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John Foxe

1516-1587. Protestant historian and martyrologist. Born at Boston, Lincolnshire, he studied at Brasenose College, Oxford, and was fellow of Magdalen (1539-45). He became tutor to Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, and later to the earl of Surrey's children, when he met John Bale,* who stimulated his interest in history. He was ordained deacon by Nicholas Ridley in 1550.

On Mary's accession (1554) Foxe fled to the Continent, taking a manuscript designed to be the first part of a history of the movement for the reformation of the church, published eventually in Strasbourg with the title Commentarii Rerum in Ecclesia Gestarum.... By September 1555 he was at Frankfurt, where he met other refugees, including Edmund Grindal,* who was recording the stories of the martyrs. Foxe joined Bale at Basle, where he found employment at the printing establishment of Oporinus; he also turned Grindal's martyr stories into Latin. At Mary's death, Grindal and his associates hurried to England, but Foxe remained to complete his book, bringing his history up to date and making use of Grindal's materials. Oporinus published it in 1559.

Returning to England, Foxe was ordained priest by Grindal, now bishop of London. He joined forces with John Day, the printer, who published the first English edition of his book in 1563 as Actes and Monumentes (popularly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs). Four editions appeared in his lifetime, profoundly influencing Elizabethan England. More recent editions have often been truncated, unrepresentative versions. Foxe spent the rest of his life in London with Day, and was buried in St. Giles', Cripplegate.

See J.F. Mozley, John Foxe and His Book (1940); and W. Haller, Foxe's Book of Martyrs and the Elect Nation (1967).