9780198803928

The Book of Common Prayer: A Very Short Introduction

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780198803928

  • ISBN10:

    0198803923

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2018-11-01
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Summary

The Book of Common Prayer is one of the most influential books in history. First published in the reign of Edward VI, in 1549, it was a product of the English Reformation following the break with Rome. From Elizabeth Tudor to thousands of people today, the Book of Common Prayer has formed the order of worship for established Christianity in England. More listeners have heard these prayers, it is said, than the soliloquies of Shakespeare. As British imperial ambitions spread, the Book of Common Prayer became the primary instrument (as much or more so than the King James Bible) of English culture. The first edition outside England was in Ireland in 1551. In America, Puritans fled England in 1620 to avoid the Book of Common Prayer, yet the book came to embody official religion before and after Independence, and is still in use. Today it is a global book: it was the first book printed in many languages, from north America to southern Africa, to the Indian sub-continent.

In this Very Short Introduction Brian Cummings tells the fascinating history of the Book of Common Prayer, and explains why it is easily misunderstood. Designed in the 1540s as a radical Protestant answer to Catholic "superstition," within a century (during the Civil Wars of 1642-49) radical Christians regarded the Book of Common Prayer as itself "superstitious" and even (paradoxically) "Papist." Changing in meaning and context over time, the Book of Common Prayer has acted as a cultural symbol, affecting bodies as much as spirits. As Cummings shows, from the eighteenth century into modern times, the book has divided conformity from non-conformity, in social terms as well as religious, from birth to marriage to death.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

Author Biography


Brian Cummings, Anniversary Professor at the University of York

Brian Cummings FBA is Anniversary Professor at the University of York in the Department of English and Related Literature. He was previously Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Professor of English at the University of Sussex, and has also held Visiting Fellowships in California, in Munich, and Toronto. In addition to his academic work he was guest curator at Lambeth Palace for the exhibition Royal Devotion: Monarchy & the Book of Common Prayer in 2012, which was opened by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prince of Wales. His books include The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace (2007); and an edition of The Book of Common Prayer, which appeared in Oxford World's Classics in 2013. With Alexandra Walsham (Cambridge) he is leading the three-year research project "Remembering the Reformation", funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council from 2016 to 2019.

Table of Contents


1. Ritual and the Reformation
2. The making of the book
3. Word, body & gesture
4. Politics and religion
5. The global prayer book
6. Modernity and the Book of Common Prayer
Further reading
Index

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