Convents Confront the Reformation: Catholic and Protestant Nuns in Germany

Convents Confront the Reformation: Catholic and Protestant Nuns in Germany

Convents Confront the Reformation: Catholic and Protestant Nuns in Germany

Convents Confront the Reformation: Catholic and Protestant Nuns in Germany

Excerpt

Toward the end of his life, after he had been teaching church history for over 50 years, the well-known Reformation scholar Roland Bainton turned his attention from the men who had transformed religion in the sixteenth century to the women who had assisted them and opposed them. He published three books, Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy, Women of the Reformation in France and England, and Women of the Reformation from Spain to Scandinavia. In many ways these mark the beginning of scholarship on women and the Reformation, and they also reflect the state of women's history during the early 1970s, the initial period of its recent expansion. The earliest studies of women — including Bainton's — tended to be biographical and focused on great women, on "women worthies" as the early modern historian Natalie Zemon Davis has termed them. Bainton's books, for example, are biographical sketches mostly of queens, noblewomen, and wives of prominent reformers. These women shaped the Reformation largely through their influence on their husbands or their position as rulers of territories during times of religious turmoil.

In the twenty-five years since Bainton's first book was published, women's history has matured as a field. The kinds of women now studied by historians are no longer simply "women worthies," but are also ordinary women living normal lives and ordinary women acting in extraordinary ways. The kinds of questions historians now ask are no longer simply "What did women contribute to such-and-such an event?" but also "What did this event mean for women of different classes and races? How was women's experience different from men's? How did women perceive things differently from men, and differently from other women?" To answer these questions, historians have both used well-known sources in new ways and discovered new sources which reveal women's experiences.

This book is an outgrowth of the search for new sources which reveal the experience of women during the Reformation period. It includes all or parts of four works, three of which have not been reprinted since their original publication in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, and none of which has been previously translated into English. All of them were written entirely or in part by women, and by women of a particular type — those who were, or who had until . . .

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