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Seminar 3 - Living in Late Medieval Germany

Discussion topics


  • Did Germany experience an agrarian crisis in the late Middle Ages?
  • How important were the towns?
  • Was peasant life hard?
  • Should historians view cultural life as static or dynamic?

Key source


'The Statement of Grievances presented to the Diet of Worms in 1521', in: G. Strauss (ed.), Manifestations of Discontent in Germany on the Eve of the Reformation (Bloomington, 1971), 52-63, alongside socio-economic passages of the 'Reformatio'


Core secondary reading


B. Kümin, 'The German village', from his The Communal Age in Western Europe (2013),with associated bibliography;




Jamie Page & Les Scales, 'Later Medieval Germany 1250-1520: Bibliography of Works in English'


Further reading (recommended titles in bold)

W. Abel, Agricultural Fluctuations in Europe from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Centuries (1980)

P. Blickle, ‘Peasant revolts in the German empire in the late Middle Ages’, in: Social History 4 (1979)

“ , The Revolution of 1525 (1981), 29-57

O. Brunner, Land and Lordship (1995), esp. ‘Translator’s introduction’ and ch. 5

J. P. Coy, B. Marschke and D. W. Sabean (eds), The Holy Roman Empire, Reconsidered (New York, 2010)

F. R. H. Du Boulay, Germany in the Later Middle Ages (1983)

P. Dollinger, The German Hansa (1970)

E. Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution (1983)

M. Hughes, Early Modern Germany 1477-1806 (Basingstoke, 1992), ch. 2: 'Germany on the eve of the Reformation'

W. Rösener, Peasants in the Middle Ages (1992)

T. Scott, Society and Economy in Germany, 1300-1600 (2002)

R. W. Scribner (ed.), Germany: A New Social and Economic History, vol. 1, 1450-1630 (1996)

G. Strauss (ed.), Pre-Reformation Germany (1972)

J. Whaley, Germany and the Holy Roman Empire (2 vols, Oxford, 2012)


Essay titles


  • How serious and widespread was economic decline in Germany during the period 1350-1500?
  • To what extent did late medieval economic developments alter the structure of German society?
  • How diverse were the social discontents expressed, and their causes, during the century before the Reformation?
  • Was social discontent ‘endemic’ in Germany during the century before the Reformation?


The imperial free city of Nuremberg in the Schedel chronicle of 1494
(source; click to enlarge)