Politics or Religion? The Reformation in Perth, 1540-1570

Politics or Religion? The Reformation in Perth, 1540-1570

Politics or Religion? The Reformation in Perth, 1540-1570

Politics or Religion? The Reformation in Perth, 1540-1570

Excerpt

Recent developments in Reformation historiography have infused new life into the subject. Amongst the most exciting approaches to this topic are studies that describe the Reformation as a social or political movement and those which show the many different ways in which townspeople were drawn to the message of reform. While some studies have suggested that the Reformation altered the status of particular social groups, be they families, peasants, women, artisans or patricians, others have assigned a secondary role to religion, finding in one of the forementioned explanations a more fundamental determinant underlying the 'crisis' of the sixteenth century which turned the medieval world upside down.

Most scholars of the age would probably agree that the Reformation was not simply a religious movement. Although religion centred prominently in the upheaval, the Reformation must be viewed as multi-faceted. The Reformers themselves questioned not only such concepts as the nature of justification, authority, the sacraments and church polity, but in exposing these concepts to close scrutiny, the religious outlooks and practices of men and women were changed. As a result, new attitudes towards life in society were brought into consciousness. It may not have been the intention of the early Reformers to raise such questions, yet within their own lifetimes, people like Erasmus or Luther saw the religious reform movement move substantially beyond their initial doubts.

Once having been aroused, the discussion regarding religious reform was quickly imbued with peripheral questions about the lawful rule of Christian princes and of social justice. This resulted in what has been described by Euan Cameron as a 'series of parallel movements; within each of which various sorts of people with differing perspectives combined forces', and in that 'blending … of reformers' protests and laymen's political ambitions' the essence of the Reformation is to be found.

The new vigour injected into Reformation studies dates back to 1965, when Bernd Moeller made the bold suggestion that the Reformation should be set in a historical context and should not be confined solely to theological debate. Almost a decade later Professor A. G. Dickens proposed that the Reformation was an 'urban event' touching off a plethora of 'Reformation in the Cities'

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