Duffy, Eamon 1947-
Duffy, Eamon 1947-
Born February 9, 1947, in Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. Education: University of Hull, B.A. (with honors), 1968; Selwyn College, Cambridge, England, Ph.D., 1972; University of Cambridge, doctor of divinity, 1994. Religion: Roman Catholic.
Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, university reader in church history, lecturer in theology and religious studies, fellow and president, Magdalene College, 2001—, professor of the history of Christianity, 2002—; writer. University of Cambridge, chair of the Faculty Board of Divinity, 1997-2000, member of the Council of the School of Arts and Humanities, 1997-2000, member of the Review Body of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, 1998, elector, Dixie Chair of Ecclesiastical History; Pontifical Historical Commission, Rome, Italy; council member, the Harlaxton Symposium; vice president, Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain.
Society for Catholic Liturgy; Pontifical Historical Commission.
Hawthornden Prize for Literature, 2002, for The Voices of Morebath; honorary doctorate of divinity, University of Hull.
Peter and Jack: Roman Catholics and Dissent in Eighteenth Century England, Dr. Williams' Trust (London, England), 1982.
The Creed in the Catechism, Geoffrey Chapman (London, England), 1996, 2nd edition published as The Creed in the Catechism: The Life of God for Us, Continuum (New York, NY), 2005.
The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2001.
Faith of Our Fathers: Reflections on Catholic Tradition, Continuum (New York, NY), 2004.
Walking to Emmaus, Burns & Oates (New York, NY), 2006.
Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers 1240-1570, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2006.
Challoner and His Church: A Catholic Bishop in Georgian England, Darton, Longman & Todd (London, England), 1981.
(With Brendan Bradshaw) Humanism, Reform, and Reformation: The Career of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1989.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Continuum (New York, NY), 2004.
The Parish in Late Medieval England: Proceedings of the 2002 Harlaxton Symposium, Shaun Tyas, 2006.
Contributor to Medieval Theology and the Natural Body, edited by Peter Biller and A.J. Minnis, York Medieval Press (Rochester, NY), 1997.
Member of editorial board, Cambridge History of Christianity, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Renaissance and Reformation Review, and Maria: A Journal of Marian Studies. Chair of the editorial board of the Calendar of Papal Letters.
Religious historian Eamon Duffy, professor of the history of Christianity at the University of Cambridge, specializes in Vatican history and the history of the Roman Catholic Church in England. His first book was a collection of essays edited from various scholars on the life and legacy of Bishop Richard Challoner, who died in 1781 after leading the English Catholic Church for over fifty years. Challoner and His Church: A Catholic Bishop in Georgian England, wrote a British Book News critic, was welcomed for its accessibility. He noted that "some aspects of [Challoner's] life can be seen in sharper focus." The reviewer appreciated the fresh outlook and technical expertise of the historians whose work Duffy had gathered in the volume.
Humanism, Reform, and Reformation: The Career of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, edited with Brendan Bradshaw, comprises eleven essays and was considered by History Today reviewer David Loades to be "the best balanced and most complete account of [Fisher's] life to have appeared so far." Loades found the book interesting and engaging, and he pointed out that the appendices contribute much additional factual information about not only Fisher but also the church, the university, and the Reformation period in England.
With The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c. 1400-c. 1580, Duffy enjoyed additional critical success. Margaret Aston, writing for the English Historical Review, found the book a thoughtful, sometimes provocative study of how the Catholic liturgy was affected by the English Reformation. The book's central question, she noted, was why traditional religion, which was so strong during this period, was so vulnerable to attack.
Duffy's explanation—that the effective authority of the Tudor government forced people to convert to Protestantism—was, according to Aston, convincing. Aston concluded that The Stripping of the Altars is "a very illuminating and satisfying book, which takes a major step towards better understanding of the English Reformation." Susan Brigden, writing in the London Review of Books, pointed out that Duffy movingly describes the "lost physical and mental world" English Catholics were left with after the desecration of their altars and the shattering of their beliefs. Brigden found the first part of the book, which concentrates on Catholic liturgy, sensitive and well argued. The second half, however, which deals with the history of the Reformation, she dismissed as relatively "threadbare." Peter Ackroyd named The Stripping of the Altars as his choice in the Times Literary Supplement "International Books of the Year" column. He praised the book's "meticulous scholarship" and coherence, emphasizing: "This is historical writing of the most resourceful kind."
Duffy's Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, published in 1997, was the official publication of a six-part television series of the same title. Reviewers noted the book's comprehensive scope as well as its accessibility, though a reviewer for Library Journal commented that it brings no new insights to the history of the papacy, being intended for a large popular, rather than scholarly, audience. A Publishers Weekly critic appreciated the "lavishly illustrated and elegantly written book," calling it "a balanced history that will be useful to people of all faiths."
In Duffy's 2001 book, The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village, the author examines a question that has interested him for many years: how Catholic England became Protestant England in only fifty years. Duffy took issue with the prevailing English historical answer that Protestantism took root so quickly because Catholicism was already in decline, positing that the Reformation was imposed by the Tudor monarchs on a flourishing Catholic populace.
Duffy decided to use the tiny village of Morebath as microcosm of rural England. Set in the sheep country of West Devonshire, the hamlet had distinguished itself in history by its parish priest, Sir Christopher Trychay (priests were called "Sir" then, not "Father"), who kept fifty years of exceedingly detailed records. These documents record the daily Catholic life of the village, the reforms of Henry VIII and Edward VI, the brief return to Catholicism under Mary I, and the return to Protestantism under Elizabeth I.
"What is striking about this tale," wrote Paul Lewis in the New York Times Book Review, "is how Sir Christopher and his flock, despite their strong Catholic sympathies, begrudgingly embraced Protestantism, accepting the destruction of a traditional way of life in which sacred and secular were often hard to disentangle." Duffy speculates that the fear of royal reprisal was certainly a factor but that Sir Christopher was above all loyal to his parishioners. "His religion in the end was the religion of Morebath," stated Lewis.
Duffy followed up his publication of The Voices of Morebath with the release of Faith of Our Fathers: Reflections on Catholic Tradition. The book is a collection of the author's essays, many of which previously appeared in the religious periodicals Priests and People and The Tablet. Due to this, the collection covers many topics, including the place of the pope in both the present and the past, the church's treatment of the saints, traditional views of Catholicism, and modern church rhetoric. According to Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, writing in Commonweal, Duffy's Faith of Our Fathers "reminds us, for example, of what it means for the church to be governed by a person, not merely a set of laws; in what ways tradition liberates rather than oppresses; and why our prayers must speak of the ‘ambivalence of worldly happiness’ as well as affirm its goodness." Critics unanimously praised the book. For instance, Jason Byassee, writing in the Christian Century, stated that "not only is Duffy's appraisal of key topics of Catholic piety and life fascinating—in each essay he shines the light of historic faith on an issue of concern to contemporary church practice—it is a joy to watch a historian at Cambridge write about his own faith in an engaging manner, even (or especially) as he defends doctrines and practices that are specifically Catholic." Byassee went on to conclude that Faith of Our Fathers "is the sort of history we need—history that serves an ambassadorial role between past and present, illumining our life with wisdom." Another glowing review was written by Frans Jozef van Beeck in Theological Studies. Indeed, van Beeck remarked that "the essays collected here deliver on the promise of their title. They are sound essays on vexing Catholic issues, composed to help practicing and thinking Catholics, clerical and lay, resolve puzzles and discover a bigger picture."
Duffy returns to more scholarly explorations in Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers 1240-1570. The book is an examination of The Book of Hours, a book of prayers and devotionals meant to be performed throughout the day. Early Christians divided the twenty-four-hour day into eight religious periods. A specific prayer was to be recited at the beginning of each period. Though the text was initially followed almost predominantly by women, it became extremely popular during the Middle Ages. Interestingly, Duffy explores the margin notes of the work, as they have been laid down over the centuries. This approach provides insight not only into the text, but also into its users, as well as on the text's changing purposes over time. Like Faith of Our Fathers, Marking the Hours was met with near universal acclaim. One impressed reviewer, Atlantic Monthly contributor Benjamin Schwarz, stated that "in Marking the Hours, Duffy has pulled off the near-impossible: He lets us penetrate—perforce fleetingly and partially—the inner lives of women and men who lived when the world was over half a thousand years younger." Commenting on Duffy's unique method of examining the margin notes, Schwarz remarked: "It's surprising that previous scholars didn't use the Book of Hours as Duffy has, because, although he doesn't discuss this in Marking the Hours, for decades historians have asserted rather than probed its social, spiritual, and even psychological significance." Ronald H. Fritze, writing in History, called the book "an important contribution to the study of late medieval English religion. It takes the book of hours out of the ethereal world of art history and restores it to its true state as a beloved devotional aide that was used not only in daily worship, but literally by the hour."
Duffy next edited, with David Loades, The Church of Mary Tudor. The volume is a collection of twelve essays on England's return to Catholicism while Mary was on the throne. The essays largely track the country's transition from Protestantism to Catholicism and the effects of this transition on church and state, from the monasteries to the universities. The book also explores the rise of discrimination against Protestants. Critical response to the collection was somewhat mixed, and Catholic Historical Review contributor Colin Armstrong felt that "not all of the contributions to the two volumes are of equal merit and some contain considerable deficiencies." Yet, Armstrong found, "others are thoroughly vitiated by the approach taken by their authors." Ultimately, Armstrong concluded: "As has already been suggested, the quality and importance of the essays in these collections are uneven but together their contribution to our understanding of the Marian Church must not be underestimated; and some contributors … have written essays of outstanding quality." Church History critic Michael Questier, however, was more positive in his overall assessment of The Church of Mary Tudor. Questier called the book an "excellent volume," and stated that, "in short, therefore, this volume raised, in the mind of this reviewer at least, a number of essential and genuinely new and interesting questions about not just the Marian Church but the whole Marian State, and also about how much mileage there remains in the revisionist approach to the Marian experiment."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Duffy, Eamon, The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2001.
America, March 14, 1998, Donald Gelpi, review of Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, p. 41; January 21, 2002, Albert J. Loomie, review of The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village, p. 24.
American Historical Review, fall, 1994, C. John Sommerville, review of The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c. 1400-c. 1580, p. 257.
Atlantic Monthly, October, 2007, Benjamin Schwarz, review of Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers 1240-1570, p. 119.
Booklist, November 15, 1997, Margaret Flanaghan, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 525.
British Book News, January, 1982, review of Challoner and His Church: A Catholic Bishop in Georgian England, p. 18.
Catholic Historical Review, January, 1996, Rene Kollar, The Stripping of the Altars, p. 224; April, 1999, Simon Ditchfield, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 256; July 1, 2007, Colin Armstrong, review of The Church of Mary Tudor, p. 589; October 1, 2007, Mary C. Erler, review of Marking the Hours, p. 929.
Choice, April, 1993, D.P. King, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 1330; April, 1999, Simon Ditchfield, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 256; March, 2002, D.M. Whitford, review of The Voices of Morebath, p. 1255.
Christian Century, April 15, 1998, Gloria J. Tysl, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 409; August 14, 2002, Christopher Ellwood, review of The Voices of Morebath, p. 36; April 19, 2005, Jason Byassee, review of Faith of Our Fathers: Reflections on Catholic Tradition, p. 35.
Church History, December, 1998, Robert Somerville, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 844; June 1, 2007, Michael Questier, review of The Church of Mary Tudor, p. 419; December 1, 2007, Fredrica Harris Thompsett, review of Marking the Hours, p. 835.
Commonweal, March 12, 1993, Edward T. Oakes, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 27; November 7, 1997, Robert Louis Wilken, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 24; June 19, 1998, George W. Hunt, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 25; January 14, 2000, Raymond de Souza, interview with Eamon Duffy; March 11, 2005, Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, "A Historian's Faith & Hope: Eamon Duffy & the Uses of Tradition."
Contemporary Review, February, 1998, Richard Mullen, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 14.
Cross Currents, fall, 1998, Ronald Burke, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 420.
Economist, September 6, 1997, review of Saints and Sinners, p. S16.
English Historical Review, October, 1992, S.J. Gunn, review of Humanism, Reform, and Reformation: The Career of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, p. 1004; February, 1994, Margaret Aston, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 111.
First Things, April, 2002, review of The Voices of Morebath, p. 59.
Historical Journal, June, 1990, Christopher Haigh, review of Humanism, Reform, and Reformation, p. 449.
History, June, 1994, A.K. McHardy, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 324; June 22, 2007, Ronald H. Fritze, review of Marking the Hours, p. 141.
History Today, October, 1989, David Loades, review of Humanism, Reform, and Reformation, pp. 53-54.
Journal of British Studies, January, 1991, Maria Dowling, review of Humanism, Reform, and Reformation, p. 104; April, 1996, Susan Wabuda, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 257.
Journal of Church and State, June 22, 2007, E.A. Jones, review of Marking the Hours, p. 570.
Journal of Religion, April, 1994, Richard Kiekhefer, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 240.
Journal of Religious History, October, 1999, John Gascoigne, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 354.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion, spring, 1995, John Dillenberger, The Stripping of the Altars, p. 149.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1997, review of review of Saints and Sinners.
Library Journal, November 1, 1997, Sandra Collins, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 78.
London Review of Books, May 27, 1993, Susan Brigden, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 15.
National Forum, summer, 1999, Louise Katainen, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 39.
New York Review of Books, September 23, 1993, Maurice Keen, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 50.
New York Times Book Review, April 4, 1999, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 24; October 28, 2001, Paul Lewis, review of The Voices of Morebath, p. 17.
Orbis, summer, 2000, Christopher M. Gray, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 500.
Publishers Weekly, October 27, 1997, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 70.
Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2006, review of The Church of Mary Tudor.
Religion, July, 1993, John Davies, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 279.
Religious Studies Review, April, 1999, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 197.
Renaissance Quarterly, winter, 1991, Richard Marius, review of Humanism, Reform, and Reformation, p. 854; December 22, 2006, Linda Gibson Thorne, review of The Church of Mary Tudor, p. 1290.
Sewanee Review, October, 1993, W. Brown Patterson, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. R110.
Sixteenth-Century Journal, winter, 1990, Abel A. Alves, Humanism, Reform, and Reformation, p. 695; summer, 1991, Ellwood E. Mather III, review of Humanism, Reform, and Reformation, p. 405; fall, 1993, Stanford Lembergh, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 751; fall, 1994, Ann Nichols, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 725.
Spectator (London, England), January 30, 1993, Eric Christiansen, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 49; October 13, 2001, Gerard Noel, review of The Voices of Morebath, p. 55.
Speculum, July, 1994, Phillip Soergel, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 766; July, 1999, Joseph Berrigan, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 733.
Theological Studies, December, 1993, Ronald Hutton, review of The Stripping of the Altars, p. 732; September, 1998, James Hennesey, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 512; September 1, 2005, Frans Jozef van Beeck, review of Faith of Our Fathers, p. 722; March 1, 2008, Joseph E. Weiss, review of Marking the Hours, p. 227.
Theology, September, 1998, Richard Incledon, review of Saints and Sinners, p. 378.
Theology Today, July, 2002, Christopher Haigh, review of The Voices of Morebath, p. 343.
Times Higher Education Supplement, January 15, 1993, Patrick Collinson, review of Humanism, Reform, and Reformation, p. 79.
Times Literary Supplement, January 15, 1993, Peter Ackroyd, review of The Stripping of the Altars.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 2002, review of The Voices of Morebath, p. 43.
Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge Web Site,http://scripturalreasoning.org/ (September 5, 2008), author profile.
Frontline Web site,http://www.pbs.org/ (April 29, 2002), interview with Eamon Duffy.