- Reformation Thought: An Anthology of Sources transed. by Margaret L. King
This invaluable little anthology delivers exactly what it promises and a little bit more. There was a time when a source collection titled 'Reformation Thought' would have consisted entirely of extracts from the principal published works of the best-known Protestant theologians – and that would not be a bad thing: the Reformation was a revolution of ideas led by scholars, and unless students are willing to engage with those ideas they will not grasp much of what it was all about. So it is pleasing that, amongst Margaret L. King's fifty short extracts, we have five from Martin Luther and ten more from major Protestant thinkers, plus five from Erasmus. The extracts are brief but well-chosen, and will give novices a decent overview of some of the most burning issues in the Reformation debates. My only disappointment here is in the treatment of England: I appreciate that the market may demand a separate section for England, although it does reinforce the pernicious sense that the English Reformation was set apart from rather than a part of the main story. But it is a shame that the section, titled 'The English Compromise', should flatter England's myths of moderation and exceptionalism.
The book's real value, however, is in its recognition that Reformation studies is now a much broader discipline than just big-name theologians. As is now conventional, the Protestant Reformation is joined by its Catholic counterpart. Where King moves beyond [End Page 431] convention is in the extent of her inclusion of women's voices: fully ten of her fifty sources are written wholly or partly by women, a mixture of well-known figures like Teresa of Ávila, representative voices of female piety such as the English diarist Margaret Hoby, and strikingly fresh and undeservedly neglected theological interventions like that of Marie Dentière, who not only insisted on the legitimacy of women's theology, but added, 'they will not be able to stop us' (p. 94).
It is one sign that, in line with wider developments in Reformation studies, King's definition of 'Reformation' is elastic. A somewhat miscellaneous section titled 'The Expanding Reformation' takes us into mysticism, sectarianism and revivalism, and into the mid-eighteenth century. Last of all, and of most interest to this Journal, comes 'The Reformation Overseas'. It is a sign of the growing interest of Reformation historians in the global footprint of their subject. I lost count of the conversations I had during the quincentenary celebrations of the Reformation in 2017 in which someone said that the global impact of Reformation is the next frontier for the subject, and a number of us are beginning to move in that direction, but it is easier said than done, and King's choices show the difficulties of that global turn as well as the possibilities.
One central difficulty is that, bluntly, Catholicism was much more globalised during the early modern period than Protestantism. The question is whether early modern Catholic expansion is really a part of the Reformation story or simply a parallel set of contemporaneous events, as scholarship on the Catholic Reformation has traditionally treated it. That is beginning to change thanks to the efforts of scholars such as Ronnie Hsia. Collections such as Alison Forrestal and Seán Smith's The Frontiers of Mission: Perspectives on Early Modern Missionary Catholicism (Leiden: Brill, 2016), to which Hsia contributed an afterword, are trying to look at European and extra-European Catholicism in the round, but it is still too early to say if this approach will yield significant insights. Three of the five 'global' texts in King's anthology provide fascinating snapshots of Catholic missions in the Americas and Asia but struggle to demonstrate a connection to the rest of the book.
Protestantism's problem is different: it had minimal extra-European impact until the eighteenth century, and even then haltingly. The best-known exception to that rule is England's North American colonies, and King...