Religion and Culture in Germany (1400-1800)

Religion and Culture in Germany (1400-1800)

Religion and Culture in Germany (1400-1800)

Religion and Culture in Germany (1400-1800)


The late Bob Scribner was one of the most original and provocative historians of the German Reformation. His truly pioneering spirit comes to light in this collection of his most recent essays.

In the years before his death, Scribner explored the role of the senses in late medieval devotional culture, and wondered how the Reformation changed sensual attitudes. Further essays examine the nature of popular culture and the way the Reformation was institutionalised, considering Anabaptist ideals of the community of goods, literacy and heterodoxy, and the dynamics of power as they unfold in a case of witchcraft.

The final section of the book consists of three iconoclastic essays, which, together, form a sustained assault on the argument first advanced by Max Weber that the Reformation created a rational, modern religion. Scribner shows that, far from being rationalist and anti-magical, Protestants had their own brand of magic. These fine essays are certain to spark off debate, not only among historians of,the Reformation, but also among art historians and anyone interested in the nature of culture.


'Popular belief ' has been perhaps the most signi ficant growth area in historical studies of late-medieval and early modern Europe over the past two decades. The bookshelves of a university academic teaching this subject would have contained perhaps half a dozen major works on it at the beginning of the 1980s. Two decades later that number would have been well over a hundred, comprised largely of basic teaching books rather than those of interest only to a specialist researcher. The growth in interest has developed from four directions: studies of medieval religion, heavily infl uenced by the Annales school; Reformation studies exploring the origins, nature and progress of religious reform; anthropological history; and studies of popular culture which focus on phenomena such as rituals and festivals, enriched by the more recent variant in this field, the study of daily life and material culture.

It is advisable to begin with some de finitions, and to identify some associated problems for discussion. 'Popular belief ' is a controversial term because of the ambiguity of the word 'popular', although it should cause no more than passing difficulty if we use it inclusively to mean the belief of the population in the broadest sense. 'Belief ' is less problematic, despite some sceptical voices who claim that we will never know about the belief of the past. 'Popular belief ' involves attention to four broad areas: the mentality of past populations, their cosmology, their experience of daily life and their unspoken assumptions about the nature and meaning of life in this world and the next. Some of these areas may seem scarcely susceptible of historical exploration, although the methodologies adopted by historians of popular belief have become increasingly sophisticated and have helped to illuminate many of them in ways previously unconsidered. In the essay that follows, I shall concentrate on a small number of key issues crucial for our understanding of popular belief: the material or 'inner-worldly' basis of belief; the 'other world' and the supernatural; official and unofficial religion; social strati fication and belief; gender and belief; and power and belief. The emphasis throughout will fall on elements of continuity from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, without losing sight of the considerable changes . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.