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date: 25 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, an acute religious crisis occurred in England due to the troublesome specter of heresies proliferating at the time. During the 1520s and 1530s, Thomas More, Lord Chancellor, played a major role in the escalating polemical warfare against Lutheran and evangelical heresy. And in the 1640s and 1650s, the fragmentation of Protestantism provoked powerful new fears of unbridled heresies and the rise of anti-heretical writings. This article examines the cultural fears sparked by the hysterical religious imagination and how they generated enormous anxieties, savagery, and bitter religious contention and polarization. It also looks at the anti-heresy literature of the English Civil War and Interregnum in the context of new legislation enacted by Parliament to control the proliferation of religious error. In addition, it considers the remarkable continuities between the late Middle Ages and early modern period with regard to heresy, treason, fears, and the feverish religious imagination, along with what was distinctive about the imaginings of heretics and heresies during those unstable decades.

Keywords: religious crisis, England, Thomas More, heresy, treason, Protestantism, anti-heretical literature, English Civil War, legislation, Middle Ages

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