by EDGAR HOLT
Europe Divided 1559-1598 by J. H. Elliott (Collins, 30s.).
THE confessional strife
which embittered the later years of the sixteenth century is the central theme of Professor J. H. Elliott's admirable contribution to the Fontana History of Europe. This strife, he observes, was "the principal legacy of the sixteenth century to European life", and his hook shows with great clarity how the unity of Christendom was shaken by the challenge of Calvinism, which divided Europe along lines of religion.
One of the great merits of his book is that it explains the inter-connection between historical events which are often described in isolation from each other. The French wars of religion, the revolt of the Netherlands and the defeat of the Spanish Armada here fall into place in the general picture of European history. They are linked too with the first signs of the emergence of Rome from the shadow of Spanish domination and with the remarkable reforming spirit of Pope Sixtus V, who "set the seal on a long process of reorganisation which concentrated supreme authority in the hands of the Pope."
This is a hook for both students and ordinary readers who wish to understand the sixteenth century's legacy to modern Europe. It is largely a political history, which makes little reference to the people who had to fight their rulers' wars; but it is none the worse for that, since this was essentially a conservative period in which the destinies of ordinary people were entirely shaped by their kings and princes.