1st Edition

Commonwealth and the English Reformation Protestantism and the Politics of Religious Change in the Gloucester Vale, 1483–1560

By Ben Lowe Copyright 2010

    Whilst much recent research has dealt with the popular response to the religious change ushered in during the mid-Tudor period, this book focuses not just on the response to broad liturgical and doctrinal change, but also looks at how theological and reform messages could be utilized among local leaders and civic elites. It is this cohort that has often been neglected in previous efforts to ascertain the often elusive position of the common woman or man. Using the Vale of Gloucester as a case study, the book refocuses attention onto the concept of "commonwealth" and links it to a gradual, but long-standing dissatisfaction with local religious houses. It shows how monasteries, endowed initially out of the charitable impulses of elites, increasingly came to depend on lay stewards to remain viable. During the economic downturn of the mid-Tudor period, when urban and landed elites refocused their attention on restoring the commonwealth which they believed had broken down, they increasingly viewed the charity offered by religious houses as insufficient to meet the local needs. In such a climate the Protestant social gospel seemed to provide a valid alternative to which many people gravitated. Holding to scrutiny the revisionist revolution of the past twenty years, the book reopens debate and challenges conventional thinking about the ways the traditional church lost influence in the late middle ages, positing the idea that the problems with the religious houses were not just the creation of the reformers but had rather a long history. In so doing it offers a more complete picture of reform that goes beyond head-counting by looking at the political relationships and how they were affected by religious ideas to bring about change.

    Contents: Preface; Introduction; Government, business and urban politics in late medieval Gloucester; Gloucester's ecclesiastical community and education during the Middle Ages; Gloucestershire's leading gentlemen before the Reformation; The Gloucester Vale on the eve of the reformation (1520-1540); Gloucester during the great transfer (1536-1551); The Gloucestershire gentry during the great transfer (1540-1551); Commonwealth and reform: Bishop Hooper in Gloucester (1551-55); A troubled city (1555 and beyond); Appendices; Bibliography; Index.


    Dr Ben Lowe is Associate Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies at Florida Atlantic University, USA.

    ’[Lowe’s] work is worth reading, as both a local study and a fresh contribution to the debate about the nature and success of the Reformation.’ Church Times ’Recommended.’ Choice 'This is a study rich in material for fruitful comparisons with other areas of the country.' Northern History 'The heady mixture of religion, politics, the economy and social ambition is the subject of this well-researched and detailed study that looks at a part of England that, although not at the forefront of the Reformation, has attracted quite a bit of interest from historians in recent years.' Ecclesiastical History '... this is an interesting, well-written book that provides useful detailed material on both town and countryside. Hopefully, Lowe can be encouraged to write a comparative study of the English urban Reformation in the future.' Catholic Historical Review 'The book is attractively designed and printed, with two dozen well-chosen illustrations. It is a valuable addition to a splendid series.' David Cressy, Church History ''This is a careful and well researched work, which sheds light on a neglected aspect of the English Reformation.' Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 'Ben Lowe paints a detailed picture of government, business and urban politics in late medieval Gloucester, analyses how the religious community worked pre-Reformation, and provides an account of the county's leading gentry... The book is strong in stressing how the turbulent times must have felt to people, good on the complexity of motives for change, and sensitive in showing how that was mediated by a strong sense of 'stewardship' regarding property, education and care of the poor.' Ecclesiology Today ’... Lowe has provided us with more than just an account of reform in Gloucester. It is an illustration of how the pervasive, often subtle, motivations and adaptations of core values coincided and interwove with Henrician and Edwardine religious change, making reform well suited to men of sub