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Module Forum: Germany in the Age of the Reformation (HI242)

Module Forum: Germany in the Age of the Reformation (HI242) Radical Reformations Reviews

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  1. Please choose an item of secondary literature from the priority/further reading on our 'Kingdom of Münster' seminar page and review it in about 150 words by replying to this thread.

  2. Hans Jürgen-Goertz ‘The Anabaptists’, Appendix A pp. 136-161.
    This appendix provides a diverse mixture of sources contemporary with the Anabaptism movement, aiming to illustrate the way the Anabaptists portrayed their ideas, what those ideas were, and the external reactions they received. The sources are organised to refer to the chapters of Jürgen-Goertz’s work, sorted into: ‘anabaptist alternatives’; ‘anticlericalism and the modern movement’; ‘baptism as public confession of faith’; ‘congregation, government and the new kingdom’ and ‘the persecution of anabaptists’. Within these sections are private correspondence, declarations and articles drawn up by Anabaptist gatherings and examples of the grievances of both sides of the Anabaptism debate. Extracts of scholarly works from Thomas Müntzer, Hans Denck and Menno Simons explain the theology behind Anabaptism and its meaning for daily life, instructing followers on correct behaviour. An anabaptist song, as well as accounts of anabaptist martyrdom help to understand how beliefs were implemented.

  3. G. R. Potter, ‘Anabaptist extraordinary: Balthasar Hubmaier
    The article succinctly details the life of Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier and places particular emphasis on his belief that infant Baptism was invalid. Potter firstly addresses the importance of the Bible to Protestant Reformers as the ‘principal guide’ to Christians, before segueing into discussion about Baptism and the divide it caused. He presents Hubmaier as an example of Anabaptism, depicting him as a well educated, ‘powerful and popular preacher’. Potter notes the various theologians who inspired his beliefs, namely Luther, Zwingli, Müntzer as well as Conrad Grebel, which led to his proclamation that baptism was only for those capable of understanding belief and asserting their faith. By incorporating biblical text into his writing, we gain a deeper understanding of why infant baptism was a key source of debate amongst Anabaptists since it had no ‘biblical authority’. We do not, however, learn of any other theological beliefs of this group as Hubmaier did not agree with the majority of Anabaptist doctrines. Despite this, Potter provides useful insight into Hubmaier’s life and his attitude towards infant baptism. 

  4. Karlstadt, Müntzer and the Reformation of the Commoners 1521-5 by Hans-Juergen Goertz in A Companion to Anabaptism and Spiritualism edited by Roth and Stayer.

    As part of an edited book on the wider understanding of radical evangelism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Goertz presents this essay on the ‘communal’ conception of the Reformation. Adopting a Marxist critique, Goertz argues that anticlericalism became a form of ecclesiastical communalism, in the shape of conflict between the people and the clergy, which he claims combined with wider communalism in the Peasants’ War. Goertz focuses in on key figures in the radical movement such as Karlstadt and Müntzer, both of whom are featured in short biographical sections. His argument that they should be considered as part of the Reformation as they were operating alongside it is convincing, but the wider argument about ecclesiastical communalism falls down when the popularity and persistence of the politically conservative Lutheran strand is considered.

  5. W. Klaassen, Living at the End of the Ages: Apocalyptic Expectation in the Radical Reformation (1992)

    Klaassen's book provides an understanding of 16th Century German speaking apocalyptic thinking, through individuals and groups who come together to form the radical reformation. Klaassen does not only look to those whose apocalyptic views socially marginalised them, but also mainstream thinkers such as Luther and the impact this had in Germany. The book set thematically explores, the ideas of those associated with Apocalyptic ideals and then looks to the antichrist, restitution and the spirt. The book briefly mentions those who were not concerned with apocalyptic thinking but does not in detail set out why Erasmus for example did not subscribe to these ideas. Evidence is used throughout the book to highlight how this worked in practice, such as in chapter 4 which sets out in detail the ‘marks of the Antichrist’, using timely examples. Klaassen uses the ideas of the early apocalyptic movement in Germany to explain the prevalence in the world today as the book concludes.

  6. The Anabaptists by Hans-Jurgen Goertz (1980) gives quite a wide-ranging account of the Anabaptists significance in the Reformation period, especially their political and religious stances and the expansion of their ideology. Goertz also includes significant coverage of the role and experience of women and of the 'ordinary' Anabaptists, along with educated elites and leaders of the movement, which gives a wider context to his research. Most of Goertz’s book is focused on Anabaptists in Germany, but some attention is given to Anabaptism across different regions of Europe, specifically in England, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. He also ties in research and publications by other earlier authors, such as James Stayer’s ‘Anabaptists and the Sword’, which cited the violence and aggression used by the Anabaptists for self-preservation within the German community. Overall, the book deposits a lot of useful information for potential essay research and gives an in-depth account of the ordinary Anabaptists life.

  7. In the Shadow of 'Savage Wolves': Anabaptist Munster and the German Reformation during the 1530s - Sigrun Haude

    In her book, Sigrid Haude covers the beginnings of Anabaptism in the Kingdom of Munster in 1530s Germany. She not only details the reactions to the Kingdom of Munster but also what the reactions suggest about German society in a wider context. Two methodological concepts were used: a society’s reaction to an event can reveal how it functioned rather than analysing it during what Haude described as ‘normal times’. The second concept covered was to what extent the Kingdom of Munster altered the way German people in the 15th century acted and thought. Haude’s argument differs from the mainstream consensus that Confessionalisation in the Holy Roman Empire shaped the view of the Anabaptists, and whilst she does admit it was important, other more traditional factors such as political rivalry more significant in shaping that view.

  8. Walter Klaassen- The Anabaptist Understanding of the Separation of the Church

    The article chosen details the extent to which Anabaptists were ‘schismatics’; that is, that they were a group with the inherent intention of separation from the Church, a notion that Klaassen shows is a widely-held one among historians. By using primary documents from both sides, Klaassen highlights the hypocrisy of the Reformed movement and convincingly argues that the Anabaptist move towards schism was no different than the wider Protestant one; neither group wished to separate from the larger church, but were presented with the inadequacy of old doctrine and a compliance to a ‘new truth’ based on God’s will. Klaassen suggests that the Anabaptists were stauncher in their position and did not hold ‘hopes for reunion with Rome’. Klaassen does place too much emphasis on the Protestant value of political unity; had it been more important than doctrinal unity then perhaps Protestant leaders would not have effectively forced the Anabaptists out.

  9. Anabaptist Extraordinary, Balthasar Hubmaier, 1480-1528

    In this article published in 1976, G.T. Potter paints the picture of Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier, a reformer burnt for heresy in Vienna. Commencing with a theological note, Potter outlines the importance of the Bible to the Protestant movement on an individual and personal level where faith was concerned. He depicts Hubmaier as an ‘apt pupil’ strongly influenced by both Luther and Müntzer, whose flair in the academic sphere also translated through to his preaching, which was well received and had considerable impact. Potter draws upon the idea of the importance of the debate surrounding infant baptism for Hubmaier, something that sat unfavourably with Anabaptists due to their belief in biblical authority regarding all matters of faith and practice. This article can be seen to be of particular importance when seeking to understand the biography of Balthasar Hubmaier, and as such naturally focuses less on the Anabaptist movement itself.

  10. A Companion to Anabaptism and Spiritualism – James D. Roth and James M. Stayer

    This book is useful as a large collection of specific studies into different aspects of the Anabaptist and Spiritualist movements, for example looking at spiritualism in different regions from the Swiss cantons to Moravia and Silesia. It helps to outline the historiographical significance of the currents in scholarly opinion. It describes two main schools of thought in reformation scholasticism, namely the ‘confessionalism’ and ‘post-confessionalism’. Confessionalism supposedly focussing too heavily on the religious aspects of these reformation movements, while the later focussing too heavily on the social context within which they grew. The consolidation of these schools of thought helped to establish a greater and more equitable balance of the two, present in current historiographical opinions. The time frame of the book being 1521 to the late 1600s. It is broad in this wide time frame, but it is specific in its focus on the developments of more radical reformation movements, and how these grew to separate into different sects. This is qualified by the authors' view of a succinct lack of scholarly focus on the later reformation. It refers to the early reformation as being ‘studied extensively’ and thus identifies a hole in the literature on the late-reformation. For example, it focuses on the work of Karlstadt and Muntzer rather than Zwingli and Luther, for the authors feel as though the literary opportunities on the latter two theologians have been exhausted.

  11. A Companion to Anabaptism and Spiritualism – James D. Roth and James M. Stayer

    Anabaptists and the Sword - James Stayer. James Stayer book looks at the actions of the Anabaptists in greater detail aiming to clarify what he calls the "oscillation" of polar antitheses between pacifism and revolution, Stayer airs towards a self-consciousness of the people where followers fully believe in the use of force to achieve goals giving his "crusading", "realpolitical" and "apolitcal" standpoints that justify their violence. Perhaps where this source falls short is in its neglect of the material matters, this source spend great focus on the theoretical influence for violence that it does not analyse the external influences for violence. I.e. the socio-economic and religious conflicts that divide and collide with Anabaptists forcing conflict. The source does however greatly encompass a large verity of religious extremism and fully embraces the heterogeneous nature of the movement and gives great details on key events such as the Munster rising, Swiss religious extremism and even the Melchiorites. it also follows the ideological shifts of the religious extremist to a non-resistant stance, exampling Mennonite scholars loss of conviction after the peasants war among other sources.  

  12. H. P. Hsia, ‘Münster and the Anabaptists’, in his: The German People and the Reformation:

    R. Po-chia Hsia’s analysis of the origins of the Kingdom of Münster does not stray far from existing interpretations by Bernd Moeller’s, who comments on the role undertaken by the urban community, and Heinz Schilling’s, whose work on the malleable constitution of Münster sheds light on how the Anabaptists ultimately took over, but instead approaches from the themes of women, kinship, and guild ideology. By tackling the Münster rebellion from these rarely explored perspectives, not only does Hsia provide a convincing argument for why the Anabaptists at Münster accepted communalism and polygamy, but he also explores how those in the Kingdom saw themselves and their faith – a much needed account as Hsia notes due to most of our existing historiography coming from “hostile sources” written by those who besieged the city.

    Ultimately what is most fascinating in Hsia’s interpretation is how the Anabaptists took part in the active suppression of most of the lower-class by first concluding that they were composed predominately of women, and then linking this to both the fear amongst the Münster council that this potentially dangerous majority would need to be oppressed, and Leiden’s own religious justifications for polygamy. This leads us to the fascinating conclusion that "there is no evidence" for any lower-class support of the Anabaptist revolution. Hsia's unique perspective on the Kingdom of Münster makes it not only essential reading for what occurred in Münster, but also provides a great understanding of the volatility of Radical Reformation movements.

  13. G. R. Potter, ‘Anabaptist extraordinary: Balthasar Hubmaier’, in: History Today 26 (June 1976), 377-84

    This article focuses on the life of Balthasar Hubmaier who was burnt at Vienna for his preaching of the invalidity of Baptism. Potter lays out the significance of Hubmaier who was initially a Zwingli supporter and was influenced into abandoning infant baptism. From then on, he goes on to explain his transition into an Anabaptist who was capable of turning the town of Waldshut that was a Catholic Council into an Anabaptist/ Lutheran covenant. Potter questions the significance of Hubmaier in the last section and responds that it was due to his role as a moderate within the Anabaptist reformers and his ever so-changing views that he was able to construct his own doctrine like the prominent reformers that made him so important. He exclaims that his death was "Tragic and unncessary" as he had much potential to create his own Church whilst co-operating with Civil Power much like Luther and Zwingli as he had done so in the past with the Church of Saint Mary the Beautiful. 

  14. Walter Klaassen, The Anabaptist Understanding of the Separation of the Church

    Klaassen’s work tackles the case frequently levelled against Anabaptists as a separatist or even ‘seditious’ movement within the context of the European Reformations Drawing notably on the primary works of Zwingli and Bucer, Klaassen highlights the Protestant denunciations of Anabaptists as a separatist movement, a view he sees as heavily influencing the historiographical debate through the twentieth century. In litigating such a view, Klaassen draws upon a range of recent scholarship focussing on regions throughout the continent, questioning the extent to which Anabaptists truly diverted from the practices of the Reformed. Arguing that the movements core differences were predominantly political rather doctrinal, Klaassen makes a compelling case. Klaassen does concede that Anabaptists must take some responsibility for their depiction as separatist, on account of their frequent vocal criticisms of other Christians (a case supported by Klaassen's balanced handling if primary sources). Nevertheless, he maintains the argument that Protestant denunciations of Anabaptists were largely hypocritical, likening the Anabaptist relationship with wider Christians as akin to Luther’s relationship with the Roman Catholic Church; not strictly aligned, yet certainly not actively separatist.

  15. D.F. Wright, Martin Bucer: reforming church and community (1994)

    Edited by D F Wright, the collection of essays on Martin Bucer provide an insightful, detailed and engaging overview of his life, influence and contribution to the Reformation movement. Often overshadowed by other reformers, this volume attempts to highlight Bucer’s unique influence in both the Reformations of Germany and England. In thirteen separate essays we learn of the relationship between Calvin and Bucer, the specific theological beliefs of Bucer as well as his extended role in England in 1549. The volume also offers a strong, insightful bibliography of Bucers’ works and the international scholarly works on Bucer himself. The depth of the essays, specifically Chapter 10 on The Strasbourg Kirchenpfleger, helps place Bucer into a reformation context and provides along with chapter 6 on Eucharistic Communion, a fascinating comparison with the likes of Luther and Zwingli. This book also introduces specific studies into Bucers’ manuscripts in Chapter 9 providing an interesting engagement with primary sources.

  16. W. Klaassen, ‘The Anabaptist Understanding of the separation of the church’, Church History, 46 (1977).

    Klaassen seeks to determine the validity of the label of 'schismatics' that is affixed to the Anabaptists by historians such Bromley and Eells. By examining conversations held between leading Anabaptists like Grebel and Suttler, and members of the Reformed movement like Bucer and Calvin, Klaassen effectively seeks to answer the question of who was the real separatist: the Anabaptists or the Reformed. Schism was a process engendered by both the Anabaptists and Reformed. Thus, this approach accords significance to both parties, unlike others, who in this context, frequently, but misguidedly, strip the Reformed of agency. 'Schismatic' is a relative concept, in that the Anabaptists have traditionally appeared separatist when juxtaposed against a supposedly united Reformed movement. Recognizing this, Klaassen begins by arguing that the Reformed movement was not as united as it seems. Reformed unity was more often than not the product of political ambition, and was an issue that they cared about no more than the Anabaptists. He then goes on to outline the fundamental differences between the Anabaptist and Reformed movements. However, rather than assigning blame to the Anabaptists on the basis of their willed propagation of certain doctrine, Klaassen concludes that separatism was the result of a violent rejection by the Reformed of Anabaptist beliefs. Off the topic of Anabaptism, perhaps Klaassen's greatest contribution is that he is able to demonstrate the fractured nature of the Reformed movement, demonstrating that incoherency was not just the preserve of the Radical Reformation.

  17. W. Klaassen, ‘The Anabaptist Understanding of the separation of the church’, Church History, 46 (1977).

    Potter on Hubmaier:

    G.T. Potter’s 1976 article provides a biographical look at the life of Anabaptist Preacher Balthasar Hubmaier, famously burnt for heresy in Vienna due to his support for the invalidity of Baptism. Potter starts by outlining the significance of the Bible to Protest Reformers, arguing that it is the begin and end of all theological debate. Hubmaier is presented to be an excellent student – influenced by the works of Munzter and Luther – as well as someone with strong intellectual and theological convictions, his decision to not recant his beliefs in exchange for his freedom prove this. As well as a renowned student and academic, Hubmaier is described to be an effective and popular preacher. Interestingly, Potter delves into the debate regarding infant baptism and the lack of support by Anabaptists – due to the lack of scriptural evidence. The biographical nature of the article means that much of the focus is on Hubmaier himself – thus presenting a narrative that is narrower than that of texts focused on the period as a whole. This provides for a narrower yet more in depth analysis of the individual in question and this is where the value of the text lies.

  18. Tal Howard, 'Charisma and History: The Case of Münster Westphalia 1534-35', in: Essays in History 35 (1993)

    In this essay Howard examines the application of Weberian ideas of Charismatic legitimacy to the case study of Münster. He first describes the theoretical application of Weberian thought that has been made by other historians, particularly the way in which Jan Matthys ruled through his charisma. His successor, Van Leiden, could not hope to replicate this, and so had to resort to being a 'Legislator', claiming legitimacy through institutionalising the charisma of Jan Matthys. Howard compares this theoretical application to the historical evidence and attempts to demonstrate that conceptual frameworks such as the Sociology of Weber can displace factual evidence when applied blindly to a context, whilst he also highlighting the major issues with the use of concepts such as charimsa, being as nebulous as they are. Although Howard admits he is not by any means dismissing the use of conceptual frameworks when examining history, claiming that this method has heuristic value.

  19. Hans-Jurgen Goertz. The Anabaptists

    A welcome feature of this text is immediate engagement with the unique historiography of Anabaptism, attacking from the outset traditional confessional works and lauding more recent scholarship that forgoes compromising theological conflict, notably James Sayer’s and Claus-Peter Clasen’s work of the 1970s. Using this foundation, Goertz places Anabaptism “in the midst” of the reformation conflicts, “not above them” and supports a polygenesis model. The reader knows very rapidly where the author stands. Moreover, Goertz demands that the scholarship “engage more broadly in an exploration of who these people actually were”. From this position, the text focusses on key individuals that have come to define the multitude of Anabaptist groups; he uses characters as a catalyst for a broader comparative history of these radical sects. Women are amongst the characters considered (eg Ursula Jost), but insufficient time is taken for this to feel like any more than an aside.

  20. Anabaptist Extraordinary: Balthasar Hubmaier, by G. R Potter

    In this article, Potter centres his attention on Hubmaier, an intellectual in the age of the Reformation who was burnt to death in Vienna for his Anabaptist-leaning ideas about adult baptism. What I found most interesting about this was Hubmaier's slow progression in his theological ideas- how he is once an avid orthodox Roman Catholic, then becomes influenced by Luther's sola scriptura doctrine, then more radically by Zwingli with ideas of the Eucharist, then finally being vilified as a 'radical' for his belief about baptism. Potter rightly makes the argument that his progression and mobilisation of support in Waldshut is impressive, which only highlights the futility of his death in Vienna, as his beliefs were only on the cusp of religiously radical, by c.1525 standards. Potter deals with the historiographical debate about the anabaptists deriving from Zurich, and also highlights the timidity of Hubmaier personally- which he argues adds to his tragic downfall.