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The most profound characteristic of Western Europe in the Middle Ages was its cultural and religious unity, a unity that was secured by a common alignment with the Pope in Rome, and a common language, Latin, for worship and scholarship. The Reformation shattered that unity, and the consequences are still with us today. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the momentous events that triggered the Reformation, the world's leading historian of the period, Diarmaid MacCulloch, reflects on this historical turning-point, examining not only the Reformation's impact across Europe, but also the Catholic Counter-Reformation, and the special evolution of religion in England. The Reformation may have launched a social revolution, MacCulloch argues, but it was not caused by social and economic forces, or even by a secular idea like nationalism; it sprang from a big idea about death, salvation, and the afterlife. This idea--that salvation was entirely in God's hands and there was nothing humans could do to alter his decision--ended the Catholic Church's monopoly in Europe and shaped the entire future of the West. Here MacCulloch takes readers onto new ground, exploring the original conflicts and cutting through prejudices that continue to distort understanding of a religious divide still with us after five centuries. By turns passionate, funny, and meditative, this book take readers onto fascinating new ground, exploring the original conflicts of the Reformation and cutting through prejudices that continue to distort understanding of a religious divide still with us after five centuries. This staggering collection from one of the most distinguished historians of Christianity writing today explores the ways in which historians have told the tale of the Reformation, why their interpretations have changed so much over the course of time, and ultimately, how this revolution shaped the modern world.