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The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  265 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
This delightful book offers a rare glimpse of life in a remote sixteenth-century English village during the dramatic changes of the Reformation. Through vividly detailed parish records kept from 1520 to 1574 by Sir Christopher Trychay, the garrulous priest of Morebath, we see how a tiny Catholic community rebelled, was punished, and reluctantly accepted Protestantism under ...more
Paperback, First paperback edition, 232 pages
Published August 11th 2003 by Yale University Press (first published 2001)
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Jan 27, 2016 Paul rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful and *sad* book. It is really fascinating to me to read the account of 1520s and 1530s Morebath and its detailed exploration of the vivid life of this tiny little parish. It's dangerous for me because I know I'm tempted to read too much into it of my own thoughts about the need for everyone, down to the very poorest people, to have responsibility for their own lives, and conversely, for society to place demands on them that they can reasonably meet. You don't want to hear abou ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Sean rated it it was ok
Eamon Duffy’s The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village is a micro history of the minutest degree. The book uses as its primary source a series of records kept over a roughly fifty-year period by a Sir Christopher Trychay, the vicar of the small village of Morebath in south-western England. To the untrained historian or untrained reader Trychay’s records would seem but a jumble of tediously kept and altogether meaningless accounts of bills and materials and taxes wr ...more
Nov 06, 2013 Kaufmak rated it really liked it
Shelves: old-comp-list
I remember reading this and thinking, "God being part of the Protestant Reformation was a pain in the ass." Duffy takes a page from the French Annales School and looks at the longue duree of a specific village in Devonshire. It is quite telling what the everyday folks went through during the great English upheaval that was their version of the Reformation. Starting with an examination of pre-Henrician reforms to the final settlement under Elizabeth, the people of Morebath had to do their best to ...more
Wendy Dunn
Oct 22, 2013 Wendy Dunn rated it really liked it
Cover of "The Voices of Morebath: Reforma... Cover via Amazon[/caption]

Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village

Author: Eamon Duffy

2001 Religion
208 pp. 26 b/w + 16 color illus., 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Cloth ISBN 0-300-09185-0 $22.50

Primary documents provide us the opportunity to hear the voices of people from the times in which they lived. By his meticulous deciphering of the parish accounts written by their vicar during a period stretching over fifty years, Eamon Duffy’s The Voices of Morebath affords us a fascinating glimpse int
Jun 27, 2011 Nick rated it liked it
A great work of scholarship, that unfortunately never comes alive for the general reader.

I read the first two chapters quickly, gaining an insight into the everyday lives and organisation of a small parish in Devon in the 16th Century, and even more detail about how their overt religious lives were organised.

But I just found it increasingly difficult to read through the verbatim quotations with early English spellings and the authors tendency to engage in great detail and never really paint a pi
Feb 04, 2015 ^ rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: ALL members of the Anglican Communion.
Recommended to ^ by: a friend
Fascinating, humbling, and frightening. As an awe-ful reminder of the horrific differences between the simple exercise of a prescribed faith, and the corrupting influence of ecclesiastical power and wealth, I don’t think this book can be bettered..

It feels truly bizarre to think that a similar book could be published today (2011), chronicling the widespread and destructive actions of the Church of England to impose alternative services where anything-goes, in place of the services and doctrinal
Mar 19, 2014 Scott rated it it was ok
The idea is a good one; it allows the reader to see the reformation from the small town villagers perspective. The use of a 1st hand source is smart, but as far as entertainment, it's not that good at all. If someone is very interested in this topic then they should read this, but this isn't for the average reader beginning to take an interest in the reformation. Duffy uses data type census document to tell the story; it can be very dry for the majority of the book with a vast amount of names an ...more
Chelsey Ortega
Aug 23, 2014 Chelsey Ortega rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school, historical
This was chicken soup for my soul. I LOVE the English Reformation, but I have only focused not the nobility. This gave me insight, for the first time, into the lives of the common people during that time. In this book the author, Eamon Duffy, uses the Parish notes of the village of Morebath to determine how the English Reformation during the Tudor Era affected the common people. And it was such an interesting time to study a village because going through Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabe ...more
Aug 26, 2014 LaDawn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Unless you are a trained historian with a penchant for reading long passages of olde English, you may find this a difficult book to engage your imagination. I certainly struggled.

Which is really a shame because hidden within the minute details is a powerful story of the vast changes to life for the everyday people of a small village in Devon whilst the monarchy toyed with their religious fever. From the divorces of Henry VIII to the Protestant reformations of His son Edward, back to the Catholi
Summer Seeds
I had to read this for my history of Christianity class. Admittingly, the beginning is horrendously slow, but it provides a necessary background to village life, and, if you can get through the first two, two-and-a-half chapters, it really is an interesting little microhistory.


In The Voices of Morebath, Eamon Duffy tells the story of a small sheep farming community in rural England whose only claim to fame is that they lived through the English reformation and had a series of well-documente
Sep 25, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing
This is truly a fascinating book. Morebath is a small village in Devonshire with a population of about 350. In 1520, a recently ordained priest, Christopher Trychay is named pastor of the church at Morebath. He remains in that post for 54 years. Trychay is a very detailed person and records every transaction and event in the record book of the parish. It is one of the few Parish Journals that survive to this day. The author, Eamon Duffy was captivated by the Journal and has studied it for years. ...more
Apr 25, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
A really interesting microhistory of one priest's account book that spans the English Reformation from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I. Duffy mines the records for details that, along with his extensive understanding of this time period, show how the religious changes affected the community of Morebath, and by extension southwest England. He goes on some tangents that help tie the local story into the bigger picture of the English Reformation, which were sometimes interesting and sometimes seemed like ...more
Zachary Schulz
May 04, 2013 Zachary Schulz rated it really liked it

The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village by Eamon Duffy recounts a town in western England between the years of 1520 and 1574. Built around the church records of Morebath written by Sir Christopher Trychay, Duffy elaborates that the parish accounts of “Morebath [are] unique... in [their] extraordinary verbal immediacy” in contrast to “desiccated lists of incomes and expenditure ” that comprised other contemporary Tudor parish accounts. (32-33) Duffy takes the “viv

Feb 18, 2011 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favourites
My knowledge of the English Reformation has up to now been from the top down: Henry VIII's divorce. Thomas More's martyrdom, Cromwell, Edward and the Duke of Somerset, Bloody Mary (who wasn't actually extraordinarily bloody, just on the wrong side of history), Elizabeth's restoration of Protestantism. I knew very little about how these changes at the highest level affected the lives of ordinary people--a bit about the Pilgrimage of Grace and various martyrdoms (the Book of Martyrs and all that). ...more
Jean Marie
May 18, 2014 Jean Marie rated it it was ok
Read for Tudor-Stuart England.

While Duffy's research is in depth and well constructed, the narrative and flow of the work was overly drawn out. It could have been much shorter; concise. It was also full of tangles, difficult to close read and certainly far too difficult for an undergraduate course. I wouldn't recommend unless this is your area of specialty.
Nancy Kin
Jan 25, 2014 Nancy Kin rated it really liked it
This is a very good book about the upheaval in the Church of England from the reign of Henry VIII through Elizabeth I through the eyes of their parish priest of 54 years. It gives us an idea of how that period of the English reformation affected a rural community. Once you get past the first three chapters you'll find it very interesting.
Jan 14, 2016 Maureen rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Not for the casual reader, as it can be slow and dry and the primary source material's interest might not be immediately apparent. However, with thought, and patience, one can get a lot but this work of respectable scholarship.
Mar 02, 2016 Bryan rated it liked it
Not an easy read, but definitely informative. Gives a great account of how the English Reformation affected small town life in England. I recommend for serious history buffs, but not for lite readers.
Mar 23, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it
If Haruki Murakami were allowed to expand his occasional—albeit fictional—digressions into the histories of obscure Japanese villages into a book, I think it would have a flavor very similar to the Voices of Morbath, down to the multiple mentions of sheep.

That said, it's a really interesting meditation on the effects of religion—and later the English Protestant Reformation, counter-Reformation, and then more tentative-Reformation—on parish life. It's a bit dense in periods and there's a lot abou
Apr 03, 2013 Sharon rated it really liked it
I'm torn on how to rate this because on one hand, this is not a book that an amateur history reader will want to pick up. In fact, I can't see anyone outside the field of historical scholarship wanting to read this. However, Eamon Duffy is one of the leading Reformation historians, and this work clearly shows that. I docked one star for how difficult it was to read, but it definitely earned those other four stars. It completely changed the way I saw the Reformation. I am eager to read his other ...more
Karen E.
Oct 19, 2011 Karen E. rated it liked it
I just re-read this book for class, and once again I was disappointed. Duffy takes a very interesting subject--how a village priest and his parishioners weather the changes of the English Reformation--and makes it boring. I'm trying to decide if I will assign it to students again. They do get a pretty good idea about what the Reformation meant to ordinary people, but they have to wade through a lot of unneccessary quotations (in the original sixteenth-century English) and bad prose.
Apr 12, 2009 Grace rated it really liked it
Seems a bit narrow on first examination - would Routledge publish this in-depth analysis of the churchwarden accounts of a sixteenth century parish in rural Devon? In paperback?

However, it is a really interesting read, particularly with regard to the impact of the Reformation on the engagement of the community in parish activity. And how awful to save for twenty years for some black vestments only to have them made illegal with the coming of the Reformation that very year!
Nov 27, 2007 Sharon rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in the Reformation, English history or religious history
Shelves: history
A look at the religious life of a tiny English town prior to and during the Reformation. It's a bit dry, but Duffy makes the case that it's impossible to separate the religious and secular concerns of communities during this period--they're inextricably intertwined. The chapters on the Reformation give a very poignant sense of the loss and anger communities felt as they were forced by the Crown to destroy their icons and abandon their traditional devotions.
Dec 17, 2015 Carolyn rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015, read-for-school
A study of Catholic prevalence in Restoration rural English villages, the traditions of English Catholicism that were more and less important to English people during this period, and the transformation of Morebath into a more Protestant town. Also an excellent look at common life in England during the 1400s-1500s. A bit dense (not for the casual history reader) in terms of the detail and extraneous information.
Maggie Secara
Oct 24, 2011 Maggie Secara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference
An extraordinary look at a single Devonshire parish through all the religious changes of the mid- and late-16th century, all through the eyes of its parish priest, who survived it all. Based on parish records and a diary the priest kept from the time he came to his living as a young man to just before his death in his 70s.
Feb 20, 2013 Danielle rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Despite how incredibly dense (and let's face it...boring) this book is, it is rather short in length and really an incredible way of developing a picture of a Tudor village through the use of quantitative data.
Dec 27, 2012 Michael rated it liked it
A window into the lives of the people of a single parish during the English reformation. Fresh insights into the Christianity of the early modern period.
Dec 26, 2008 Nancy rated it liked it
It was interesting to view the Protestant reformation and it's rather erratic path in England from the viewpoint of the common person.
Apr 10, 2011 C.E. rated it liked it
A bit dry. We need half-stars on this site, since this aws not a 3 but also not a 4!
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Eamon Duffy is Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge, and former President of Magdalene College.

He describes himself as a "cradle Catholic" and specializes in 15th to 17th century religious history of Britain. His work has done much to overturn the popular image of late-medieval Catholicism in England as moribund, and instead presents it as a vibrant cultural forc
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