Scotland’s Long Reformation

95533Exploring processes of religious change in early-modern Scotland, this collection of essays takes a long-term perspective to consider developments in belief, identity, church structures and the social context of religion from the late-fifteenth century through to the mid-seventeenth century. The volume examines the ways in which tensions and conflicts with origins in the mid-sixteenth century continued to impact upon Scotland in the often violent seventeenth century, while also tracing deep continuities in Scotland’s religious, cultural and intellectual life. The essays, the fruits of new research in the field, are united by a concern to appreciate fully the ambiguity of religious identity in post-Reformation Scotland, and to move beyond simplistic notions of a straightforward and unidirectional transition from Catholicism to Protestantism.

Introduction – John McCallum

1. Property and Piety: Donations to Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews – Elizabeth Rhodes

2. Burgh Government and Reformation: Stirling c. 1530-1565 – Timothy Slonosky

3. ‘Fatheris and provisioners of the puir’: Kirk Sessions and Poor Relief in post-Reformation Scotland – John McCallum

4. ‘A Sweet Love-Token betwixt Christ and his Church’: Kirk, Communion and the Search for Further Reformation, 1646-1658 – Chris R. Langley

5. ‘Out of their reasonless Rationalls’: Liturgical interpretation in the Scottish Reformations – Stephen Mark Holmes

6. The Philosophy of the ‘Aberdeen Doctors’, c. 1619-c.1641 – Steven J. Reid

7. Declining His Majesty’s Authority: Treason Revisited in the Case of John Ogilvie – Daniel Macleod

8. Divided by a Common Faith? Protestantism and Union in Post-Reformation Britain  – Roger A. Mason

Brill have sent a review copy for perusal and evaluation.  The collection begins with, quite appropriately given the title of the volume, a long overview of both the history of the Reformation in Scotland and the particular contents of the volume and how they fit into the overall work.

Next up, the essay by Rhodes, though at first glance on a topic that surely couldn’t really be that interesting at all turns out to be one of the more interesting in the collection.  And it’s about donations to a Church!  It includes quite particular mentions of quite particular amounts and items donated to quite particular a church.  She writes, for instance

Traditionally, histories of Scotland’s sixteenth-century church have focused on the confessional divide between Catholics and Protestants. Considerable effort has been expended attempting to pinpoint at what moment a community ‘converted’, or categorising some regions as reformist and others as traditionalist. Yet perhaps this search can be taken too far. The evidence relating to St Andrews suggests that it was possible for individuals and communities to exhibit within a relatively short space of time devotion to both Catholicism and Protestantism, and that confessional boundaries were by no means set in stone (p. 48).

Slonosky’s contribution takes us down quite a different path, allowing us to encounter the reality of Reformation from the perspective of the Burgh.  He begins

Over the course of a little over a year, between the spring of 1559 and the summer of 1560, an entirely new Protestant regime was established in Scotland. The scale and swiftness of the transformation was especially astonishing considering the relatively small number of committed Protestants in Scotland prior to the Reformation. By the summer of 1560, Catholicism was effectively abolished, and the structures of the Protestant church were being rapidly created, though deep cultural and institutional change would take several decades. A satisfactory explanation of this drastic event remains to be written (p.49).

He then proceeds to examine the amazing speed of the Reformation’s victory in Stirling.  As he puts it (on page 50)

The Reformation of Stirling offers an excellent opportunity to see how the Reformation developed in a town which did not have a clear Protestant faction.

MacCullum is concerned with poor relief; Langley with communion; Holmes with liturgical matters connected to Reform; and Reid, in a real tour de force, with Reformed Scholasticism.  He remarks by way of beginning his superlative essay

Who were the ‘Aberdeen Doctors’, and what did they think? The first part of this question is easier to answer than the second. The ‘Doctors’ were a group of academics and ministers affiliated with King’s and Marischal College in the two decades following the accession of Bishop Patrick Forbes of Corse in 1619. They are best known for the series of tracts and pamphlets they exchanged in the summer of 1638 with the Covenanting ministers Alexander Henderson, David Dickson, and Andrew Cant, which denounced the National Covenant as seditious and theologically unsound (p. 149).

In the following pages Reid introduces the uninitiated (and schools the already initiated) into the intricacies of Scottish Reformed Scholasticism- a field as fascinating as any you’re likely to encounter in the entire field of Reformation studies related to the United Kingdom.

MacLeod in the 7th chapter investigates the treason of Ogilvie; and in the 8th Mason takes us on an intellectual tour of Protestantism in the period immediately following the Reformation in Britain.

The volume includes very copious citations of primary sources (complete with incomprehensible Scottish-isms), footnotes, and of course an index, which, joyfully, includes references to Luther and Calvin though not, oddly, to Zwingli in spite of the fact that he is mentioned in the text and in footnotes.  The index, accordingly, isn’t exactly complete.

The volume, on the whole, is, however, completely enjoyable and thoroughly informative.  It can be enthusiastically recommended to those interested in the way the Reformation worked itself out in the Scottish lands.