Page:Henry VIII and the English Monasteries.djvu/47

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The Dawn of Difficulties

No just appreciation of the great social and religious revolution of the sixteenth century is possible without some knowledge of the causes which produced it. "The history of the Reformation in England," writes Lord Macaulay, "is full of strange problems."[1] That the nation, at the bidding of the sovereign and in furtherance of his whims, should acquiesce in the rejection of papal supremacy over the Church, should substitute the doctrine of the spiritual headship of the king, and should tolerate the national upheaval and disregard of the rights of property implied in the dissolution of monasteries and confiscation of their lands and goods, are "problems" to be solved only by an acquaintance with the events preceding and accompanying them.

Circumstances combined to collect in the political and social atmosphere of England in the time of Henry VIII elements fraught with dangerous and destructive power against the Church. In the first place, it would seem to be certain that the country had not fully recovered from that terrible visitation, known as the "Black Death," which devastated Europe in the middle of the fourteenth century. Although a hundred and fifty years had elapsed before

  1. Essay on Lord Burleigh.