Religious Warfare in Europe, 1400-1536

Article excerpt

Religious Warfare in Europe, 1400-1536. By Norman Housley. (New York: Oxford University Press. 2002. Pp. ix, 238.)

Norman Housley, who has already published extensively on the crusades in the later Middle Ages, has now written an analysis of the relation of religion to armed violence from the end of the Middle Ages to the beginning of the modern world. He argues that the crusades and a crusading mentality did not end with the fall of Acre in 1291, but continued on through the early modern world. Furthermore, he argues that radical reformers, beginning with the Hussites and including the early Protestant reformers, adopted violence as part of their efforts at reform, demonstrating that religious warfare was not restricted to crusades against infidels but could be employed in wars among Christians as well. Thus, he sees the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as a single period, one of the themes of which was the development of the role of religion in the wars that characterized the era.

For Housley, the Hussite wars of the early fifteenth century formed "A Crucible of Religious Warfare," marking the beginning of a new kind of religious war, leading to wars in which both parties were Christians employing religious language and symbols (p. 33). The crusades against the Hussites represented the traditional kind of religious war. There were, however, three new kinds of religious war initially found among the Hussites: "war in defence of a purified set of religious beliefs"; the "uncompromising form of combat waged by Taborite and Orebit brotherhoods"; and finally, "the apocalyptic and purgative violence used by the chiliasts" (p. …