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The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion,…

The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity, and Memory in Early… (edition 2012)

by Alexandra Walsham

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Title:The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity, and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland
Authors:Alexandra Walsham
Info:OUP Oxford (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 656 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:history, social history, topography, history of ideas, religion, folklore

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The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity, and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland by Alexandra Walsham



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This is a thorough and fascinating coverage of the changes which took place between the 16th and the 18th Centuries regarding (initially) the religious treatment of elements of the landscape (shrines, groves, wells, etc.) and (later) the non-religious treatment of sites with a religious history (e.g. the conversion of what had been "holy wells" into spas with medicinal claims made for them, or the secular treatment of abbey ruins as attractive landscape features). This includes sites with a pre-Christian past (dolmens and tumuli, principally).

Walsham's coverage is thorough, and the texture of the book is accordingly dense. Her material is thoroughly documented and she has made an extensive survey of the original sources.

There are few major surprises -- such as there are tend to appear in the latter part of the book, regarding invented traditions (she draws explicitly on Hobsbawm's The Invention of Tradition) -- for example, she is unable to find any evidence for the story of St. Joseph of Arimathea and the Glastonbury thorn prior to the Reformation. (Note that the story of St. Joseph visiting Britain is earlier (it's in some of the Lancelot cycle, IIRC) but the specific link with Glastonbury, and with the Christmas-flowering thorn, is later.) However, her accumulation of details not only fills out the broadly expected narrative but provides evidence of the complexity of detail and local variation within the broadly expected outlines. ( )
  jsburbidge | Apr 24, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199243557, Hardcover)

The Reformation of the Landscape is a richly detailed and original study of the relationship between the landscape of Britain and Ireland and the tumultuous religious changes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It explores how the profound theological and liturgical transformations that marked the era between 1500 and 1750 both shaped, and were in turn shaped by, the places and spaces within the physical environment in which they occurred. Moving beyond churches, cathedrals, and monasteries, it investigates how the Protestant and Catholic Reformations affected perceptions and practices associated with trees, woods, springs, rocks, mountain peaks, prehistoric monuments, and other distinctive topographical features of the British Isles. Drawing on extensive research and embracing insights from a range of disciplines, Alexandra Walsham examines the origins, immediate consequences, and later repercussions of these movements of religious renewal, together with the complex but decisive modifications of belief and behaviour to which they gave rise.

It demonstrates how ecclesiastical developments intersected with other intellectual and cultural trends, including the growth of antiquarianism and the spread of the artistic and architectural Renaissance, the emergence of empirical science and shifting fashions within the spheres of medicine and healing. Set within a chronological framework that stretches backwards towards the early Middle Ages and forwards into the nineteenth century, the book assesses the critical part played by the landscape in forging confessional identities and in reconfiguring collective and social memory. It illuminates the ways in which the visible world was understood and employed by the diverse religious communities that occupied the British Isles, and shows how it became a battleground in which bitter struggles about the significance of the Christian and pagan past were waged.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:26 -0400)

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