The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland


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Margo Todd

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The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century brought a radical shift from a profoundly sensual and ceremonial experience of religion to the dominance of the word through the Book and sermon. In Scotland, the revolution assumed proportions unequaled by any other national Calvinist Reformation. This book explores how such a dramatic shift was accomplished and what effect it had on the masses of people in the pew or in the alehouse.

Margo Todd draws on source material from the operations of “kirk sessions,” the most local of the Calvinist church courts, which give details of varied aspects of daily life: baptism, marriage, and burial, poor relief and education, fasts and feasts, sexual offense, and doctrinal error. She shows how the kirk sessions balanced the exercise of discipline with social service to produce a distinctively Scottish Reformed culture in which traditional ritual and drama, propitiatory devices, and even imagery were not discarded but reconstructed in Protestant guise.

Margo Todd is associate professor of history at Vanderbilt University.

“Not only a fascinating read, but also a remarkable and crucial resource. . . . Rich in detail, illustrated appropriately and well, and altogether a delight to read. . . . A significant achievement and makes a profound contribution to historical scholarship.”—Michael Jinkins, Missiology

“This is certainly one of the most enjoyable and informative books that this reviewer has read in years. The depth of detail and the level of scholarship are both commendable and impressive.”—William G. Naphy, Scottish Journal of Theology

“This magnificently thorough and compelling account of the sessions’ achievements will be seen as a classic among books on Scottish history.”—Ralph Houlbrooke, American Historical Review

“This book is a marvel. . . . This revisionist book will now be the standard on the topic.”—Bibliothéque d’Humanisme et Renaissance

“This is certainly one of the most significant books on the Scottish Reformation published in the last twenty years. . . . Margo Todd’s book demands to be read by anyone interested in how Reformed Protestanism could actually function on the ground. . . . The result is an exceptional book which comes as close as any to conveying the lived flavour of early modern Protestianism.”—Alec Ryrie, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

Winner of the 2004 History Book Award given by the Saltire Society in recognition of an outstanding book on the topic of Scottish history
ISBN: 9780300198119
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
480 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
32 b/w illus.