Books About the Reformation

Hi Everyone,

I am looking for some unbiased books or resources about the reformation. I don’t want to read name calling, belittling and agenda pushing from either side. I guess what I want is a neutral telling of the reformation.


Check out Hilaire Belloc; he wrote a couple of books and several articles on the Reformation.

Thanks for the information!

Haha you beat me to it.

Yep. Belloc.

Of course William Carroll is also awesome,

This one by Bouyer…reviewed by Brumley:

Yet we can go further than decrying the Reformation as unnecessary. In his ground-breaking work, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, Louis Bouyer argued that the Catholic Church herself is necessary for the full flowering of the Reformation principles. In other words, you need Catholicism to make Protestantism work–for Protestantism’s principles fully to develop. Thus, the Reformation was not only unnecessary; it was impossible. What the Reformers sought, argues Bouyer, could not be achieved without the Catholic Church.

From Bouyer’s conclusion we can infer at least two things. First, Protestantism can’t be all wrong, otherwise how could the Catholic Church bring about the “full flowering of the principles of the Reformation”? Second, left to itself, Protestantism will go astray and be untrue to some of its central principles. It’s these two points, as Bouyer articulates them, I would like to consider here.

One thing should be said up-front: although a convert from French Protestantism, Bouyer is no anti-Protestant polemicist. His Spirit and Forms of Protestantism was written a half-century ago, a decade before Vatican II’s decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, yet it avoids the bitter anti-Protestantism that sometimes afflicted pre-conciliar Catholic works on Protestantism. That’s one reason the book remains useful, even after decades of post-conciliar ecumenism.


Belloc is fun reading; I’ve collected him for around 50 years. Unbiased is not a term I’d use to describe him, though.

Pretty much.


Oh I don’t know, as I recall he called out the ways that the Church bungled their opportunities to quash the whole thing before it became permanent. He points out, too, the political aspirations that had the so-called Christian princes sabataging each other and the Church for gain.

He does a lot of things. All worth reading. But I would not call the overall tone of his historical or apologetic work unbiased. I can never recall the source ( and I do like to source stuff) but somewhere in his casual writings, he stated that, when he saw history being bent in one direction, he didn’t try to straighten it. He bent it in the opposite direction. Even so, read him. I’ve done so since I bought the Image pbs of CHARACTERS OF THE REFORMATION and THE PATH TO ROME, in 1964. And on this topic, also look into the 4th volume of his HISTORY OF ENGLAND, and maybe his bio of Cranmer, or his late book on Elizabeth. But reading from a single viewpoint (which is occasionally what is meant by “unbiased”) leads to a blinkered understanding.and a relatively uniformed one. On this, as on all topics, I suggest reading in the round. Say, adding MacCulloch’s THE REFORMATION to the mix. It’s plodding and relatively evenhanded (IMO), and adds many pages of notes, sources, and suggestions for further reading. Which is not in Belloc’s style.

IOW, read in depth.

I am not sure anyone on earth could write an ‘unbiased’ resource’ regarding the Reformation - or if they could, that they would. It takes a lot of effort to write something and usually it seems to advance a predetermined viewpoint.

And what is ‘unbiased’ to one person may be ‘slanted’ to another. I may praise a Presbyterian author for his exceptional evenhandedness and lack of bias, but to a Catholic he is a raging fundamentalist anti-Catholic. Or the reverse. It seems the only unbiased one is someone is already in agreement with. That is, someone who shares our own viewpoint and bias.

The best you can do is to read respected authors on BOTH sides and draw your own conclusions, which may well change as you absorb more material. Actually it is more than BOTH, as there are other sides than Protestant/Catholic: Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, and even further removed, and now agnostic and atheist historians. The Reformation is perhaps the most complex historical event that has ever happened and perhaps is more than any one author can wrap his or her head around.

Generically, a recommended approach to reading history.

Hmmm. There is probably another side to this issue. :smiley:

If there is, I’ve read it.

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