The Christian commonwealth
in Lollards in the English Reformation
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From its very origins lollardy had been associated with the subversion of the natural order of the commonwealth. This chapter evaluates the successes and failures of this rehabilitation effort and its legacy in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. To put the drive towards the rehabilitation of the lollards’ reputation in context, the first section of this chapter briefly explains how Anabaptism threatened to undermine the relationship between the emerging evangelical movement and the government. Two subversive theological beliefs ascribed to the lollards, communitarianism and pacifism, came dangerously close to Anabaptist ideas, forcing evangelicals to mollify their tenor in print. The chapter next details the sixteenth-century project of evangelical historians to correct what they saw as a smear job by corrupt medieval chroniclers, and also explains that this effort was only effective to an extent in the seventeenth century, as confessional allegiances drove interpretation. The last section in the chapter sees the evangelicals move from a defensive position to go on the offensive. Through their connections to the lollards, the Protestants claimed a direct association with Christ, blamed the Roman church for disorder within the realm, and critiqued ungodly monarchs.

Lollards in the English Reformation

History, radicalism, and John Foxe

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