Synopses & Reviews
This delightful book offers a rare glimpse of life in a remote sixteenth-century English village during the dramatic changes of the Reformation. Through vividly detailed parish records kept from 1520 to 1574 by Sir Christopher Trychay, the garrulous priest of Morebath, we see how a tiny Catholic community rebelled, was punished, and reluctantly accepted Protestantism under the demands of the Elizabethan state.
"Historians of the Reformation have usually focused on figures like Luther, Calvin, and Henry VIII. Eamon Duffy, reader in church history at the University of Cambridge, has elected instead to study this process of epic change at the local level, examining in rich detail the Reformation as it transformed life in Morebath, a small village in Devon in southwestern England. The shift from the 'lavishly Catholic' England before Henry's break with Rome in the 1520's to the robustly Protestant nation of Elizabethan times is chronicled in the opinionated accounts of Morebath's parish priest, Sir Christopher Trychay. The process of resistance, rebellion, punishment, and gradual—and reluctant— accommodation is detailed by both Trychay and Duffy. It is a fascinating story, the likes of which are seldom available to the historian, much less the general reader. Motives are examined, the social and economic lineaments of Morebath are laid bare, and the reader is presented with a lively picture of a society in the throes of change. The Voices of Morebath will fascinate historians who already find the period exciting. Those who have considered themselves immune to the charms of Clio may be in for a pleasant surprise. This book deserves a wide readership." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
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 antipapal preaching. What was the impact of this religious change in the countryside? And how did country people feel about the revolutionary upheavals that transformed their mental and material worlds under Henry VIII and his three children?
In this book a reformation historian takes us inside the mind and heart of Morebath, a remote and tiny sheep farming village on the southern edge of Exmoor. The bulk of Morebath's conventional archives have long since vanished. But from 1520 to 1574, through nearly all the drama of the English Reformation, Morebath's only priest, Sir Christopher Trychay, kept the parish accounts on behalf of the churchwardens. Opinionated, eccentric, and talkative, Sir Christopher filled these vivid scripts for parish meetings with the names and doings of his parishioners. 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 Trychay's accounts provide direct evidence of the motives which drove the hitherto law-abiding West-Country communities to participate in the doomed Prayer-Book Rebellion of 1549 culminating in the siege of Exeter that ended in bloody defeat and a wave of executions. Its church bells confiscated and silenced, Morebath shared in the punishment imposed on all the towns and villages of Devon and Cornwall. Sir Christopher documents the changes in the community, reluctantly Protestant and increasingly preoccupied 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 his villagers after four hundred years of silence.
The religious upheavals of the 16th century that transformed English rural life were captured by Sir Christopher Trychay, the priest of Morebath, Devon, who recorded parish meetings between 1520 and 1574. Unlike most parish records, Trychay's records are full of names, incidental details, opinions and prejudices. Interspersed throughout Duffy's engaging narrative, itself packed with detail, are extracts from Trychay's records, with modern English translations. These record life in a small, piously Catholic parish and the effects of enforced protestantism, the disastrous West Country Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549 and Elizabeth's taxation.
This delightful book offers a rare glimpse of life in a remote sixteenth-century English village during the dramatic changes of the Reformation.