Piety and persuasion in Elizabethan England: the Church of England meets the family of love

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The argument that the majority of English men and women were content with the late-medieval church seems to be emerging as a consensus amongst historians. As a result, however, the popular motives behind mass compliance with the disruptive process of Protestant reform are surfacing as a serious problem. If the English did not need, want or like the Reformation, why did they accept it? Several possibilities deserve consideration. Some might wish to look for the answer in the Tudor state’s brute power, if such it was. Or we might explore the contemporary culture of obedience in its relation to religious matters. Was compliance perceived as one of the primary spiritual duties, binding almost without reference to the nature of the system being implemented? Alternatively, it can be argued that many people only conformed outwardly, while doggedly retaining an older set of beliefs in the privacy of their own heads. Another possibility might be that the Reformation, in practice if not in theory, turned out to be more a negotiated modification of popular piety than an outright imposition of something innovative and alien. This was not, of course, the mainstream Protestant strategy. But in the circumstances of Elizabethan England, where a deeply conservative Protestant ruled over a basically Catholic people, it may have emerged as the most workable alternative. It is the last of these suggestions that will occupy us here.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEngland's long Reformation 1500-1800
EditorsNicholas Tyacke
PublisherUniversity College London Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780203214152
ISBN (Print)9781857287561, 9780415516143
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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