English Historical Documents, 1485–1558
This chapter continues the close analysis of discourses on “religion” and related categories such as “politic order” and the “commonweal” and shows how in significant texts of the period there was nothing like a modern concept of the nonreligious secular, or some conceptual or social space from which an attitude of neutrality could be taken toward some putatively separate domain called “religion.” The commonweal or politic body, based on a holistic analogy with the well‐functioning human body, is embedded in a God‐given hierarchical cosmos that legitimated rank and degree long after the Reformation. The editor of these texts, C. H. Williams, is aware of the problem of using modern concepts such as “class” to represent the realities of the early modern period. Yet editorial needs of the twentieth century in effect compel him to classify these texts according to modern categories, thus creating a contradiction between what the texts imply and what we need them to mean.
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