This is a study of the enormous religious reversal that England experienced as the avoidance of idolatry became a priority of the Reformation. Opposition to church images was a feature of English life from Wyclif to Oliver Cromwell. It was an aspect of reform that affected all believers, from theologians who wrote so massively on the topic of idolatry, to parishioners who were taught to reject idols and whose churches were denuded of colour and ornament.
The phenomenon of iconoclasm cannot be understood except through the developments in theology brought about by sixteenth-century reformers. Both divine and secular laws were changed, as
Protestants remodelled the text of the decalogue to give new prominence to the prohibition of images, and the new scriptural priority was reflected in the enactments of church and state. Pressure for image reform was building up long before Henry VIII turned iconoclast, and by the time of the civil war, a century of action and teaching against images had profoundly affected English belief, as well as English churches. England's Iconoclasts offers new insight into the nature and effect
of these changes, and is a substantial contribution to our understanding of the entire process of Reformation.
'With great learning and understanding Margaret Aston explains the attempts to persuade the English people that the holy could not be served by art ... This book's importance in making comprehensible so traumatic a conversion can hardly be exaggerated.' Susan Brigden, Lincoln College, Oxford
Times Higher Educational Supplement
'Laws against Images lays the groundwork for what will certainly be a definitive study, its scholarship vastly superior to that of the only other monograph on this strangely neglected topic, The Reformation of Images.'
Patrick Collinson, TLS
'This is a much-needed book. She does not merely give us the 15th-century background her readers will expect: she gives us the Byzantine background of the iconoclastic controversy. Never again will we need to search our sources to see when Jewel and Foxe were quoting truly and when they were tailoring their sources: we can check what was available to them, and how they used it. The book's strength on Lollardy is expected'
Conrad Russell, London Review of Books
'extraordinarily authoritative first part'
'The chapters are ... richly furnished with extract and illustration of every kind; the flavour and character of the preoccupations of the English iconoclasts is conveyed elegantly and convincingly. We look forward to the completion of a needed and invaluable resource.'
G.R. Evans, Journal of Theological Studies
'great work ... a valuable feature of this extraordinary authoritative first part is the way in which the author deals with the arguments for and against images put by the Lollards and their forebears up to and beyond the Reformation ... Aston has included an especially impressive critical apparatus'
Nigel Llewellyn, University of Sussex, Brighton, The Burlington Magazine
`This first installment of a two-volume magnum opus is scholarship at its fullest: ambitious in scale, massively learned, interpretively resourceful.'
'one of the most important books on the English Reformation to have appeared for more than a generation ... it represents the fruits of many years' work as well as a breadth of vision and a maturity of scholarship that is rarely found today'
Ian Green, Queen's University, Belfast, History No. 243 Feb 1990
'fascinating first volume ... attractively written, widely researched, formidably learned and intricate, and its footnotes are a treasury of unexpected information'
Christopher Haigh, Christ Church, Oxford. EHR Apr 90
'erudite and compelling ... Margaret Aston recreates effectively the intellectual and ideological context of the sixteenth-century reform of images in England.'
Gervase Rosser, The Ricardian, Vol VIII, No 110, Sept 1990