The Anglo-American conference on Ancients and Moderns is now just over 2 months away and the research for my paper is, annoyingly, still only slowly ebbing along. Nevertheless I hope to be able to start talking a little more about my thoughts and findings on this blog over the next few weeks. In the meantime I thought I would share with you the abstract for my paper:
Ancient and Early Modern Martyrs: A Reformation reappraisal of Britain’s Roman heritage as told by John Foxe
The Acts and Monuments,written by John Foxe in the late sixteenth century, is commonly recognised as primarily a martyrology that vividly details the persecution of English Protestants by the government of Queen Mary. However, the work is so much more than this; it is an ecclesiastical history that told a revised history of Christianity from Christ through to their own times. In this history the Pope was labelled as Antichrist and traditionally perceived heretics counted as members of the true faithful.
Foxe chose many ways to establish his argument and to validate his claims one of which was to show the authenticity of the protestant church to have stretched back to Christ himself. In his second edition (published in 1570) Foxe devoted an entire chapter to the classical world seeking to show Roman culture, politics and religion through revised eyes. Foxe wished to receive the classical world as a purer time not yet disfigured by human and supernatural corruptions but one also plagued by persecution. For Foxe the true Christian church was a persecuted one as history had shown time and time again.
Foxe achieved this aim largely through the eyes of Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 263-339 AD) who had initiated the very form that Foxe wrote – the ecclesiastical history – but he also did so through the parallel researches carried out by other evangelical reformers such as the bibliophile John Bale and the German team of historians who compiled the Magdeburg Centuries. Those texts were written in Latin so Foxe’s vernacular work provided for the ordinary English people the only accessible means to reformist re-evaluation of the classical world. I will look at exactly what that interpretation was; how it related to the views of Foxe’s sixteenth century contemporaries; and how the classical world formed an essential role in Foxe’s understanding of the past and his conception for the present and future.