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The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village [Hardcover]

By Dr. Eamon Duffy (Author) & Eamon Duffy (Author)
Our Price $ 24.65  
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Item Number 159427  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   208
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.58" Width: 6.47" Height: 1.1"
Weight:   1.45 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2001
Publisher   Yale University Press
ISBN  0300091850  
EAN  9780300091854  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Outline ReviewIn the early 1990s, Eamon Duffy's monumental The Stripping of the Altars provided a new slant on the English Reformation. Duffy has now dug deeper into the same fascinating period. The Voices of Morebath is the story of a hamlet buried deep in the heart of Devon. The parish priest Sir Christopher Trychay remained in office through the troubled times of the mid-16th century. During his long tenure he carefully recorded the impact of national events in his ordinary rural community. Trychay's account is unique because it is not a personal diary but a record of the parish accounts. Sir Christopher, however, was talkative and opinionated, so the accounts are laden with the minutiae of parish life. Duffy weaves these otherwise cryptic details into the wider tapestry of events of the time, and by analysing the result shows the devastating revolution that took place in ordinary people's lives. As the drama unfolds we see the folk of Morebath forced from their secure Catholicism into the new religion of King Henry. After Edward's brief reign the villagers breathe a sigh of relief and haul out all their Catholic paraphernalia, grateful that Mary Tudor has restored the Catholic faith. Then it all goes for good once Elizabeth takes the throne. Duffy has given us history that is absorbing, readable, and complete. His own enthusiasm for his topic gives the book a zest that takes it beyond the usual academic tome. Anyone the least bit interested in English history must not neglect this important book. --Dwight Longenecker,

Product Description
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.

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More About Dr. Eamon Duffy & Eamon Duffy

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Eamon Duffy, professor of the history of Christianity, and fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, is also the author of "The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580" and "The Voices of Morebath," both published by Yale University Press.


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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A Singular Voice  Feb 29, 2008
The Voices of Morebath is really just one voice, that of the parish priest, Sir Christopher Trychay. Author Eamon Duffy retells the trials and tribulations of a small West County English village during the tumultuous times of the Reformation, as written down by Sir Trychay in his parish account books.
English Reformation  Feb 15, 2008
This study is a supplement to the author's Stripping of the Altars, a major revisionist account of the English Reformation. While his point of view is controversial, it certainly provides insight, background, and important questions. This one especially is full of personal detail and makes very interesting reading.
Of Altars and Prayerbooks and Candles (and Especially Money)  Jan 21, 2006
THE VOICES OF MOREBATH is perhaps not quite accurately titled. As Duffy himself confesses, what we really have is one voice, that of Christopher Trychay, the local priest, who meticulously set down the financial transactions of his church in this small, rural, not-quite-impoverished hamlet. Even there we do not hear Trychay's total voice, for he was not recording his thoughts, philosophies, or observations about the government or the society around him, just the financial records of the church. Of course, a careful reading of such records can tell us a surprising amount about the welfare of the hamlet, especially because, at the time, the secular and spiritual realms were inextricably intertwined.

Duffy's writing style is not, I fear, particularly engrossing, and, at times, I had to force my attention on the sense of the text. Still, considering that Duffy was examining primarily financial records, hardly scintillating fare regardless of the historical era, he does a fair job at interpretation and extrapolation, and the observations of Morebath society that he draws from these records are well supported. Duffy is being a careful historian here, for he refrains from interjecting conclusions and suppositions that are not supported by the record; however, occasional dry passages are the inevitable result of such a studied approach.

I did find several points in this book to be instructive in that they created new perceptions for me: It seems as though churches in 16th Century Britain were as much concerned with their financial status as are those in today's Western societies; we find practically nothing in the record concerning spiritual or social matters but much concerning money. On at least the local level, Tudor-era agricultural villages seem to have had no civil government of any sort, the priest and his church being its substitute. Rather than civil law, social pressure, orchestrated as needed by the priest, ensured conformity with societal norms and financial support of the church.

Most surprisingly, these country farmers seem largely to have bent before the prevailing monarchical winds, changing their religious devotions as dictated by the current king or queen, moving from Catholicism to Protestantism under Henry and Edward, reverting to Catholicism under Mary, and then harking back to Protestantism under Elizabeth. Under one monarch, they had to surrender their holy books and ornamentation, and under the next they had to restore them. They apparently did so with such relative ease that one wonders just how sincere they were in their religious beliefs. This picture does seem to conflict with that drawn by Alice Hogge in her book GOD'S SECRET AGENTS, which is rife with beheadings, disembowelings, secret "priest holes" built into houses, and serious government spying. However, perhaps that is a difference between powerless country farmers and aristocratic city dwellers of the time. There was, of course, indication of at least some passive resistence to these abrupt changes decreed by the government, such as the hiding of church ornamentation now and then, but, except for the Prayer Book Rebellion, the causes of which are not entirely clear to Duffy, there appears to have been little overt resistence in the countryside.

In sum, THE VOICES OF MOREBATH does provide the reader with an informative glance at life in a small country hamlet during the 16th century. Frustratingly, it is a glance through the small window of local church finances and, as such, must surely miss seeing many other aspects of that life. Also, because it is a glance based primarily on everyday financial concerns of a rural church, it sometimes approaches the boring. Still, for a reader who wishes to further his understanding of commoners' lives over four hundred years ago, of the forced transitions of the Reformation, and of the burdensome taxation imposed by successive monarchs intent on waging fruitless wars with Scotland and France, all of which underlay the founding of a constitutional representative democracy in the New World, the book is a valuable resource. I recommend it for the serious student of history if not, perhaps, for the casual reader.
English Reformation made personal  Aug 20, 2003
From 1520 to 1574, in a small sheep-farming community in Devon, parish priest Christopher Trychay maintained a careful record of village happenings, filling the pages of his account book with what Eamon Duffy calls "the personality, opinions, and prejudices of the most vivid country clergyman of the English sixteenth century." That Trychay's tenure happened to coincide with the English Reformation -- in the course of which his parishioners would be swept into rebellion and he himself would adopt the new Protestant faith -- makes his chronicle all the more priceless.
A Window on Tudor Religion and Society  Dec 18, 2001
Professor Duffy painlessly weaves an engrossing story from the manuscript record of Morebath parish in England's West Country. Important background information is worked in while you trace the story of the parish's growth and trials during the tumultuous changes of the Reformation. Duffy's treatment relies on a unique and garrulous chronicle kept by Morebath's priest for half a century, Sir Christopher Trychay.

Thanks to Duffy's explanations, you understand how catastrophic the changes imposed under Edward VI were for this rural parish. You also see how spirituality was closely woven into the daily life and practice of pre-Reformation Morebath. The story of how the priest and his parishoners work out a modus vivendi under the religious changes of the day makes for compelling reading. The Voices of Morebath is an outstanding example of micro-history, I highly recommend this book for students of Tudor history and culture.


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