The Scottish Reformation
David Hay Fleming
Usually when an old book is reprinted, I am left feeling that I would rather have
the original. This feeling can be provoked by the habit of renaming books with perfectly
appropriate titles (this is often done done Puritan books), or repaginating everything,
or the use of inferior binding. This book is one of those happy reprints where the
new version is arguably better than the old.
The only real change of content on the original is moving the old foreword into an appendix, where it works fine and as the original content is so broad in the foreword and is all about the pre-
The start of the book has a six page historical introduction to Fleming written by Roy Middleton. This is accompanied in the publishers preface by a reference to the Scottish Reformation Society journal where there is a more extensive survey of Flemings life and work. Both explain Flemings work in St Andrews, his justifiable reputation as an historian of the first rank and an overview of his other writings.
The book has been expanded and enriched by a number of photographs of key places within the narrative. This change alone makes the book much more readable and accessible, giving the reader a more accurate image of the story. The Reformation Press are to be commended for the helpful addition in appendix two of a whole series of maps that also help to set the names of places into a more concrete view.
In the original Fleming saw no need to alter quotations from their original middle scots language. This was undoubtedly a mistake on Flemings part as it leaves them wide open to misinterpretation by the modern reader, particularly those from overseas. Again the publishers of this edition have had the common sense to translate these passages into modern English or at least to provide a more alternative next to obsolete words.
Another feature of the book that I personally find appealing and one that I wish the would catch on amongst other Christian publishers is the placing of footnotes at the bottom of the page. Many books that don't do these leave reader in the quandary as to whether to disrupt the reading and spend the whole time flicking back and forth from the appendices for fear of missing a nugget of important information or just to ignore them. Hooray for footnotes in their proper place where you can glance down a vet them and never miss the bits you need.
The book covers the period of the Reformation and is suitable for readers of all ages. The book is accessible to those who have read little on the subject and will still inform those who are relatively familiar with its themes. You learn to appreciate the adage that in England the Reformation went from the nobles to the people where in Scotland it went from the people to the nobles.
It places the actions of men, like Knox in their historic context and shows the crucial support of the English for the Protestant nobles and congregation in their being able to overcome the attentions of the French King and his queen (Mary, queen of scots). The writing helps to convey the touch and go nature of this struggle and should cement in the mind of the modern reader the importance of not letting these gains be lost in our own day and generation.
I would recommend this book to all readers.