The Protestant Revolution-Part One

BBC4 began a 4 part history of Protestantism last night. I watched it today (catching up on missed tv as I have the flu). It is presented by Tristram Hunt. It is good to see this subject tackled especially since it is recognising the huge influence of Protestantism on western culture. The programme was however somewhat disjointed- leaping for example from the dissolution of the monasteries under HenryVIII in the 1530’s to the the Scottish National Covenant in 1648. Also the programme made a few dubious connections. Were the Methodists really the descendants of the Levellers? Did Protestants forget about the eternal emphasised by Catholicism for the sake of temporal politics. I also thought that the programme assumed too much background knowledge.

The programme whilst seeking to emphasise the radical nature of Protestantism never really got to the heart of the matter- the real religious convictions that inspired many Protestant figures. Nor did it ever really get to the reasons why it got to the very heart British identity. Why for example did Britain remain staunchly anti-catholic well into the 20th century? Nor did Ireland merit any more than a passing mention in one of the last parts of the western world where the issue of Protestant identity remains to the fore.

A good subject to tackle but a bit of a light-weight treatment, even allowing for the fact that it was made for tv. I was left wondering what the real point of the programme was- we all know about George Bush’s ideals. There are interesting subjects to follow-family, art, capitalism- how they are treated remains to be seen but this was not a promising start.

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