MacCulloch’s book on the Protestant Reformation is a huge work on a huge subject. Everything you might expect is in here, and much, much, more.

He starts with a fairly good overview of western Christianity at the end of the Middle Ages, and moves on to the expected history of the reformation. This covers the Reformation in terms of both thought and politics, and I’m not entirely sure that I really understand much more than I did before. Some of it is just me (I find philosophical/theological arguments tough going at the best of times), but MacCulloch’s writing is dense, and not the easiest reading. The book is extensively crossreferenced with itself (and these are all links in the Kindle version), which also points up how many balls he’s trying to keep in the air. For all the scenery that goes by, I don’t feel like I know the period any better, or have a good sense of what any of the principles were like.

The last major section of the book is more of a social history of the period, and I have to think the main text might have benefited from this being right there. On the other hand, it has a focus that the earlier sections lack, so maybe the book would have been better if it had all been more split up than it is. This section goes into the witch hysteria, the status of marriage, sex and the ‘Reformation of Manners’, and a number of similar subjects.

I can’t really recommend this this book except as being thorough, and the only book I’ve read on the subject. It certainly should make a good general reference when dealing with something more specific.