Peasants' War

Peasants' War, 1524–26, rising of the German peasants and the poorer classes of the towns, particularly in Franconia, Swabia, and Thuringia. It was the climax of a series of local revolts that dated from the 15th cent. Although most of the peasants' demands were economic or political rather than religious, the Reformation sparked the explosion. When the peasants heard the church attacked by Martin Luther and other reformers and listened to traveling preachers expound such doctrines as the priesthood of all believers, they concluded that their cause had divine support and that their grievances would be redressed. At Stühlingen, near the Swiss border, a revolt broke out in 1524. The peasants of Swabia and Franconia organized armies, and within a year the war spread over W and S Germany. Aid was given by some discontented nobles, such as Florian Geyer, Götz von Berlichingen, and Ulrich I, dispossessed duke of Württemberg, as well as by large numbers of townsmen. A program called the Twelve Articles of the Peasantry listed among the demands liberty to choose their own pastors, relief from the lesser tithes, abolition of serfdom, the right to fish and hunt, restoration of inclosed common lands, abolition of death duties, impartiality of the courts, and restriction of the demands of landlords to their just feudal dues. These articles were modified variously to suit local conditions. Some atrocities by the peasants (e.g., the massacre of Weinsberg) marked the war, but those committed by their enemies were worse. The revolt received the blessing of the Swiss reformer Huldreich Zwingli and in Thuringia was led by the radical Anabaptist leader Thomas Münzer. Martin Luther, however, condemned the revolt, thus contributing to its eventual defeat. Lacking unity and firm leadership, the peasant forces were crushed (1525) largely by the army of the Swabian League. It is estimated that 100,000 peasants were killed. In Austria, where the revolt continued until 1526, the peasants won some concessions, but in most areas they suffered continued or increased restrictions and had to pay tribute. The peasants' defeat dissuaded further attempts by the peasantry to improve their social and political position.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The German Peasant's War and Anabaptist Community of Goods
James M. Stayer.
McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994
The Peasant War in Germany
Frederich Engels.
International Publishers, 1926
FREE! The Peasants War in Germany, 1525-1526
E. Belfort Bax.
S. Sonnenschein, 1899
Town, Country, and Regions in Reformation Germany
Tom Scott.
Brill, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Six "South-West German Towns in the Peasants' War: Alliances between Opportunism and Solidarity"
The Reformation World
Andrew Pettegree.
Routledge, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Eight "The German Peasants' War and the Rural Reformation"
Paradigms of Political Change--Luther, Frederick II, and Bismarck: The GDR on Its Way to German Unity
Jan Herman Brinks.
Marquette University Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Part A "Between Unification and Demarcation - The Classical Marxist Writers and Early Social Democrats on German History with Special Reference to the Reformation, Peasants' War, and Prussia"
Luther and the False Brethren
Mark U. Edwards Jr.
Stanford University Press, 1975
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Peasants' War"
The Age of Luther: The Spirit of Renaissance-Humanism and the Reformation
Ida Walz Blayney.
Vantage Press, 1957
Librarian’s tip: "The Peasants' War-1524-1525" begins on p. 193, and "Luther and the Peasants' War" begins on p. 196
FREE! A History of the Reformation
Thomas M. Lindsay.
T. & T. Clark, vol.1, 1907 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IV "From the Diet of Worms to the Close of the Peasants' War"
The Protestant Reformation
H. Daniel-Rops; Audrey Butler.
J. M. Dent & Sons, 1961
Librarian’s tip: "The Peasants' War and the Alliance with the Princes" begins on p. 312
The European Dynastic States, 1494-1660
Richard Bonney.
Oxford University Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: "The Peasants' War in Germany, 1524-1526" begins on p. 393
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