Perceptions of the nature and extent of lay involvement within the church have varied considerably. Historians used to speak of the Reformation as ‘the triumph of the laity’ over an all too dominant priesthood. Scholars such as Scarisbrick reject this view, presenting instead a Reformation which suppressed and reduced lay initiative, leaving a clerical elite whose members no longer represented the interests of their parishioners. More recently still, Nicholas Alldridge has argued that, if lay activity within the church suffered any diminution, it soon reasserted itself and flourished again.1 The purpose of this chapter is to sift and assess the evidence.
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