Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Thomas Cranmer” as Want to Read:
Thomas Cranmer
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Thomas Cranmer

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  237 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Thomas Cranmer, the architect of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, was the archbishop of Canterbury who guided England through the early Reformation—and Henry VIII through the minefields of divorce. This is the first major biography of him for more than three decades, and the first for a century to exploit rich new manuscript sources in Britain and elsewhere.
Diarmaid Mac
Paperback, 704 pages
Published February 17th 1998 by Yale University Press (first published 1996)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Thomas Cranmer, please sign up.
Recent Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  237 ratings  ·  33 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Thomas Cranmer
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Be forewarned: MacCulloch's biography of England's first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury is a big book and is sometimes heavy sledding. But I've given it five stars because it is the definitive work on one of the English Reformation's greatest heroes.

England became a Protestant nation during the reign of Henry VIII and remained so during the brief reign of his son Edward. When Edward died, Henry’s Roman Catholic eldest daughter, Mary, became queen. During the five years of her reign (1553-15
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Diarmaid McCullough did such a thorough job with this biography of Thomas Cranmer that I can’t give it any less than 5 stars.

Thomas Cranmer was the Archbishop of Canterbury during Henry VIII’s and King Edward VI’s reign and he was responsible for most of the English Reformation of the 16th century, and their schism/split with the Catholic Church. His crowning achievement was the English Book of Common Prayer which made the liturgy accessible in the English language to laypeople.

I learned many
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As usual for MacCulloch's books, this one's a doorstop clocking in at over a thousand pages. Also as usual for MacCulloch, it's incredibly engaging. You get a strong sense of Cranmer's evolution as a thinker, of the dangerous line he walked as a friend and confidant of the erratic and tyrannical Henry VIII. It's easy to look with disdain on someone like Cranmer, who, as his convictions gradually altered, found himself keeping his true convictions as much under wraps as he could, even burning men ...more
Thomas Achord
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
I feel as though I read a book about the events surrounding Thomas Cranmer's life but not about Thomas Cranmer's life. I explored all the crevices, nooks, and crannies of the English Reformation but I know little of the character, the attitudes, the disposition, the life of Thomas Cramer.

One instance will suffice to illustrate this: Cramer was a priest but then he got married. That's it. We know nothing about the marriage, nor the passion and love in it, or theological process that led Cranmer
Steve Comstock
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the definitive Cranmer biography. MacCulloch treats his subject with great fairness. His extensive research shows in every chapter. Don't let the size of this volume fool you, it is remarkably readable. I am glad to see such an underappreciated churchman treated without bias. ...more
Samuel Farrugia
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The English Reformation played out very differently than those on the Continent, and by the time it got underway, the continental reform movements were already welcoming a second generation of leaders. In modern evangelical contexts, much attention is given to the nonconformists of 17th & 18th-century England while those figures who initially moved the English Church away from Rome during the 16th century are largely unknown due to neglect. Surely Puritans, Baptists and Wesleyans are easier to i ...more
Chad D
Mar 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This biography is justifiably renowned. The amount of research is staggering (seating chart at Anne Boleyn's coronation, patiently collating patristic and medieval sources for Cranmer's thought, an Appendix III sorting out the dramatis personae into colleges of Cambridge and Oxford). We don't get as much into Cranmer's private emotions as we might like; MacCulloch himself admits that is a limitation of the sources. But Cranmer participated in and embodied the public religious dramas of the Tudor ...more
I was rather looking forward to this biography, having enjoyed MacCulloch's History of Christianity for its wry observations and willingness to tell a good story. But it seemed to me that he assumed too much foreknowledge here, and I got lost in the host of characters and the obscure references became tedious instead. I may have wound up skimming through some of these pages and chose to dwell instead on the parts I understood something more about. I learned some more about Cranmer's wider intere ...more
Alex Sachak
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is quite a hefty book at around 600 pages but it was such a joy to read. MacCulloch brilliantly depicts the intrigue of Cranmer's life and the complexities of his character. It is surely worth reading for the account of Cranmer's final months, where under immense mental and physical pressure Cranmer renounced his entire ministry career only to save his reputation with one final brave stand. Highly recommended! ...more
Joel Zartman
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Dense, through story of first years of Anglican Church. Now have an informed concept and empathy for early protestants of traditional Church. Glad to be done with smug scoffing.
John Adams
It's long and has too many moments of tedious details, but his analysis of the evolution of Cranmer's theology is excellent, and the amusing asides help keep things moving forward. ...more
Wyatt Graham
Apr 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, a work of genius.
John Anthony
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, re-read
A weighty tome, very literally, but it largely maintained my interest throughout. Cranmer remains something of an enigma- perhaps the sign of a successful biography. His humanity and principled courage, his almost callous, even cynical delivery to execution of others whose views he appeared to share or would shortly do.He worked quietly but effectively in the shadows, particularly in relation to Cromwell. I found MacCulloch's examination of his (Cromwell's) role, particularly in the Reformation, ...more
Jan 25, 2011 marked it as never-finished
Shelves: non-fiction
If you're a fan of the Tudors (the family and the time period, not necessarily the miniseries) Cranmer is a man you should know. He helped found Anglicanism and provided a lot of the intellectual basis for that religion. As for the book, I keep trying to read it, but boy is the going hard. MacCulloch is a SRS BIDNESS historian, as Molly Ivins might have said, but he's no Bill Bryson in the wordsmithing department. This book is thorough. It weighs about 10 pounds in trade paperback. Doors have be ...more
Anthony Thompson
May 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent work. As a review on the back of the book states this is the definitive work on Thomas Cranmer. It is intense, gripping and full of the contextualisation that underscores the events it is bringing back to life. Some of the doctrinal discussions and background is very deep and complex and relies on the reader having at least some background knowledge of Catholic and Protestant doctrines and how those have evolved. This book is not for the feint-hearted or those who are search ...more
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very well researched biography on Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Henry VIII, and architect of what would become the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. The book delves into the effect of the Reformation in England, the different parties and perspectives that pulled against each other, and the cast of characters involved. Particularly fascinating is the development of the Book of Common Prayer, used by Anglican communion churches throughout the world.
Jul 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
For a man who took part in what was not only considered momentous events in Tudor History not to mention English History...this was a surprisingly boring read. If you want to read a great book on a notable Tudor player; I would read "The ebbs and flows of Time: the life of Thomas Howard. Third Duke of Norfolk" What a great read! Loved it! ...more
Shelly Dennison
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent, weighty biography which successfully unpicks Cranmer's theology and politics through the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I. Fascinating insights into his changing positions and packed with the wider context of the times. On the whole very readable but some of the chapters are rather long and I did on occasion get rather bogged down in the details. ...more
Jan 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
A bit slow going but a very thorough bio of the Archbishop of Canterbury who brought the Reformation to England in the 16th Century. Oddly, while brilliant, Cranmer comes off a bit smaller than life notwithstanding his historical stature.
Phil Mullen
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Finished in a hurry, so as to leave for a trip today with Ralph.

Learned *much* about the English Reformation, & much about Cranmer & his shifts & allegiances.

It is, as some reviewers have noted, magisterial: one trusts MacCulloch to have done amazingly extensive research.
Sep 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Excellent biography of a central character in the English Reformation
Apr 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
He walked the line, sometimes more than one, but did his best. A brilliant, learned man, gifted in spiritual pragmatism, and his legacy endures.
Calvin Coulter
Oct 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: auto-biography
A big book in every way, huge scope, great depths of detail and texture, a rewarding excursion into the 16th Century to learn much I had never read before.
Wendy Dunn
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wonderfully researched, this is a very readable biography.
Frostik Dar
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
whew! 700 magisterial pages on Cranmer -- plus a fascinating appendix musing over the two marriages of Henry and Anne Boleyn.
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Everything you want in a "history" book! ...more
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, if almost overwhelming in the amount of detail.
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Densely written and thoroughly researched, it's hard to imagine a more comprehensive biography of the archbishop martyr being written for a long time. ...more
Henry Sturcke
May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
After Wolf Hall, I was thirsty to learn more about the era. This was a great next step. Thorough, well-told, balanced in its judgments.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World
  • Calvin
  • Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake, #2)
  • Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3)
  • The Swan Thieves
  • Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4)
  • The Queen's Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr. John Dee, Advisor to Queen Elizabeth I
  • Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1)
  • How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
  • Little Altars Everywhere
  • Lucky Boy
  • Stolen Girls Survivors Of Boko Haram Tell Their Story
  • Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy
  • The Second Sleep
  • Death Comes to Pemberley
  • Windows of Opportunity: How Nations Create Wealth
  • The New Geography of Jobs
  • The Spanish Redemption: Heritage, Power, and Loss on New Mexico’s Upper Rio Grande
See similar books…

Related Articles

  Walter Isaacson, it’s safe to say, is not afraid of tackling the really big topics. In 2011, he wrote about our ubiquitous computer culture...
105 likes · 20 comments