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Reformation Change

Tutor: Beat Kümin


This session will look at some of the momentous changes experienced in the period as a result of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations. It will focus on a number of key aspects: the late medieval background; the similarities / differences of religious change in various regional settings; and the longer-term political and socio-cultural impact. Alongside, we will consider how scholars have interpreted the wider implications of these events (dawn of modernity, rise of tolerance, transformation of gender relations, disenchantment, state building / confessionalization …) and reflect on the respective roles of individuals (like Hus, Luther, Zwingli …), theological ideas (prayers for the dead, sola fide, predestination …) and structural factors (feudal / communal / capitalist organization, urbanization, print technology). The aim is to gain an impression of the continuing fascination of this ‘classic’ field of early modern studies and to lay some foundations for those of you going on to our option on ‘Religious Cultures’.

Fishing for Souls Rijksmuseum

Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne, 'Fishing for Souls' (1614). Open Access from Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.


Seminar Questions

  • What, if anything, was wrong with late medieval religion?
  • To what extent did individuals, ideas and / or regional settings shape the course of events?
  • How useful are existing scholarly interpretations?
  • Should we properly speak of the Reformation or of Reformations?


Preparatory Tasks

From the list of works below, all please read the ‘core’ background chapter by Duffy PLUS either one regional case study or one of the conceptual titles, using these texts to shed light on the seminar questions.


Core Background Reading

Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 (2nd edn, New Haven, 2005), chapter 4: ‘Corporate Christians’


General Surveys

Robert Bireley, The Refashioning of Catholicism, 1450-1700 (Basingstoke, 1999)

Euan Cameron, The European Reformation (2nd edn, Oxford, 2012)

Simon Ditchfield, ‘Catholic Reformation and Renewal’, in: P. Marshall (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Reformation (Oxford, 2015), 152-

Beat Kümin (ed.), The European World 1500-1800 (London, any edn), part 3: ‘Religion’

Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490-1700 (London, 2004)

Peter Marshall, The Reformation: A Very Short Introduction (2009)

Ulinka Rublack (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations (Oxford, 2017) & Protestant Empires: Globalizing the Reformations (Cambridge, 2020)


Regional Contexts

N. Burnett and E. Campi (eds), A Companion to the Swiss Reformation (Leiden, 2016)

C. Scott Dixon, The Reformation in Germany (Oxford, 2002)

Mark Greengrass, The French Reformation (Oxford, 1986)

Ole P. Grell, The Scandinavian Reformation: From Evangelical Movement to Institutionalization of Reform (Cambridge, 1995)

Peter Marshall, Reformation England (3rd edn, London, 2022)

R.W. Scribner, R. Porter and M. Teich (eds), The Reformation in National Context (Cambridge, 1994)


Impact & Interpretations

Peter Blickle, The Communal Reformation: The Quest for Salvation in Sixteenth-Century Germany, trans. Th. Dunlap (Atlantic Highlands, 1992)

Scott Dixon, Contesting the Reformation (Oxford, 2012) & ‘Reformations’, in idem & Beat Kümin (eds), Interpreting Early Modern Europe (London, 2019)

Ben Kaplan, Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge MA, 2007)

Ute Lotz Heumann, ‘Confessionalization’, in David M. Whitford (ed.), Reformation and Early Modern Europe: A Guide to Research (University Park PA, 2008)

Andrew Pettegree, Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion (Cambridge, 2005)

Lyndal Roper, The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg (Oxford, 1989)

W. Scribner, ‘The Reformation, Popular Magic and the “Disenchantment of the World”’, in: idem, Religion and Culture in Germany, ed. L. Roper (Leiden, 2001): 346-65

Peter G. Wallace, The Long European Reformation: Religion, political conflict, and the search for conformity, 1350-1750 (Basingstoke, 2004)

Max Weber, The Protestant ethic and the "spirit" of capitalism and other writings, ed./trans. by Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells (New York, 2002)