- A Companion to the Reformation World
The study of the European Reformation has always been fragmented by confessional bias. More recent trends in the social history of the sixteenth century add a further breakdown in focus with separate studies in mentalities, gender, magic, and sexuality. Hsia in this book seeks to put the Reformation Humpty Dumpty back together again in a distinctively more diverse global context in order to broaden a student's understanding of the Reformation.
This volume of twenty-nine essays is divided into six parts. Part 1 concerns Europe on the eve of the Reformation. Euan Cameron notes the importance of millenarianism for the early modern period, but makes no direct connection from the late Middle Ages to the thought of laypersons who wrote in favor of the Reformation. This section might be of interest to Renaissance historians, but the two essays are limited to a discussion of heresy and the tolerance of diversity. Larissa Taylor writes, "As long as Boccaccean stories or humanist critiques framed the portrayal, it was no surprise that a Protestant Reformation was needed" (31). The only other reference to Renaissance humanism in this volume is in an essay on magic and witchcraft, where the Platonic revival is blamed for encouraging belief in magic.
Parts 2 and 3 are devoted to the Reformation in the Holy Roman Empire and the European Reformation. The Low Countries, Bohemia, and Poland are considered as part of Europe, not the empire. James R. Palmitessa's essay on Bohemia and Poland notes that "Aside from [some] historiographical reservations, religious developments in Bohemia and Poland fit in quite well with recent discussions of the diversity of the Reformation experience" (186). The breakdown of religious unity and fragmentation into sects is demonstrated even more clearly in part 4, where the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal shares the stage with the Catholic Reformation, the Thirty Years' War, and Civil War in England. William Monter describes the exaggerated numbers of heretic burnings by the Inquisition among Protestants: "These figures, large as they are, shrink to microscopic dimensions for any twentieth-century scholar aware of the Nazi Holocaust" (267).
Part 5 concentrates on Roman Catholic missions in Latin and South America, India, China, and Japan. This missionary activity was clearly a dimension of Jesuit history. The Jesuits tended to allow compromises with native traditions, in contrast to the preference of mendicant missionaries to toe the strict line established by the Inquisition. In many foreign parts, the Inquisition was just as eager to investigate nonconformist religious behavior. [End Page 938]
Part 6, "Structures of the Reformation World," includes six essays on subjects as varied as witchcraft, Jews, and toleration. In this chapter, Bruce Gordon's essay "The New Parish" provides a very interesting discussion of clerical vocations, seldom so broadly discussed in Reformation textbooks. Part 6 is mostly about tensions between Catholics and Protestants and how difficult religious peace was to enforce where officially it did exist. As Benjamin Kaplan notes, "co-existence could be intimate without being friendly" (496). Miriam Bodian describes Rabbi Saul Levi Mortera's Tratado, which evaluated Catholics, Calvinists, and Anti-Trinitarians. Part 6 does not contain Muslim assessments of the Reformation in Christian Europe.
For students of the Reformation eager to read some of the latest research in Reformation studies, this tome will be a disappointment. Although some of the more recent research is summarized, these essays are too similar to chapters in a normal textbook. Particularly daunting is the method of citation: most of the essays use MLA format. Substantive citations in parentheses at the end of sentences act as stumbling blocks to smooth reading. In many of these essays, there are no citations. As historians struggle to encourage their students to carefully document their research, how useful as models are essays that have no documentation? [End Page 939]