Early Modern European -- the Reformation in National Context Edited by Bob Scribner

Article excerpt

The Reformation in National Context. Edited by Bob Scribner, Roy Porter, and Mikulas Teich. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 1994. Pp. x, 236. $54.95 hardcover; 417.95 paperback)

This volume is part of a series that places various cultural movements, such as the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism into their national contexts. Scribner (Poiter's and Teich's roles are not immediately evident) has assembled a stellar, all-European group of experts, each of whom presents both a summary and an interpretation of the Reformation in the light of the latest, confession-surmounting, often socially oriented, and inevitably revisionist historiography--historiography in which many of these authors have themselves played a significant part. As Scribner notes in his summing up (p. 215), the Reformation did have a "distinctive face" in each of its various settings.

All the contributions are of creditable quality. Scribner lists for Germany several features that created "a bundle of enabling preconditions" (p. 15), among them its developed urban life and its superfluity by 1520 of university educated men who were discontented with the humble positions available to them and the corrupt ecclesiastical system. In his list of twelve characteristics of reform (pp. 15-25), he includes gender differences and communal impulses. In Switzerland (Kaspar von Greyen) too the Reformation was chiefly an urban movement, often resisted in the countryside; from its inception it subjected its adherents to strict discipline and moral control, using matrimonial courts in the service of the latter.

Mark Greengrass places the Huguenots in a heavily political milieu. He hints that the French Reformation might have gained wider popular support had not its neo-Stoic leaders been deeply afraid of disorder. Writing of the Low Countries, Wiebe Berssma contests the rapid Protestantization of Pieter Geyl and L.J. Rogier, according to which the state imposed reform on the populace. Calvinism spread slowly and with difficulty. Lacking a state church, many people refused to make a choice. Patrick Collinson gives us a historiographic capsule on the English Reformation. He reaffirms the "late Reformation," aided in its evolution by the words of Cranmer's traditional, yet Protestant liturgy. …


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