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The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and…

The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village

by Eamon Duffy

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Micro-history of a village in Reformation England.
  AZG1001 | Mar 31, 2016 |
This is a chronicle of a remote sheep-farming village in the west of England during the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and the early years of Elizabeth. From the parish accounts of the village's priest, an unusually scrupulous recorder of the day-to-day events, the early years chronicle the simple pieties involving in raising money by sponsoring "ales," or festivals—what we might call ice cream socials, although beer and hard cider would have been the preferred consumable—to pay for candles, a shrine, vestments, etc., and such minutia as who had promised what sum to the church, who was responsible for grazing the churches sheep for the year, and so on. Then, with King Henry's break with the Church and later, the imposition of Protestantism, the ales and ceremonies are forbidden and the idols (supposedly) sold off. With the death of Henry, then Edward and the installation of Catholic Mary as Queen, comes a respite for Catholic rites and holidays; church possessions come out of hiding, but some of the vigor of the ales has been lost and the bonds of the community have been weakened, all of which is noted (but not commented on) in the parish accounts.
When Mary dies and is succeeded by Elizabeth, Protestantism returns and the state apparatus, increasingly competent and thorough, forces the elimination of any remaining vestiges of Catholic practices. It is easy in this book to forget, however, that it was less Elizabeth's intolerance (she was disinclined to interfere in matters of conscience and felt that time would bring most Catholics around to Protestant worship) than the very real threat posed by the many Catholic adherents, with their allegiance to the Papal Bull against a Protestant ruler and to a Catholic pretender in Mary Queen of Scots, supported by Spain's King Phillip II machinations in Scotland and Ireland.
The priest records the increasing secularization of demands on the parish for money to support the military and the state. It wasn't entirely the imposition of a new form of worship and dogma which was upsetting, but the abolition of the responsibilities that supported the church also bound the community together. The impact of schism and the subsequent rise of Protestant (or even Calvinistic) doctrine was not as disruptive in this parish as the breakdown of the web of obligations and responsibility that accompanied the banning of the "beer blasts" and "ice-cream socials" that contributed a few shillings to the church. ( )
3 vote sweetFrank | Mar 6, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0300098251, Paperback)

In the early 1990s, Eamon Duffy's monumental The Stripping of the Altars provided a new slant on the English Reformation. Duffy has now dug deeper into the same fascinating period. The Voices of Morebath is the story of a hamlet buried deep in the heart of Devon. The parish priest Sir Christopher Trychay remained in office through the troubled times of the mid-16th century. During his long tenure he carefully recorded the impact of national events in his ordinary rural community. Trychay's account is unique because it is not a personal diary but a record of the parish accounts. Sir Christopher, however, was talkative and opinionated, so the accounts are laden with the minutiae of parish life. Duffy weaves these otherwise cryptic details into the wider tapestry of events of the time, and by analysing the result shows the devastating revolution that took place in ordinary people's lives. As the drama unfolds we see the folk of Morebath forced from their secure Catholicism into the new religion of King Henry. After Edward's brief reign the villagers breathe a sigh of relief and haul out all their Catholic paraphernalia, grateful that Mary Tudor has restored the Catholic faith. Then it all goes for good once Elizabeth takes the throne. Duffy has given us history that is absorbing, readable, and complete. His own enthusiasm for his topic gives the book a zest that takes it beyond the usual academic tome. Anyone the least bit interested in English history must not neglect this important book. --Dwight Longenecker, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:58 -0400)

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"In the fifty years between 1530 and 1580, England moved from being one of the most lavishly Catholic countries in Europe to being a Protestant nation, a land of whitewashed churches and anti-papal preaching. What was the impact of this religious change in the countryside? And how did the country people feel about the revolutionary upheavals that transformed their mental and material worlds under Henry VIII and his children? In this book a reformation historian takes us inside the mind and heart of Morebath, a remote and tiny sheep farming village where 33 families worked the difficult land on the southern edge of Exmoor. ... From 1520 to 1574, ... Morebath's only priest, Sir Christopher Trychay, kept the parish accounts on behalf of the churchwardens. ... Through his eyes we catch a rare glimpse of the life and pre-reformation piety of a sixteenth-century English village. The book also offers a unique window into a rural world in crisis as the reformation progressed. ... Sir Christopher documents the changes in the community reluctantly Protestant, no longer focused on the religious life of the parish church, and increasingly pre-occupied with the secular demands of the Elizabethan state, the equipping of armies and the payment of taxes. Morebath's priest, garrulous to the end of his days, describes a rural world irrevocably altered, and enables us to hear the voices of the villagers after four hundred years of silence."--From cover p. [2].… (more)

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300098251, 0300091850

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