Star Rating: ***
Colin Hamer has done a great service to the Christian public in making this book available. It is part of the excellent series, ‘Bitesize Biographies’. Little is available on the life of Cranmer, apart from Jasper Ridley’s rather dated biography and the magisterial but distinctly academic classic by Mac Culloch. The author freely draws from this book producing a biography that is bite size, readable and accessible to a wider public.
This book helpfully outlines the life and work of Cranmer, the first truly protestant Archbishop, and his contribution to the English Reformation. Cranmer occupied a unique place being referred to as the architect of the Church of England. It has, however, often been a criticism levelled at Crammer that he compromised and prevaricated when crucial decisions were needed. It is for this reason that he has often been sidelined in the role call of great Reformation heroes. Whilst there is an element of truth in this charge, his importance to the transformation in the English Church cannot be overlooked or minimised.
While writing in a warm and sympathetic way about his subject the author also brings out his clear weaknesses. The result is a balanced and helpful portrait of Cranmer and his times. Understanding his times may be a second reason why Cranmer is so little appreciated. Working with the most difficult boss imaginable, King Henry XVIII, Crammer was able to drive through a series of negotiated reforms without antagonising his capricious master and quite literally losing his head. Even to the end at the king’s death bed there was warmth in their relationship. Cranmer may have been just the right man for the job. A stronger more fiercely principled man may have antagonised the king beyond repair, a weaker man too submissive. Even so this was a man who worked tirelessly, slowly growing in his understanding of the faith and who in the end sealed his blood with the ultimate sacrifice at the stake.
In this study the man Cranmer, warts and all is brought to life and the complicated religious/ political landscape is explored by a skilful guide. For those unfamiliar with the period it is at times hard work, but perseverance will bring its fruit. It is a vital period of history that every Christian should attempt to be familiar with and the study of this little book would be a good starting place.
Stuart Fisher Bournemouth