“Sarah Covington’s The Trail of Martyrdom looks at persecution, prosecution, recantation, and martyrdom in sixteenth-century England, approaching the problem from every possible angle: how did the accused react to persecution? How did persecutors, of every rank and class, view dissenters? What were the conditions of imprisonment for the heterodox? How did the hunted, the persecuted, the imprisoned communicate? Why did some people recant and others did not—and how did the former view their own recantations? What were the reactions of the victims, the executioners, and the onlookers when the final tragic moment arrived? In exploring these questions, Covington brilliantly matches an insightful reading of texts for indications of states of mind with a deft management of documents to uncover names, circumstances, and settings—thus marrying intellectual, psychological and social historical perspectives. She has mastered an immense literature, handles printed and manuscript materials with boldness and respect, and asks important questions, and answers them with grace. Her prose is a tissue of elegance of a sort rarely encountered in this generation.” —Margaret L. King, Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York
“With keen insight, The Trail of Martyrdom explores a fragmented era permeated by religious dissidence, dissonance, and persecution. This important study enhances our understanding of a world in which individual religious conviction collided with royal hegemony.” —John King, Ohio State University
“Martyrs and persecutors alike suffered pain and found joy in their work. Sarah Covington has provided us with a beautifully written description and analysis of both sides in the tumultuous years of the Tudor Reformations.” —Stuart E. Prall, Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York
“This study offers a valuable overview of the interconnected stages of the persecution of religious dissidents in early modern England. Its lucid style and clear presentation make it accessible to the general reader in English history.” —Christopher Highley, Ohio State University
The Trail of Martyrdom examines the stages by which religious dissidents were persecuted by Tudor monarchs across the sixteenth century, and the means by which these dissidents counteracted authorities. While Henry VIII, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth differed in religious orientation, their desire to enforce a uniformity of belief compelled them, in various degrees, to seek out and expunge heterodoxy or perceived treason in their midst. Individuals of contrary belief were targeted, apprehended, imprisoned, interrogated, and sometimes executed. During each stage of persecution, many dissidents were able to elude capture, counter-interrogate their inquisitors, use time in prison to write letters and prepare for death, and exploit their own executions to forge a final drama of suffering and redemption before a large, public audience. Enforcement was always dependent upon cooperation from the public and local officials, which made successful persecution uncertain at best.
Sarah Covington explores the details of this system of enforcement, and the means by which it was subverted. Her explorations also address larger questions concerning obedience and disobedience, tolerance and intolerance, and the dynamics of martyrdom.
SARAH COVINGTON is professor of history at Queens College.
“This deeply researched, carefully crafted book offers a sensitive analysis of the nature and limits of state-sponsored persecution in Tudor England.” — Religious Studies Review
“This is an A-to-Z encyclopedia for historians of persecution and martyrdom.” — Sixteenth Century Journal
“Sarah Covington tells in vivid detail the story of recusancy and persecution in sixteenth-century England in The Trail of Martyrdom. She searches the minds of the persecutors and the persecuted. She examines the interrogations and recantations or punishments and the effect of executions not only on the condemned but also on the public that witnessed these gruesome rites, in fact all aspects of the subject, and she writes with grace and sensitivity and force.” — Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance
“Covington writes with confidence and clarity. . . . [S]he has produced an assured and cogent interpretation of a dense and complex subject. Complemented by a useful bibliography, this is a work that will prove helpful to scholars as well as appealing to a more general readership.” — Recusant History, Vol.27, no.3
“[Covington] is a gifted stylist, and The Trail of Martyrdom is interesting and accessible to specialist and nonspecialist alike.” — Renaissance Quarterly
“. . . this is an accomplished, nuanced and elegantly written monograph that illuminates aspects of Tudor persecution which have been relatively . . . neglected by previous historians. This is a sensitively researched and gracefully constructed book that will be accessible to many levels of reader.” — History
“This is a book filled with interesting and acute observation, for Covington has a good eye for the telling detail.” — Journal of Early Modern History
“_The Trail of Martyrdom: Persecution And Resistance In Sixteenth-Century England_, provides Professor Covington’s readers with a thorough and scholarly examination of all aspects of persecution, imprisonment, rebellion, dissent, and execution in sixteenth-century England. A work of meticulous scholarship, and presented with a passion for accuracy and logical interpretation, _The Trail of Martyrdom _is fascinating and informative scrutiny of a dark side of human behavior and royal politics under Henry VIII, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth.” — Midwest Book Review
“Covington . . . has considered the experience of martyrdom as a whole in a way that will enable readers to consider the entire process.” — Choice