All the articles are balanced; they treat Protestantism of various kinds and Catholicism without confessional prejudices. All the articles are competent, and some are excellent.

The book begins with a short chapter on Martin Luther, which summarizes the basic points that scholars have debated about him but does not capture his dominating and exciting impact. Thomas A. Brady follows with an excellent account of the consolidation of Protestantism in the Holy Roman Empire to 1600. Other fine articles include, but are not limited to, Robert Kingdon on the Calvinist Reformation in Geneva, Philip Benedict on the second wave of the Reformation, Robert Bireley’s survey of Catholicism, Brad Gregory on persecution and martyrdom, Alexander J. Fisher on music and religious change, and Miriam Bodiam on Christianity and Judaism.

All of this is good. However, the organizational and interpretive choices made by the editor and authors limit the usefulness of the volume. Much of the book consists of chapters that deal with topics dear to social and anthropologically-oriented historians. The chapters are competently done and interesting. But assuming that the editor did not have unlimited pages at his disposal, they come at the expense of ignoring major aspects of the Reformation era. The papacy only flits in and out, while the Italian Reformation is completely ignored. The English Reformation gets a handful of pages here and there. Separate chapters on Italy and England would have served readers better. The only material on Christianity in Latin America is an anthropological study (nearly twice as long as the Luther article) discussing how Andeans negotiated an understanding of Christian saints. The book as a whole marginalizes ideas. For example, historians have debated how much influence humanism had on the Protestant Reformation since George Voigt’s book of 1859. Bernd Moeller wrote “Ohne Humanismus keine Reformation” in 1959. This book ignores humanism except for about three pages on Erasmus, mostly about his notion of toleration. There is no discussion of such theological topics as casuistry, probabilism, and Calvinist and Jesuit resistance theories. Christian biblical scholarship is barely mentioned. [End Page 611]

There are several factual errors. On page 427 it is asserted that the University of Padua did not have a faculty of theology. Although they were organized differently from faculties of theology in northern Europe, all Italian universities had faculties of theology; they taught and awarded thousands of degrees. On page 431 it is asserted that “the Jesuits in particular took an explicit oath of allegiance to Aristotle.” Despite extensive study of Jesuit education in archival, primary, and secondary sources, I have never encountered this. Even the Jesuit Ratio studiorum did not endorse Aristotle unequivocally. On page 297 it is stated that Tridentine bishops approved an Index of Prohibited Books in 1564. Rather, the Council of Trent charged...


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