According to Keith Thomas in The Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfilment in Early Modern England, the social value system defining what constituted a life well lived changed dramatically in the period between the Reformation and the Enlightenment, becoming more individualistic and secular, as well as less aristocratic and hierarchical. Although Thomas' subtly argued and beautifully written study draws on a vast array of sources and demonstrates his vast expertise in the fields of early modern intellectual and cultural history, it does contain a number of conceptual and methodological problems that serve to undermine aspects of the argument. Ultimately, a more comparative approach would have proven beneficial, although it is certainly easier to make a case for secularization over time if one chooses to leave out religion.

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