Eamon Duffy is Emeritus Professor of the History of ­Christianity at the University of Cambridge. His latest book is ­Reformation Divided: Catholics, Protestants and the Conversion of England. (February 2018)


Far from the Tree

William Blake: Newton, 1795

Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton

by Rob Iliffe
Sometime in 1664 the young Isaac Newton abandoned his hitherto dutiful undergraduate note-taking on the standard Cambridge curriculum, dominated, as it had been for centuries, by classical languages and the works of Aristotle. Instead, his notebooks begin to trace his excited response to radical new scientific and philosophical ideas culled …

Secret Knowledge—or a Hoax?

The Voynich Manuscript

edited by Raymond Clemens, with an introduction by Deborah Harkness
When Umberto Eco, the semiologist, medievalist, and author of the best-selling medieval puzzle-novel The Name of the Rose, lectured at Yale to celebrate the Beinecke Library’s fiftieth anniversary, the only one of its many treasures he asked to see was the Voynich manuscript.

The First Blood Libel Against the Jews

A postcard in Yiddish commemorating the verdict in the 1913 trial of Mendel Beilis, a Jew charged with the ritual religious killing of a Christian child in Kiev. The jury acquitted Beilis but judged that the crime had occurred. Tsar Nicholas II (center) is bidding Beilis to go free—‘but I won’t waste any time in getting even for your acquittal with your Russian brothers you’ve left behind.’ The seated old man depicts the ‘Jewish people’; the ball and chain is labeled ‘blood libel.’ A conference on the blood libel will be presented by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and Center for Jewish History in New York on October 9.

The Murder of William of Norwich: The Origins of the Blood Libel in Medieval Europe

by E.M. Rose
From the mid-twelfth century onward urban communities scattered across Europe persuaded themselves that each year about Eastertime the Jewish minorities living among them conspired in the systematic abduction and ritual slaughter of Christian children. That myth would be used to justify centuries of harassment, robbery, and judicial murder of European …

A Great, Ignored Transformation?

A page from La Vie de Saint Denys, an illuminated manuscript presented by Gilles de Pontoise, abbot of Saint-Denis, to King Philippe V in 1317. ‘Below large-scale representations of the saint’s preaching, trials, tortures, and death,’ Eamon Duffy writes, are ‘vivid vignettes of life along the Seine’: ‘diminutive townspeople shop or borrow from moneylenders, physicians inspect flasks of their patients’ urine, animals are driven to slaughter, millers stagger under sacks of corn, workmen trundle wheelbarrows, and boatmen row goods and passengers up and down the river.’

A History of Balance, 1250–1375: The Emergence of a New Model of Equilibrium and Its Impact on Thought

by Joel Kaye
Joel Kaye’s first book, Economy and Nature in the Fourteenth Century: Money, Market Exchange, and the Emergence of Scientific Thought (1998), was a revised version of his doctoral dissertation. Academic theses can make for dreary reading, but Kaye’s advanced a bold, sweeping, and closely argued theory, designed to explain a …

Who Is the Pope?

The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope

by Austen Ivereigh

A Big Heart Open to God: A Conversation with Pope Francis

by Antonio Spadaro, SJ
Francis has pointed the church away from culture wars with secular society that were such a feature of Benedict’s papacy, toward a less confrontational approach to the social circumstances in which the faithful have to live, and a more fruitful reengagement with the church’s mission to the poor and underprivileged, in whom he sees both the natural and the most receptive hearers of the Gospel.

The Intense Afterlife of the Saints

Saint Michael weighing souls in Rogier van der Weyden’s Last Judgment, circa 1445–1450

Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation

by Robert Bartlett

In Search of Sacred Time: Jacobus de Voragine and the Golden Legend

by Jacques Le Goff, translated from the French by Lydia G. Cochrane
In November 1231 Elizabeth of Thuringia, daughter of the king of Hungary and widow of Louis IV, Landgrave of Thuringia, died in the city of Marburg, aged twenty-four. Married before she was fifteen, Elizabeth bore three children to Louis before his death while on crusade in 1227, when she was …

The Staying Power of Christianity

Sebastiano Ricci: Pope Paul III Preparing the Council of Trent, 1687–1688

The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity

by Robert Louis Wilken

Trent: What Happened at the Council

by John W. O’Malley
If an anthropologist from the star system Sirius were to teleport to earth to conduct a field study of Christianity, where would she go? A Greek monastery on Mount Athos, a papal mass in St. Peter’s, a convent hospital for the destitute in Calcutta, a snake-handling service in the Appalachians, …