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From Minority to Maturity: The Evolution of Later Lollardy

R. E. Stansfield-Cudworth

Vol. 3, No. 2

Winter 2021

Pages: 325-352

From Minority to Maturity: The Evolution of Later Lollardy

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no2.07

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Abstract

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Church History

Lollardy, Waldensianism, Pentecostalism, John Wycliffe, Lollards, England

Though English supporters of the Oxford theologian John Wycliffe (d.1384)—known as “Lollards”—had been drawn from academic and noble/gentry circles during the later-fourteenth and early-fifteenth centuries, persecution, equation of heresy with sedition, and the failure of Sir John Oldcastle’s Rebellion (1414) ensured overt abandonment of Lollard ideas. Consequently, post-1414 (“later”) Lollardy in England has been characterized as an amorphous, introverted network—appealing to those of lesser socio-economic status—being unworthy of description as a sect because of its deficiency of organization. However, the movement’s consistency and infrastructure are reappraised by considering its heterogeneity in terms of society (demography, literacy, and socio-economic status), interactions (modes of dissemination), and motivation, participation, and organization (appreciating the dynamics of religious movements). From a comparative perspective, Lollardy’s acephalous, reticulate infrastructure—similarly to that of Waldensianism and other movements—may have proved beneficial by facilitating adaptability during persecution thereby ensuring Lollardy’s survival until the Reformation.

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