Martyrs and Martyrdom in England, c.1400-1700

April 2007
262 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Modern British Religious History
ISBN: 9781843832904
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press

Martyrs and Martyrdom in England, c.1400-1700

Edited by Thomas S. Freeman, Thomas F. Mayer

A fresh examination of the idea of martyrdom in the transition from the medieval to the modern periods.
Concepts of Christian martyrdom changed greatly in England from the late middle ages through the early modern era. The variety of paradigms of Christian martyrdom (with, for example, virginity or asceticism perceived as alternate forms of martyrdom) that existed in the late medieval period, came to be replaced during the English Reformation with a single dominant idea of martyrdom: that of violent death endured for orthodox religion. Yet during the seventeenth century another transformation in conceptions of martyrdom took place, as those who died on behalf of overtly political causes came to be regarded as martyrs, indistinguishable from those who died for Christ.
The articles in this book explore these seminal changes across the period from 1400-1700, analyzing the political, social and religious backgrounds to these developments. While much that has been written on martyrs, martyrdom and martyrologies has tended to focus on those who died for a particular confession or cause, this book shows how the concepts of martyrdom were shaped, altered and re-shaped through the interactions between these groups.

THOMAS S. FREEMAN is Research Officer at the British Academy John Foxe Project, which is affiliated with the University of Sheffield; THOMAS F. MAYER is Professor of History at Augustana College.


Table of Contents

Over Their Dead Bodies: Concepts of Martyrdom in Late Medieval and Early Modern England - Thomas S. Freeman
Imitatio Christi with a Vengeance: The Politicization of Martyrdom in Early Modern England - Thomas S. Freeman
`Thus May a Man be a Martyr': The Notion, Language and Experiences of Martyrdom in Late Medieval England - Danna Piroyansky
Which is Wyche? Lollardy and Sanctity in Lancastrian London - Richard A W Rex
Saints and Martyrs in Tyndale and More - Brad Gregory
Becket's Bones Burnt! Cardinal Pole and the Invention and Dissemination of an Atrocity - Thomas Mayer
`A Saynt in the Devyls Name': Heroes and Villains in the Martyrdom of Robert Barnes - Alec Ryrie
Martyrs and Anti-martyrs and Mary Tudor's Church - William Wizeman
Robert Persons's Comfortable History of England - Victor Houliston
`Charles the First and Christ the Second': The Creation of a Political Martyr - Andrew Lacey
The Martyrdom of Sir Henry Vane the Younger: From Apocalyptic Witness to Heroic Whig - John Coffey


Adds to existing scholarship as its authors collectively study the early-modern narrowing of martyrdom's definition to mean specifically violent deaths for religion, the various polemical and controversial conflicts in which martyrological writing participated, and the extension of martyrdom's crown to political martyrs over the course of the seventeenth century. [...] This volume has a high degree of consistency and coherence (not always the case with essay collections).The contributors' emphases on the polemical, generic, political, and doctrinal aspects of the making of martyrs should be a welcome addition to early-modern scholarship. CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW

Opens up suggestive new avenues for future enquiry [and] deserves to be recognized as a significant intervention in debates about religious persecution and its implications in the era of the long Reformation. HISTORICAL JOURNAL

The diverse articles in this volume give an important insight onto the conflicting discourse of early modern martyrdom. SIXTEENTH CENTURY JOURNAL

The essays in this collection provide a wealth of references for scholars who wish to pursue the study of individual martyrs or the development of an English martyrological tradition. RENAISSANCE QUARTERLY

Represents the present state of affairs in writing about early modern martyrs; as such it provides a good overview. [...] an effective overview, reiterating ten years of excellent scholarship - but scholarship that calls for new critical approaches toward a subject that need not be as reverent as martyrs, and martyrologists, took themselves to be. JOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES

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