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`Houlbrooke is authoritative and illuminating, especially on personal, domestic, and general social life.' Peter Lanlett, American Historical Review
`I can see this book in the hands of many a reflective tourist threading his way through the low-level labyrinths of town and country churchyards but also resting on the shelves of historians of population and social structure.' Peter Lanslett, American Historical Review
`Professor Houlbrooke provides a coherently convincing basis for his richly textured study in which the changes of the Protestant Reformation were a pivotal point. ... [He] uses the extensive literature that has arisen from the study of wills in two excellent chapters that lie at the heart of a sensitively nuanced examination of preparation for death.' Rod Ambler, Reviews in History
`Ambitious study of death in early modern England... his approach is admirably measured. His scholarly roots... lie in the best traditions of empirical English social and religious history, reaching deep into the local and archival soils, and sustained by family histories and individual cases. His present book is therefore a fascinating opportunity to observe this kind of historical sensibility dealing with the grand questions of how and why such fundamental attitudes changed. Houlbrooke is more than up to the job... because he is so patently an humane explorer of his subject.' John Spurr, Journal of Theological Studies, Vol. 51, No.1
`A lucid, fascinating and engaging account of the place of death in early modern society... particularly interesting examinations of the rituals associated with the deathbed and on 'good and bad deaths'. Dr houlbrooke has provided a thoughtful and coherent analysis of early modern death, one given a particularly admirable depth by a splendid combination of immersion in the sources with a critical acumen which precents him from being bogged down in details.' Tom Webster, History Vol.85 No.277
`This book also offers authoritative guidance on a host of subjects, for instance, Protestant ideas about the fate of teh soul after death or the changing role of witnesses to wills, which is not easily found elsewhere. If we are to give historians any credit for the new openness with which we discuss death, then it is to scholarly, humane, work like Houlbrooke's that we should award the laurels.' John Spurr, journal of Theological Studies, Vol. 51 No.1
`In the particular case of early modern England ... what has been missing so far has been a thorough examination of the range of evidence, in manuscript and printed literature as well as surviving artefacts. Bits of the story have been told, notably about funerals and memorials. David Cressy's Birth, Marriage and Death (1997) found space for much of it, but left areas still to be explored. Now Ralph Houlbrooke has filled the gap, in a work which combines exhaustive research and a wealth of illustrative detail with a sensitivity to the complexities of change.' Paul Slack, Times Literary Supplement
`It seems unlikely that the job will need to be done again, and other historians will mine his book for evidence on a host of related subjects, from the history of religion and the family to the history of embalming and undertakers.' Paul Slack, Times Literary Supplement
`the cumulative effects of the Reformation were profound. Houlbrooke illumintates some of them by means of a careful analysis of relatively familiar sources ... Funerals sermons proliferated all over Protestant Europe in the seventeenth century, and Houlbrooke provides the first proper account of their English history.' Paul Slack, Times Literary Supplement
`These are all aspects of the public face of death, and they are richly illustrated in this book. What of its private face, of the feelings and behaviour of close relatives of the dead and even of the dying? It is here that Houlbrooke treads on the most difficult ground, the history of sensibilities and emotions, and he does so with commendable restraint. He draws occasionally on the findings of modern psychological studies of grieving and dying, but in general he sticks closely and professionally to his last: the historical evidence ... There are points where the historian can go no further, and we must be grateful to Ralph Houlbrooke for taking us so far. His is the kind of acute and measured scholarship which shows what can be examined and imagined in the past -- and what cannot.' Paul Slack, Times Literary Supplement
Ralph Houlbrooke is at University of Reading.