As David Nash correctly observes in the opening sentence of his stimulating study of the history of blasphemy in modern Britain, 'In modern British society each successive generation complacently congratulates itself that blasphemy is a curious and even fascinating anachronism.' Yet each generation, including our own, is apt to discover that, far from
Paul Kliber Monod has written an ambitious and very welcome book, which seeks to investigate the relationship between Christianity and kingship across the whole of Christian Europe in the 'long' seventeenth century from 1589 to 1715. This is certa inly a brave enterprise, calling as it does for a working knowledge of several languages and the strikingly diverse histories of many countries.
Academics and the general public alike have an understandable fascination regarding the Spanish Armada. The naval confrontation in the Channel in 1588 and the subsequent disastrous Spanish circumnavigation of the storm-lashed British coastline, helped shape world history from the end of the sixteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth.
By official decree, Brazil celebrates its 500th anniversary in 2000: the modern history of the country dating from April, 1500, when a fleet commanded by Pedro Alvares Cabral anchored at Porto Seguro on the north-east coast of Bahia.
At the heart of this majestic and complex book is a simple story, engagingly recounted by the author. On 11 February 1855, Bernadette Soubirous, a young Pyrenean shepherdess, together with her sister Toinette and a friend Jeanne Abadie, was instructed by her impoverished mother to go out and search for tinder for the stove (p.3).
Much of the shape of modern Europe was determined by changes which took place in the time of Gregory VII, who as 'Hildebrand' was a powerful influence in the papacy from 1046 and was himself pope from 1073 to his death 1085.
Worshippers at the main dominical services of the Church of England have, with greater or lesser frequency according to usage, custom, or personal inclination from 1549, and until the revision of the prayer book in 1980, publicly and collectively asserted their belief in 'The Resurrection of the body and the life everlasting'.
In early twelfth-century Durham the body of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne was still enshrined in its seventh-century coffin with its iconic images of the Virgin and Child, saints and archangels. Associated with the shrine were two magnificent manuscripts from early eighth-century Northumbria, the Lindisfarne and Stonyhurst Gospels.
Two anti-Trinitarians shared the distinction in 1612 of being the last persons to be burned for heresy in England. The execution of Oliver Plunkett in 1681 was the last martyrdom of a Catholic on English soil. A Scottish student hanged for blasphemy in 1697 was the last person in the British Isles to be executed for his religious views.
Saga and penecontemporaneous 'historical sources' are a minefield for interpretation into which archaeologists step at their peril.