Mstation Book Reviews
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Tue, 01 Mar 2005


Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490 - 1700,
Penguin paperback

Religion! Whoa, what's this? It puts me in mind of the economist John Maynard
Keynes's statement that went something along the lines of 'the minds of
practical men are ruled by long since dead academics'. The point being that
some thoughts become recieved wisdom, or the conventional wisdom, and stay
on beyond their sell-by date.

Here we have not just a portion of the history of the Church but also a portion
of the history of Western thought. This is useful to better understand where
some present day attitudes came from and is also very useful as a background
to Western classical music -- early music was largely Church music. Some people
would just say "was Church music" but we don't know, and can't know, very much
about the oral music traditions. Church music was written down, and handed down
to us.

Diarmid MacCulloch is an Oxford professor and won the Wolfson Prize for History
2004 with this book. It is easy to see why. Despite the fact that Catholics think 
him a little too Protestant and Protestants think him a little bit too showy, this
is one of those works where the sheer quality of scholarship will excite people
who are excited by such things. It's also a pretty good yarn.

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