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Seminar 13: Deciding on faith in sixteenth-century cities

Discussion topics:

- Why did most imperial free cities adopt the Reformation, but some not?

- What were the pros & cons of changing your religion?

- Who made this important decision?


Priority reading

Blickle, Communal Reformation, esp. ch. 3: 'Burghers' Reformation'; Moeller, Imperial Cities; Scribner, 'Why was there no Reformation in Cologne?' [pdf download]

Essay titles

  • Assess the late medieval roots of the urban Reformation in Germany.
  • Why was the early Reformation so successful in German towns?
  • To what extent did theological doctrines reflect the socio-political background of the reformers?
  • Was the German Reformation an ‘urban event’?

Recommended reading:

Blickle, P., The Communal Reformation: The Quest for Salvation in 16thC Germany (1992)

Brady, T. A. Jr, Ruling Class, Regime and Reformation at Strasbourg 1520-55 (1978)

Chrisman, M. U., Strasbourg and the Reform (1967)

Christ, Martin, 'The Failure of the Reformation in Schwäbisch-Gmünd', in: Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research 5 (1/2012)

" , 'The Town Chronicle of Johannes Hass: History Writing and Divine Intervention in the Early Sixteenth Century', in: German History 35 (1/2017), 1-20 [advance online publication, December 2016]

Close, C. W., The Negotiated Reformation: Imperial Cities and the Politics of Urban Reform 1525-1550 (2009)

Dickens, A. G., The German Nation and Martin Luther (1974)

Grimm, H., Lazarus Spengler: A Lay Leader of the Reformation [Nuremberg] (1978)

Hamm, B., Lazarus Spengler (Tübingen, 2004) [in German]

Moeller, B., Imperial Cities and the Reformation: Three Essays (1972)

Ozment, S.,The Reformation in the Cities: The Appeal of Protestantism to Sixteenth-Century Germany and Switzerland (1975)

Scribner, R. W., ‘Why was there no Reformation in Cologne?’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 49 (1976)

Schilling, H., ‘The Reformation in the Hanseatic Cities’, Sixteenth Century Journal 14 (1983)


Inscription commemorating the beginning of the Reformation at the Grossmünster church in Zurich (pic: Christian Bickel, 2007)


St Lorenz Nuremberg

West facade of St Laurence, Nuremberg, one of the imposing parish churches of this imperial free city. Pic: Jailbird 2006 (Creative Commons)