Fires of Faith Catholic England under Mary Tudor Eamon Duffy

Publication date:
15 Sep 2010
Yale University Press
280 pages: 229 x 152mm
30 color illus.
Sales territories:

The reign of Mary Tudor has been remembered as an era of sterile repression, when a reactionary monarch launched a doomed attempt to reimpose Catholicism on an unwilling nation. Above all, the burning alive of more than 280 men and women for their religious beliefs seared the rule of 'Bloody Mary' into the protestant imagination as an alien aberration in the onward and upward march of the English-speaking people.

In this controversial reassessment, the renowned reformation historian Eamon Duffy argues that Mary's regime was neither inept nor backward looking. Led by the queen's cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole, Mary's church dramatically reversed the religious revolution imposed under the child king Edward VI. Inspired by the values of the European Counter-Reformation, the cardinal and the queen reinstated the papacy and launched an effective propaganda campaign through pulpit and press. Even the most notorious aspect of the regime, the burnings, proved devastatingly effective. Only the death of the childless queen and her cardinal on the same day in November 1558 brought the protestant Elizabeth to the throne, thereby changing the course of English history.

Eamon Duffy is professor of the history of Christianity at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of many prize-winning books, including The Stripping of the Altars, Saints and Sinners, The Voices of Morebath, and Marking the Hours, all published by Yale University Press.

"Fires of Faith is a dazzling exercise in historical reappraisal, after which the reign of Mary Tudor will never look quite the same again. We might even start calling it the reign of Mary I." -Peter Marshall, TLS

"Duffy makes a convincing and strongly argued case for a reexamination of the burnings… [A] scrupulous and searching book." -Diane Purkiss, The Independent

"Duffy's book gives a richly textured survey of the Marian Church, making an eloquent and forceful case for a complete reassessment of the traditional view… This book is a skilled and convincing piece of historical polemic … This is an important book, and it argues a pivotal case.  If we are truly to understand the religious complexities of the 16th century, we need once and for all to throw off the shackles of religious prejudice and evaluate the Marian restoration on its own terms … Fires of Faith is a gripping read; it is also, at times, a painful one." -Lucy Wooding, Times Higher Education

"Eamon Duffy, particularly in The Stripping of the Altars (1992), has done more than anyone to dispel the conventional view of traditional Catholic life — better lost than saved — in England before the Reformation. Now, in a short, evidence-packed book, exceptionally well provided with illustrations and maps, he has shone a just and equal light on the English church in Mary’s reign … [a] rewarding book." -Lucy Beckett, Spectator Book Club

"Eamon Duffy’s new book, Fires of Faith, is not exclusively about [the burnings], though they do play a central role. He is interested in the whole range of policies pushed through by the Marian government to reconvert the English people… Duffy offers a masterly demolition of [the commonly held] view, emphasising the consistency of Pole’s principles and the energy and intelligence with which he applied them." -Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph

"Marred as they are by the executions by burning, the reforming instincts of Mary's abbreviated reign can now, thanks to Professor Duffy's brilliant mastery of the details, be, if not forgiven, at least understood." -Christopher Howse, Daily Telegraph

"Despite the title, this is not a book about the burnings, but about the Marian restoration. Its real hero, whom Duffy sees as the regime's religious mastermind, is Reginald Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canter¬bury. (Mary herself, by contrast, is oddly absent from the book.) For researchers, it is the work on Pole which is the most exciting … This book has persuaded me that Mary's (and Pole's) religious policy was creative, forward-looking and brutally effective. But I'm still not sure that I like it." -Alec Ryrie, The Tablet

"A fascinating piece of revisionist history." -Andrew Holgate, The Sunday Times (Culture)

"In this confident and persuasive work… Duffy’s use of vivid detail and the actual words of protagonists bring the reader within sniffing distance of the blazing stakes." -CH, The Independent

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