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The Reformation of the Landscape is a richly detailed and original study of the relationship between the landscape of Britain and Ireland and the tumultuous religious changes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It explores how the profound theological and liturgical transformations that marked the era between 1500 and 1750 both shaped, and were in turn shaped by, t The Reformation of the Landscape is a richly detailed and original study of the relationship between the landscape of Britain and Ireland and the tumultuous religious changes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It explores how the profound theological and liturgical transformations that marked the era between 1500 and 1750 both shaped, and were in turn shaped by, the places and spaces within the physical environment in which they occurred. Moving beyond churches, cathedrals, and monasteries, it investigates how the Protestant and Catholic Reformations affected perceptions and practices associated with trees, woods, springs, rocks, mountain peaks, prehistoric monuments, and other distinctive topographical features of the British Isles. Drawing on extensive research and embracing insights from a range of disciplines, Alexandra Walsham examines the origins, immediate consequences, and later repercussions of these movements of religious renewal, together with the complex but decisive modifications of belief and behaviour to which they gave rise. It demonstrates how ecclesiastical developments intersected with other intellectual and cultural trends, including the growth of antiquarianism and the spread of the artistic and architectural Renaissance, the emergence of empirical science and shifting fashions within the spheres of medicine and healing. Set within a chronological framework that stretches backwards towards the early Middle Ages and forwards into the nineteenth century, the book assesses the critical part played by the landscape in forging confessional identities and in reconfiguring collective and social memory. It illuminates the ways in which the visible world was understood and employed by the diverse religious communities that occupied the British Isles, and shows how it became a battleground in which bitter struggles about the significance of the Christian and pagan past were waged.


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The Reformation of the Landscape is a richly detailed and original study of the relationship between the landscape of Britain and Ireland and the tumultuous religious changes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It explores how the profound theological and liturgical transformations that marked the era between 1500 and 1750 both shaped, and were in turn shaped by, t The Reformation of the Landscape is a richly detailed and original study of the relationship between the landscape of Britain and Ireland and the tumultuous religious changes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It explores how the profound theological and liturgical transformations that marked the era between 1500 and 1750 both shaped, and were in turn shaped by, the places and spaces within the physical environment in which they occurred. Moving beyond churches, cathedrals, and monasteries, it investigates how the Protestant and Catholic Reformations affected perceptions and practices associated with trees, woods, springs, rocks, mountain peaks, prehistoric monuments, and other distinctive topographical features of the British Isles. Drawing on extensive research and embracing insights from a range of disciplines, Alexandra Walsham examines the origins, immediate consequences, and later repercussions of these movements of religious renewal, together with the complex but decisive modifications of belief and behaviour to which they gave rise. It demonstrates how ecclesiastical developments intersected with other intellectual and cultural trends, including the growth of antiquarianism and the spread of the artistic and architectural Renaissance, the emergence of empirical science and shifting fashions within the spheres of medicine and healing. Set within a chronological framework that stretches backwards towards the early Middle Ages and forwards into the nineteenth century, the book assesses the critical part played by the landscape in forging confessional identities and in reconfiguring collective and social memory. It illuminates the ways in which the visible world was understood and employed by the diverse religious communities that occupied the British Isles, and shows how it became a battleground in which bitter struggles about the significance of the Christian and pagan past were waged.

42 review for The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity, and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland

  1. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    I was aware it had taken me a good long while to finish reading this book, but I must admit to amazement at seeing that I've been reading it, on and off, since June last year. I've been quibbling over what star rating to give it, and have ended up giving it a fudging 4. In many respects it deserves 5 stars (and I can’t help but feel slightly ungenerous for not giving it them): for its amazing thoroughness, breadth, and depth; for the admirable integrity of the research, not least the precise and I was aware it had taken me a good long while to finish reading this book, but I must admit to amazement at seeing that I've been reading it, on and off, since June last year. I've been quibbling over what star rating to give it, and have ended up giving it a fudging 4. In many respects it deserves 5 stars (and I can’t help but feel slightly ungenerous for not giving it them): for its amazing thoroughness, breadth, and depth; for the admirable integrity of the research, not least the precise and careful deductions, never once giving in to simplification or generalisation (both traits to which I'm somewhat prone); for its elegant use of the English language; and for its being built on an absolute mountain of sources, both primary and secondary. No one but no one can fault it as an academic study. But some of the things that make it an admirably comprehensive academic study also make it a somewhat less than enjoyable read for a generally interested reader such as myself. So I was also considering giving it 3 stars, to reflect my level of enjoyment in reading it: for its length, which at times felt excessive; for its repetitiveness (does one need 25 exacting and exhaustively descriptive examples of holy wells turned into spas when five perhaps would have sufficed to make the point?); and for the author's tendency to undo any firm conclusions by a perhaps too great anxiety to generalise. As publisher or editor I would probably have recommended cutting the main text by about half, making a book of c. 300 pages, by omitting some of the examples, and by putting others in appendices and footnotes. I would also have encouraged the author to not prevaricate quite so much on every statement made, every conclusion drawn. Every statement can of course be countered by its opposite, and a wholly one-sided story is naturally rarely going to reflect reality accurately, but there is a difference between falling into easy, partisan positions and a refusal to commit to the very idea of conclusion(s). There is a fine line to be drawn in academic writing between guarding oneself against the hotter sort of specialist, keen to draw one's attention to the one case that contradicts one's overall argument or narrative, and arriving at the end of a long and exhausting survey and finding oneself unable or unwilling to draw any specific, committed conclusion at all. Be it fiction or non, a book must always and foremost tell a story, possess a clear narrative arc. It must go beyond the accumulation of data to an interpretation of said data. I don't mean to imply that Walsham hasn't made any attempt at interpretation – she has, of course - but in my view she needed to go further, be braver, throw out that spider silk into the ether, take that leap off the cliff of data and treat the reader to the exhilaration of a flag being planted in terra incognita. Actually, on pondering this further, she may have planted that flag already, but the fact of it has been buried in the sheer voluminousness of the book. The diamond is of high quality, but it needs a few more cuts to show off its full sparkle.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carl

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  4. 5 out of 5

    E.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  6. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Jones

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jochen Schenk

  9. 5 out of 5

    Annie Morphew

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sam Stabler

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sasha Wolf

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Datiles

  14. 4 out of 5

    Subhajit Das

  15. 5 out of 5

    Betty Spurgeon

  16. 5 out of 5

    Frank Kasell

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dave Greder

  18. 4 out of 5

    Martijn

  19. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

  20. 4 out of 5

    emcnicho

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Stevenson

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ailsa Bloomer

  24. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roger Welch

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kat

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lyn Relph

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matias

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Santiuste

  30. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

  31. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  32. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  33. 4 out of 5

    Vidar

  34. 4 out of 5

    Ty

  35. 5 out of 5

    Katt Hansen

  36. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

  37. 4 out of 5

    Prometeus

  38. 5 out of 5

    Eli

  39. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  40. 5 out of 5

    J

  41. 5 out of 5

    Doug Winkey

  42. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

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