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BOOK REVIEWS771 riod, and its relationship to those other modes examined more closely." This is simply the last aside in a work that is filled with provocative statements. Berard L. Marthaler, O.F.M. Conv. The Catholic University ofAmerica The English Reformation and the Laity: Gloucestershire, 1540-1580. By Caroline Litzenberger. [Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History .] (NewYork: Cambridge University Press. 1997. Pp. xvii, 218. $54.95.) This important new book studies the impact of the various Henrician, Edwardian , Marian, and Elizabethan religious settlements on parish life in Gloucestershire . The author finds that the local reception of the official changes in liturgy, beliefs, and architectural setting signified more a withdrawal from Catholicism than a purposeful move toward Protestantism, and this situation persisted into the 1580's. That there was a distinction between the official and the popular reformations has long been recognized, as well as the fact that the English Reformation was a slow and delayed process—not only in many rural areas,but even in urban centers such as London.What particularly distinguishes this study is Dr. Litzenberger's reluctance to employ the labels Catholic and Protestant to describe people caught in such a shifting morass of changing religious settlements. Despite the efforts of the government to enforce religious uniformity by various Acts of Parliament, a range of popular religious opinions emerged that was too diverse to be subsumed by such labels. The distinguishing methodology of this book is its thorough analysis of the preambles of last wills and testaments employing subtle distinctions of doctrinal beliefwhich are then grouped into categories of traditional, ambiguous, and Protestant for purposes of quantification. More than 8,000 wills for Gloucester diocese survive from the period 1541 to 1580, and the author has scrutinized nearly half of the total, decade by decade. They are broken down into categories of gentry and commonalty, and include the wills of 1,325 women. The gentry were much more receptive to Protestant ideas during this period than ordinary folk, but their response certainly was not overwhelming; not until the late 1570's did their acceptance of Protestant doctrine approach 50% of the total. As for non-elite preambles, the expression of Protestant belief barely reached the 10% level by the mid-1570's. Instead of enthusiastically embracing the Protestant Reformation the overwhelming proportion of both elites and non-elites sought refuge in ambiguous preambles—especially when a particular religious settlement did not agree with a particular individual's own beliefs. If Gloucester diocese is at all typical, what the author is telling us is that the English people gradually became Protestant by a kind of osmosis, i.e., the laity gradually absorbed Protestant culture and beliefs by exposure to the liturgy of 772BOOK REVIEWS The Book of Common Prayer and reading of printed homilies in a setting stripped bare of Catholic images, rituals, and sacramentáis. Among other influences , Dr. Litzenberger discounts the leadership of the bishops of Gloucester, which was feeble, the preaching of sermons by the clergy, who were mostly unlearned , and the leadership of the gentry, who were faction-ridden. Dr. Litzenberger's bottom-up approach to religious change is both refreshing and useful. However, considering how little progress distinctively Protestant ideas had made in Gloucester diocese by 1580, one could wish that the author had carried her study of the preambles of wills through to the end of the reign of Elizabeth. J. A. Froude was not the only historian who thought that England did not become Protestant in belief and culture until after 1588. Also, the thesis ofprotestantization by osmosis might carry more weight ifDr. Litzenberger had done a systematic study of the parochial clergy and also carried such a study down to the end of the reign. As it is, her evidence on the parish clergy, their lack of educational attainments, and the infrequency of preaching rests too much upon anecdote and stands in contrast to her very thorough, systematic, and persuasive study of the preambles of the last wills and testaments of Gloucestershire men and women. In other English dioceses, reforming bishops and Puritan patrons and magistrates had made considerable strides in improving the performances of parish clergy by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 771-772
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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