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Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era [Hardcover]

By John W. O'Malley (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   240
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.4" Width: 5.76" Height: 0.82"
Weight:   0.84 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 30, 2000
Publisher   Harvard University Press
ISBN  0674000870  
EAN  9780674000872  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...

Counter Reformation, Catholic Reformation, the Baroque Age, the Tridentine Age, the Confessional Age: why does Catholicism in the early modern era go by so many names? And what political situations, what religious and cultural prejudices in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries gave rise to this confusion? Taking up these questions, John O'Malley works out a remarkable guide to the intellectual and historical developments behind the concepts of Catholic reform, the Counter Reformation, and, in his felicitous term, Early Modern Catholicism. The result is the single best overview of scholarship on Catholicism in early modern Europe, delivered in a pithy, lucid, and entertaining style. Although its subject is fundamental to virtually all other issues relating to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe, there is no other book like this in any language.

More than a historiographical review, Trent and All That makes a compelling case for subsuming the present confusion of terminology under the concept of Early Modern Catholicism. The term indicates clearly what this book so eloquently demonstrates: that Early Modern Catholicism was an aspect of early modern history, which it strongly influenced and by which it was itself in large measure determined. As a reviewer commented, O'Malley's discussion of terminology "opens up a different way of conceiving of the whole history of Catholicism between the Reformation and the French Revolution."

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More About John W. O'Malley

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! John W. O'Malley, Ph.D. (1966) in History, Harvard University, is University Professor at Georgetown University. He has published extensively on various aspects of early modern Catholicism. His latest book is Trent: What Happened at the Council (Harvard, 2013).

John W. O'Malley has an academic affiliation as follows - Theology Department.

John W. O'Malley has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Jesuit Studies

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1Books > Subjects > History > Europe > England > General   [12141  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Good historiography overview  Oct 28, 2006
John W. O'Malley since the early 1990s has advocated the use of "Early Modern Catholicism" to identify the "Catholic side" of the Reformation. That is, however, not his primary goal in Trent and All That. For those who are familiar with his earlier efforts, he puts forth the name as, yet another, alternative to "Catholic Reformation," "Counter Reformation," and their many counterparts. The main purpose of his book is to illuminate the inadequacies and inherent problems in the current nomenclature for the beliefs, thoughts, and actions of Catholic leaders and laypersons during a not-yet-accurately-designated period of time that includes all or parts of the sixteenth century.

O'Malley's goal in Trent is to "help us view `the Catholic side' [of the Reformation] with new eyes, so that we become more aware of a breadth, depth, and complexity that earlier historians frequently either missed or, more often, forced into an inappropriate or inadequate interpretive framework--by inadequate naming." (p. 9) He argues, accepting that the damage of misnaming has already been done, "we need to accept the multiplicity of names as a good thing," yet "apply these name more reflectively," and "add `Early Modern Catholicism' to the list. (p. 5)

O'Malley does little to refute previous criticism that "Early Modern Catholicism" is chronologically indeterminate and does not add much to the widely-accepted "Early Modern History". I believe the church historian to be well aware that the vague reasoning supporting the term in the last few pages of the book will not silence his critics. His modest defense lends more space for O'Malley to address his principal interest in this book: the errors in the historiography of the Reformation because of the names applied to the Catholic side of it.

He presents a critique of the historiography involving Catholicism in the Reformation that is credible, persuasive, and unimpeded by undefined terminology. From the outset, O'Malley puts forward a linear, clearly telegraphed argument that historians' implementation and acceptance of names has contributed to a view of Catholics before, during, and since 1517 that lacks necessary sophistication. He faults Protestant, Catholic, and secular scholars for this deficiency. Protestants took hold of the name "reformed" early on and have since written Reformation history from the position of their changing of a church desperately in need of repair. It is reasonable that from 1692 when Viet Ludwig von Seckendorff used "reformation" in the title of his response to the Jesuit Louis Maimbourg's history of Lutheranism that the word became identified with a Protestant response to Catholicism and eventually took on anti-Catholic meanings. Catholic historians have not only been unable, until recently, to refute this view, but have also been complicit in its propagation.

In his review of the historiography's development and the underestimated consequence of names in that development is where O'Malley focuses most energy and emphasis in the book. It is also here that he demonstrates mastery of the field, alerting his Academy colleagues--perhaps yet again--to the dangers of inattention to language and the biases and assumptions underneath well-intentioned, objective nomenclature. He highlights two terms that hold the most currency among historians: "Counter Reformation" and "Catholic Reformation".

Johann Stephan Putter first used "Counter Reformation" in 1776 and Leopold von Ranke cemented its longevity in the field. O'Malley appropriately notes that the German setting of the term's origin produced "concerns and prejudices consistent with [German] religious and political history." (p. 24) The term took on prejudices of diverse settings as it gained international acceptance. "Counter Reformation", for O'Malley, too narrowly views the scope of Catholic efforts and assigns a post-1517 start date to those efforts, often connecting them with the Tridentine reforms. Such analysis relegates Catholic activity of the period to a reactionary position. The term implicitly undervalues the achievements in spiritual discipline of Ignatius of Loyola, the spread of the Christian faith by the Jesuits, and Theresa of Avila's example of personal piety and mysticism. Those practices have contributed to Protestant and Catholic spirituality. The anti-Protestant inference of "Counter Reformation" is probably warranted, but not all efforts to better Catholicism were directed by the papacy and church leadership to thwart the efforts of Protestants.

"Catholic Reformation" captures the sense that pre- and post-1517 Catholics perceived the need for change within their church and links Reformation-era Catholicism to the church which had been consistently transforming itself since the eleventh century. The term attempts to locate efforts of church improvements alongside--and antedating--Protestant reforms, which inherently implies an assessment of a church in need of repair. Historians often link "Catholic Reformation" and "Counter Reformation" to the church hierarchy, and this association prevents more liberal use of the terms to focus attention on the improvement efforts of spiritualists, confraternities, and mystics.

O'Malley honors to the work of Hubert Jedin, the German priest and scholars, who challenged the problem of naming in a 1946 essay "Catholic Reform/Reformation and Counter Reformation." He joined the above monikers to demonstrate their combined ability to capture the origin, direction, and results of the sixteenth-century Catholic movement. He redefined the term to argue against previous, damaging, designations. "The Catholic Reformation is the church's remembrance of the Catholic ideal of life through inner renewal, [and] the Counter Reformation is the self-assertion of the church in the struggle against Protestantism." (p. 55) Jedin's thesis provided a needed voice on the subject, but he repeated familiar hermeneutical errors. According to O'Malley, "although the terms of the Catholic side of the early modern epoch arose from historians' honest efforts to generalize about their subject, they also were radically conditioned by the secular and religious politics of the historians' milieux. They are not neutral." (p. 4) Jedin wanted to make Protestantism the aggressor.

Though Jedin's article did not immediately stimulate major changes in historiography or naming, but it shifted some focus to the Catholic side. Few noticed his 1946 work outside of Germany and Italy. But later historians underscored the problems that naming presents for the Catholic side. Trent is an addition to that ongoing discussion. O'Malley praises Jedin's effort, but in the end, the forerunner of modern-day thinking on naming focused too closely on internal church reforms (in part because of his incredible access to papal documents), presented the Council of Trent with an unwarranted status, and left little room for the work of laymen in creating "the miracle" he saw in the church's renewal.

O'Malley concludes that no name is good enough to describe the complex, multi-faceted, spiritual, ecclesial, cultural, and political changes that the Catholic Church has undergone--and is undergoing. But O'Malley already knew that. The point of Trent and All That is to defend the legitimacy of renewal stemming from within the Catholic Church. To view these achievements merely in reference to Luther, Calvin, and other Protestants subordinates the dynamism of the Catholic Church's 2,000-year existence to the era-centered changes of the Reformation. Naming causes, facilitates and perpetuates this problem.

O'Malley concedes that the plethora of names for the Catholic side of the Reformation is the best we can hope for. So why not add "Early Modern Catholicism" to the list? Each name has its usefulness, within the appropriate parameters. But we must recognize and respect the limitations of each. Overextending the utility of any one term lessens the quality of scholarship on the Reformation and clouds our understanding of its influence on modern-day Christianity.

O'Malley's attempt to correct the historiography presents some problems. In his effort to show the "good" on the Catholic side, he, to some extent, downplays the actual need for repair within the sixteenth-century Catholic Church. The church's deficiencies were well-known and acknowledged by future Protestant reformers as well as those who remained Catholic. His effort to draw focus away from 1517 leaves some open questions: What kind of reform, if any, would the Catholic Church have experienced without the drastic measures of the Reformation? Would we have had Trent? Perhaps the problems with naming not only revolve around when and by whom the Reformation commenced, but also around the questions of the urgency for reform in the sixteenth century and the appropriate measures for effecting those changes.

Trent and All That is a solid, straightforward call to scholars for a revised look at the historiography of the Reformation by a respected colleague who has perforce offered sufficient rationale for his proposal. Though the book's dearth of detail about pertinent events and debates may limit the author's aim at popular appeal and utility, its compact size and interesting subject may very well entice a glance from the general readers.
Naming Catholicism in the Era of Reform  Apr 8, 2004
By what label should historians refer to the "Catholic side" during the era of the Protestant Reformation? In John O'Malley's, Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in The Early Modern Era, the reader is introduced to the complexities surrounding the nomenclature of distinct historical era's, and more specifically, to the problem of naming the Catholicism of the late medieval/early modern era. Throughout the work, the author argues that terms are not neutral; they invite investigation in certain directions but they also direct attention away from other avenues of inquiry. In other words, they filter and exclude just as much as they allegedly describe. O'Malley proposes a three-fold solution to this taxonomic dilemma: 1) a welcome acceptance of the multiplicity of names that have arisen as positive descriptors of the era; 2) a more careful reflection in the employment of these terms by historians; and 3) the addition of "Early Modern Catholicism" as a more comprehensive designation than the others. He attempts to persuade the reader to accept his proposal principally by tracing the history of the various terms for the Catholic side, and indeed this review of the naming process constitutes the vast majority of the book.

The book begins with a survey of the semantic landscape of the term "reform." O'Malley argues that the term "reform" has a rich Catholic tradition that antedates the Protestant Reformation by approximately 500 years. In spite of the Catholic heritage of this term (and it's close association with an emphasis on the centrality of canon law), O'Malley argues that with the passage of time, the word "reform/reformation" came to be appropriated by Protestants and given a new sense (particularly since they divorced the term from any connection with canon law). By the late 17th century (especially in Germany) the term "Reformation" was firmly established in Protestant historiographical vocabulary as a distinct historical epoch and, as a term, it was equated with Protestantism. Following closely was the emergence of a dependent concept - that of "Counter-Reformation," which was equated with the Anti-Reformation efforts of the Roman Catholic Church. When these terms were used by Protestants, they were freighted with many assumptions and biases that were overtly hostile to the Catholic communion (particularly the assumption that the late medieval church was utterly and thoroughly corrupt and that there could be no genuine reform except Protestant Reform).

It was in this context that Roman Catholic scholar Hubert Jedin published his seminal essay in 1946 entitled "Catholic Reformation or Counter Reformation?" Jedin's influential essay argued for the legitimacy of the term Catholic Reform together with the term "Counter Reformation," although when he used this term it reflected a primarily defensive Catholic posture against the "Protestant attack." The tension that Jedin struggled with, however, was how to properly apply the term "reform" to the Catholic Church of the 16th century while still emphasizing the strong continuity with the past that was the hallmark of 16th century Catholicism.

Although Jedin's stature as a scholar of international prominence gained the nomenclature of Catholicism during the Reformation a new hearing, his proposal concerning the utility of "Catholic Reform and Counter-Reform" ultimately failed to gain international currency for a number of reasons that O'Malley highlights. Since Jedin's proposal failed to gain ascendancy, new terms were proposed which began to compete for acceptance. An emphasis (particularly in the French academy) on the importance of the study of the history of practicing Christians, and away from the history of great men and institutions led to the prominent emergence of the "social history" of Christianity, and new terms which reflected this wider perception of reality. As a result of the favorable acceptance of the category of "social disciplining" as an effective tool of historical analysis, the term "Confessional Age" has been slowly supplanting (in France and Germany at least) what has traditionally been otherwise referred to as the "Age of Counter Reform."

This is a well-written book that concisely states the problem of historical nomenclature especially as it relates to naming Catholicism during the Reformation. O'Malley is correct in noting that the prevalent terms that have gained international currency have, in fact, been conditioned by the religious and secular worldviews of the historians' who proposed them - that is, they are not neutral. Because each of the terms examined incompletely describe the greater reality of Catholicism, O'Malley seems correct in commending them each as proper referents for Catholicism of the Reform era, provided that historians heed his call to be self-conscious in their employment of them.
A difficulty with his proposal, however, involves the new term (Early Modern Catholicism) that he has proposed as another term to consider in this discussion. To begin with, O'Malley argues that he is not suggesting that this term replace the other terms. Rather, he states, it is intended to serve a complementary role. Yet the fact that he suggests that this term should serve as a more comprehensive term for the Catholicism of the era (indeed it invites the other terms under its own "umbrella") may belie a more ambitious agenda. If "Early Modern Catholicism" becomes the comprehensive umbrella term which denotes the broader reality of the Catholicism of the Reform era, presumably this name will head the titles of all subsequent literature, and if this is the case, it is difficult to see how this term is not being offered as a replacement for the other competing terms. In what sense will these other terms have currency if O'Malley's proposal is adopted? Further, As O'Malley himself has argued - terms filter, exclude, and direct attention away from certain avenues of inquiry. What does "Catholicism of the Early Modern Era" direct attention away from? In the mind of this reviewer, it (improperly) directs attention away from the significant definitional impact the Protestant Reformation had on the Catholicism of this era. In the final analysis, O'Malley may have some more work ahead of him if he is to convince some readers of the ultimate utility of his alternate term.

A good basic introduction to the problems involved  Dec 17, 2001
This book provides an excellent introduction to the basic historiographical problem involved in studying the early modern Catholic Church: what should we call the period? The author reviews the various solutions, (Counter-Reformation, Catholic Reformation, Catholic Reform, Catholic Confessionalization, Catholic Revival) and the history of the use of those terms. Then he proposes an additional term: "early modern Catholicism," which should be used besides all of the others. This begs the question, of course, of what exactly "early modern" means--a not entirely uncontroversial term in itself. The best part of the book is the reviews of where the current terms came from historically and why they were used. The solution is less compelling, simply because words like Counter-Reformation and Catholic Reformation are not only well-dispersed and easily understood, but they are still meaningful to the people who are using them. Also, the writer intentionally stays out of evidential debates by saying "that's material for a longer book". This is really a book about historiography--if you want info about the Catholic Ref., check out Bireley or Hsia or Mullett. On the other hand, this would be a really great book for graduate students who need a quick update on this info for their exams.

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