The origins of the Scottish Reformation

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Alec Ryrie
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This book is about one of the most extraordinary national transformations in European history. During 1559 and 1560, the kingdom of Scotland experienced what was arguably the first modern revolution. The book aims to present a new synthesis of ideas on the origins of the Scottish Reformation, building on the recent scholarship but also suggesting some new directions. It asks not only why the Scottish Reformation took place, but why this Reformation took place, rather than one of the many other 'Reformations' - and, indeed, counter-Reformations - that seemed possible in sixteenth-century Scotland. It tries to reconnect religion and politics, and to trace their interaction. In particular, it emphasises how acts or threats of violence drove political processes and shaped religious culture. Violence isolated moderates and aggravated division. Sometimes it discredited those who applied it. Equally often, it managed to destroy its targets, and those who refused to use violence were outmanoeuvred. As such this is a tale of few villains and fewer heroes. The book also tries to place the Scottish Reformation on the wider stage of the European Reformation. Despite the nationalism of the traditional accounts, and of much Scottish history in general, the Reformation's natural stage was all Europe. The Scottish Reformation can be illuminated by international comparisons, and it was itself an international phenomenon. Religious developments in England and France, in particular, were a decisive influence on Scottish events.

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