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Second paragraph of third chapter:
These prohibitions are not aimed at religion itself, but at Roman Catholicism, which is widely considered as unfit for purpose. In fact, society is becoming more religious, not less. Naturally, the population occupies a spectrum of religious positions, but if you talk to those at the more spiritual end, you will see that they wish to commune with God more directly, without the distractions of so many statues, images and decorations, and certainly without the money-making and political interventions of the papacy. Yes, there is a secular element to the nationalism of the Church of England, but this is largely a by-product of the desire to eliminate anything that comes between the humble Christian and God. It is this desire that creates the reforming zeal of Elizabeth's ministers and their brand of Anglicanism. A heightened form of this passion gives rise to Puritanism and Calvinism. Conversely, for traditionalists, the sense that their spiritual values are under attack from these fanatics reinforces their commitment to the Catholic cause and their resistance to Anglicanism, Puritanism and Calvinism. Although most people are not prepared to risk their lives for the sake of a religious viewpoint, some are. They would rather die than deny what they believe to be the truth.
I had been warned that this might not live up to expectations, but it very much did - a survey of social and cultural conditions during the reign of Elizabeth I, presented as a travelogue for the time-travelling tourist. Lots of excellent detail on economics, religion, food, clothes, illness and medicine, the arts, and pretty much everything. I see that there was also a TV series which gets much less good reviews, but I will try to get hold of it anyway. Disappointed that there are very few references to Ireland, which of course is my major point of interest. Some intriguing references to poisoning, which also interest me. You can get it here.

This was the top unread non-fiction book on my shelves. Next is Byzantium, by Judith Herrin.

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