20 September 2018, The Tablet

Architect of the Reformation?


Architect of the Reformation?

Thomas Cromwell by Wenceslaus Hollar
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“To make or mar” was a favourite catchphrase of Thomas Cromwell’s, and the question of whether this phenomenally gifted political operator made or marred his country in the course of his decade in power will divide historians as long as the debate over the impact of Henry VIII’s Reformation continues. The wealth of new research that has gone into this substantial but highly readable book will supply ammunition to both sides of the Reformation argument. But it also contributes to one fascinating new certainty. Following neglected threads of evidence, Diarmaid MacCulloch demonstrates beyond doubt that responsibility for the theological direction taken by the English Reformation, and the immense ­collateral damage this inflicted on the country’s infrastructure, can be laid directly at Thomas Cromwell’s door. What has been called “the strange death of Lutheran England” is, it now emerges, the result of Cromwell’s own deeply held evangelistic views. It was he, not Cranmer, who from the outset surreptitiously introduced iconoclastic, anti-eucharistic reform into England, undercutting the moderate, Lutheran variety promoted by one of his many victims, Anne Boleyn.

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