The Lollards offers a brief, insightful guide to the entire history of England's only native medieval heretical movement. Beginning with its fourteenth century origins in the theology of an Oxford professor, John Wyclif, Richard Rex examines the spread of Lollardy across much of England until its eventual dissolution amidst the ecclesiastical and doctrinal upheavals of theThe Lollards offers a brief, insightful guide to the entire history of England's only native medieval heretical movement. Beginning with its fourteenth century origins in the theology of an Oxford professor, John Wyclif, Richard Rex examines the spread of Lollardy across much of England until its eventual dissolution amidst the ecclesiastical and doctrinal upheavals of the sixteenth century. Taking account of recent scholarship, The Lollards examines the movement's relationship to Wyclif's teachings, its social and geographical distribution, its political significance and its relationship to the English Reformation....
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The Lollards Reviews
Rex's stated goal is to produce with this book the new standard in introductory texts about Lollardy. It is a genuine work of scholarship at the highest lever. What it is not is a genuinely objective work of scholarship. Objectivity doesn't even seem to be in view. He confesses readily that he is attempting to correct the consensus view that the English reformation found its roots (or at least its forerunners) in the Lollards. This position, long upheld by scholarship, likely developed in the early apologetic/polemic writings of the English Reformers. It is simply not well established. The actual dots of the English reformation seem much better connected to the European (particularly Lutheran) reform movements. Few of the early English reformers had been Lollards, or were even noticeably effected by Lollardy. In all of this, Rex is helpful. But he is himself a Cambridge professor known for his deeply papist sentiments (as is borne out in his Tudor histories), and part of a group of pro-Roman Catholic professors there. In this book, he becomes excessively derogatory toward his subjects on multiple levels. He takes his diminution of their of their scope as far as he can, often ignoring well established facts to accomplish his ends. It would be a trial of patience to examine the logic used in this book: he has a tendency to draw unwarranted conclusions from historical observations, all in the face of established scholarship. Perhaps he is overstating his case as a means of counter-balancing the excesses of the pro-Protestant. But as a result, his work carries too much angst to be a useful introduction to the topic. Further, if used as such, his occasional misinformation and ponderous lack of balance would be a disservice to those students not sufficiently familiar with his subject to discern these trends.
Rex's narrative is lousy and his sympathies are obviously not with the people he wrote about. Rex's knowledge of the data available is certainly impressive but his use of it to construct a compelling argument is abysmal. There seems to be a great deal of effort to downplay any significance that John Wycliffe and the Lollard's played in anything of value whatsoever but in the end the material he is dealing with still proves to be far more interesting than his analysis. If this book were not on a subject as fascinating as "the morning star of the reformation", it would have easily earned one star.