On the face of it, it might seem that the Reformation of its nature rejected history. And so in a sense it did, or at least the force of recent precedent. After all, the new religion involved a break with that recent past - a denial of tradition as an authority for religious dogma, practice and doctrine; a denial of papal authority. But it is no less true that the English Reformation used history - an interpetation of the past - to justify its existence, its goals and its actions. It created its own historiography. 1
In examining the way in which history was used by the reformers it is important to distinguish between the attitudes of the 'religious' reformers (those who saw the Reformation as the fulfilment of the church's need for renewal) and the 'official' reformers (those who saw the Reformation as serving the needs of the monarchy or, at least, the English body politic). This distinction is far from easy to make: the body politic was part of Christendom and, no matter what the perspective of the reformer, a major issue was the relationship between the two. Reformers as a group looked to the past to justify the act of re-formation. But I The best modern account of this process is to be found in Nicholson, G. D. (1977),
their interpretation of that past varied sufficiently for us to admit that there was no single Reformation use of history. Reformers, after all, used the past to score differing debating points. The manner in which their varied interpretations informed their action and vice versa is of supreme interest to the historian. In large part the task before the modern commentator is that of discovering an individual's position with respect to the relationship between church and state.