Popular religious violence in the English Reformation, 1533-1642

Crawley, Elizabeth Grace (2022). Popular religious violence in the English Reformation, 1533-1642. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The English Reformation was a historic process which reshaped the religion of the country, tearing down one Church and replacing it with another. Such a break with the past generated significant conflict, but popular religious violence has been absent from our understanding, until now. Popular religious violence, defined as physical interpersonal violence committed outside of any official sphere, was a major part of how many people challenged, enforced or participated in the English Reformation, so its absence leaves a major gap in our understanding of this formative period. This thesis rectifies this omission by examining examples of popular religious violence in four contexts: the conservative rebellions of the 1530s and 1540s, conflict over festive culture in the Elizabethan and Stuart eras, anti-Catholic violence from the 1580s until the 1640s, and the escalation of hostilities between differing creeds of Protestantism in the years immediately prior to the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642. Such examples also show that although acts of popular religious violence were relatively uncommon, the wider attitudes and beliefs which vindicated violence in Reformation England were endemic.
Through this structure, this thesis shows how the nature of popular religious violence evolved throughout the Reformation, from a Catholic understanding based around destroying the bodies of those who attacked the Church, to an embryonic Protestant one, which was directed at anything, or indeed anyone, believed to be leading others astray. Unlike other countries whose Reformations were wracked by widespread bloodshed, England experienced no major protracted domestic conflict in the early modern period, until 1642. This thesis shows how this allowed a much wider range of religious disputes to spiral into violence, unlike the binary divisions which characterised other contexts. In England, Catholics battled other Catholics to defend religious traditions, Protestants fought each other about how they should relate to the pre-Reformation past, and both had to find ways to co-exist, which often only provided more scope for violent conflict. In short, the lack of an open war meant that religious violence was able to persist in England for over a century, and became part of the backdrop of ordinary life in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. England did not experience a conventional military “war of religion”, but a “cold war of religion”, with many faces and fronts which constantly shifted as the Reformation wore on. This thesis will enrich our understanding of the English Reformation by showing how popular religious violence was a key part of the lived experience of the Reformation and what those who participated in it believed was worth sacrificing everything to uphold.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/12149


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