The volume under review is a 200 small paged, large print edition which deals with an over-proportionate number of ‘other defenders of the Reformation’, and speculative ‘historical’ reconstructions apart from Hamilton. Nevertheless, the publisher’s cover blurb presents it as ‘a result of over eight years of research through the Special Collections of Edinburgh University and St Andrew’s University’, and the author writes of the ‘rare books’ he has studied allowing him to present for the first time in almost one hundred years a definitive and complete study of Patrick Hamilton (1504-1528) based on original documents.
Carvalho’s work contains some useful background-information on Hamilton’s Scotland and it is always a joy to read Hamilton’s Patrick’s Places. Rainer Haas claims on good grounds that this work was once the most read book in Scotland next to the Bible and it demonstrates the spirit of pan-European reform at the beginning of the 16th century. However these accounts are interspersed by Carvalho with numerous legend-like anecdotes of dubious historical origin which mar the work’s credibility in depicting Hamilton’s childhood, education in Scotland, France and Germany and his ministry in Scotland before his martyr’s death in 1528 at the age of twenty-four. Imagined meetings are portrayed between Hamilton and Erasmus, Luther, Melanchthon, Tyndale and Frith which quite contradict the records. Though Carvalho accepts the strongly challenged view that Hamilton became a priest, he skips over Hamilton’s marriage which is as strongly attested. Carvalho feels so confident of his account that he professes to have ‘certain’ knowledge of events in Hamilton’s life which have never been recorded. We are not given the sources for these ‘certain’ facts.
Despite Carvalho’s boast of many years research expertise, he merely bases his biography such easily available works as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs; Knox’s History of the Reformation of the Church of Scotland; Howie’s Scots Worthies, M’Crie’s Sketches of Scottish Church History and his Life of Knox; Spottiswood’s History of the Church of Scotland; Calderwood’s History of the Kirk of Scotland; Lorimer’s Patrick Hamilton; Wylie’s History of Protestantism and Dallman’s Patrick Hamilton: The First Lutheran and Iain Murray’s A Scottish Christian Heritage. Though all these books were in my library, except Murray, starting from scratch, I found all but Lorimer and Murray within half an hour as free online downloads. My local Mülheim Public Library stocked a copy of Lorimer and Murray’s book is still in print and arrived from the BOT within a few days. Cavalho’s inclusion of Murray in his ‘special collections’ is odd as Murray merely mentions Hamilton in a few scattered lines. Even Patrick’s Places is freely available in various versions online but Carvalho does not explain why he has used his particular one. However Carvalho rarely sticks to his given sources, quoting them where he feels he is in agreement and ignoring them when they refute him head on. Very much of Carvalho’s work, especially data to do with Hamilton’s martyrdom, is directly copied from Lorimer.
In short, Carvalho’s listed sources, when used, are simply insufficient to provide a scholarly basis for a definitive biography. Indeed, to help readers study Hamilton’s life, it must be pointed out that Carvalho has left out both ancient and major works on Hamilton which are:
The Life of Patrick Hamilton, Abbot of Ferme, the First Scottish Martyr (anonymous) published by J. Lothian in 1627.
The History of Church and State in Scotland, from the Beginning of the Reformation in the Reign of James V. to the Retreat of Queen Mary, 1568 (3 vols.) by Robert Keith. Here the author provides lengthy copies of original documents appertaining to Hamilton and his times, including biographical data absent from many other works. Keith is also available as a ‘freebee’ on the net from whence this reviewer’s copy came.
The Scots in Germany by Th. A. Fischer. This is one of the few works on Hamilton and his background which deals with Continental sources.
Die evangelischen Kirchenordnung des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts by Marburg Professor Dr. Aemilius Ludwig Richter. This includes Francis Lambert’s 1526 work Reformatie ecclesiarum Hassiae etcetera on views similar to those of his student Hamilton which differed both from later Lutheranism and Presbyterianism.
Patrick Hamilton: First Scottish Martyr of the Reformation, Cameron, Alexander (ed.), John Ritchie, second undated edition. This is a compilation of older biographical works.
Carvalho also shows a great ignorance of modern basic research on Hamilton. Claiming surprisingly that Hamilton research has been dead for a century, Cavalho ignores:
The Scottish Presbyterian Polity, A Study of its Origins in the Sixteenth Century by Janet G. Macgregor. This 1926 Ph.D. thesis deals closely with Hamilton.
Franz Lambert und Patrick Hamilton in ihrer Bedeutung für die evangelische Bewegung auf den Britischen Inseln by Rainer Haas. This 1973 Marburg dissertation is one of several publications on Hamilton through various media and languages.
Franz Lambert von Avignon und die Reformation in Hessen by Gerhard Müller. A Marburg dissertation, 1958.
Furthermore, Carvalho has neglected German, Swiss and French works on Hamilton such as those of Jean Crespin, Merle D’Aubigné, Louis Ruffet and Reinhard Bodenmann to mention both older and modern scholars.
Other fine scholars whom Carvalho neglects on Hamilton are John Bale, Legh Richmond, David Laing, J.H. Baxter, James Mackinnon, Hugh Watt, John Tulloch, Alexander Mitchell, G.D. Henderson, Archibald Main and T. Ratcliffe Barnet.
Carvalho has also ignored St Andrews’ university records and Latin works of Hamilton’s Scottish contemporaries, merely quoting the little he has found on Alesius, one of Hamilton’s major converts, from Lorimer. There has been no ‘hands on’ consultation of Wittenberg and Marburg records which clearly refute Carvalho’s speculations concerning William Tyndale, John Frith, and Hans Luft and his unsubstantiated claim that Hamilton was a Lutheran before Lutheranism developed. These documents point solely to Marburg where Hamilton composed his Patrick’s Places for open disputation, the theology of which Luther rejected as ‘Anabaptist’ and requested the death penalty for such holders at the Second Synod of Speyer.
For those not able to do extensive reading on Hamilton, Lorimer’s and Haas’s works are still probably the best and the latter’s dissertation is now being revised and extended by the author and will hopefully be translated into English.