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Gareth Atkins

Ever since his violent death in 1556, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had been used by rival groups to justify their views about the Church of England. Thanks chiefly to John Foxe his burning, in particular, became central to Protestant narratives. In the nineteenth century, however, confessional stories became hotly contested, and amid the ‘rage of history’ erstwhile heroes and martyrs were placed under intense scrutiny. This article uses Cranmers fluctuating reputation as a lens through which to explore changing understandings of the English past. As will become clear, uncertainties over how to place Cranmer bespoke a crisis of Anglican identity, one driven both by divisions within the Church of England and challenges to its political, cultural and intellectual authority from without. Despite and perhaps because of shifts in how he was seen, Cranmers liturgical writings - the Book of Common Prayer - came to be seen as his chief legacy.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library