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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Book Review: All Things Made New: Writings on the Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch

The cover of All Things Made New: Writings on the Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch, set to be released on July 7th of 2016 by Penguin Press.

Book Review:
All Things Made New: Writings on the Reformation
 by Diarmaid MacCulloch
Published July 7th, 2016
Penguin Press UK

   Diarmaid MacCaulloch wrote the standard one volume history of the Reformation, called The Reformation: A History, in 2003.  It was an immediate critical and popular success, and won a Wolfson History Prize and  a National Book Critics Award in the United States. A decade later, it's not only maintained it's position as the one book you read to get a sense of the Reformation, but it's also spawned a galaxy of historians seeking to fill in the gaps in knowledge he identified in 2003.

  All Things Made New: Writings on the Reformation is his attempt to synthesize writings by himself and others which have appeared since the publication of his history.  In that regard, it functions best as a kind of coda to the history, and casual readers should be advised that reading All Things Made New without first reading The Reformation: A History, is likely to be infuriating.  However, if you have read The Reformation: A History, All Things Made New is a valuable update in terms of finding out what scholars who have been influenced by the first book have discovered.   Although the subject matter and general schematic of the book (several sections of loosely grouped essays about the Reformation in Europe, in England and in historiography) are not exactly user friendly, MacCulloch does do the reader the favor of keeping the copious footnotes at the end of the book, rather than interspersing each essay with it's accompanying information.  Like, The Reformation: A History, All Things Made New is also invaluable for the footnotes, which serve as a comprehensive guide to the literature surrounding the covered topic.

  MacCulloch's long term scholarly goal has been to rebut the Anglo-Catholic idea that the Reformation never really happened in England.  This is a debate with a long and complex history, by MacCulloch effectively cleared the field in 2003, and many of the essays in All Things Made New support his position.   While the early section on Europe has some appeal for a casual reader, the portions involving England more narrowly appeal to people deeply interested in this specific academic debates, or those with a genuine interest in English Church history.

  Many of the essays here have appeared in various publications over the last decade.  Readers in the U.K. may recall many of them, while writers outside the U.K. are unlikely to have encountered any of the source material before.  Thus, this book may be more worthwhile for readers outside of the U.K.

  Throughout, MacCulloch maintains his customary wit and verve while he is covering dry subjects like the History of the King James Bible, or the relationship between Protestant Reformers and the Virgin Mary. Ultimately, All Things Made New is a companion volume to the magisterial history published in 2003.  Readers would be advised to read that book before this one.

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