Author: Bruhn, Karen
Date published: June 1, 2010
The Impact of the European Reformation: Princes, Clergy, and People. Edited by Bridget Heal and Ole Peter Grell. St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008. xii+305 pp. $124.95 cloth.
In the introduction to this collection of twelve essays, the editors (quite rightfully) note the increasing partitioning of Reformation scholarship into specific geographical, confessional, and chronological categories. In an effort to counteract that trend, the editors have gathered and grouped these essays (all of which grew out of a series of symposia held at the Open University and the St. Andrews Reformation Institute at St. Andrews University) in such a way that promises to "provide a broad perspective on the impact of the European Reformation(s)" while "reminding us of the need to understand particular developments within a broader European context" (1). Toward that end, the volume has been divided into the three sections indicated in the title, and the four essays within each section explore the effects of religious reform as it pertains to the topic at hand. "Part I: Princes" contains essays that address the political ramifications of Protestant reform, and the essays in "Part II: Clergy" investigate the relationships between the clergy and the laity in the wake of the Reformations. The final four essays fall under the title "Part III: People," which "addresses issues of knowledge and belief (8).
Every one of the entries in this volume offers insight into the various effects of Protestant reform in Europe, and much of the scholarship serves to question and/or further refine established historical narratives. In the "People" section, Margo Todd's excellent essay on the widespread belief in fairies in post-Reformation Scotland demonstrates why we should approach with some suspicion the notion that Protestant reforms brought with them a disenchantment of the natural world. According to Todd, fairy belief provided a cosmology that complemented without competing with a Calvinist worldview. Fairies - amoral, capricious, and inextricably tied to the natural world - allowed folks to understand the amorality and capriciousness of their existence without connecting events to a Calvinist narrative of causality, sin, and redemption. Within the section on "Princes," C. Scott Dixon blurs the boundary that some scholars place between "magisterial" and "radical" reformers when he argues that the political theologies of reformers Balthasar Hubmair, Christoph Schappeler, and Hans Hergo differ in degree - but not in kind - from the more cautious rhetoric of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. Christopher Haigh complicates one of his own prior claims about "Clergy" when he (re)examines the relationship between anti -clerical ism and the Reformation in England. Haigh had maintained that ant-clericalism was not so much a cause for Protestant reform as a result, as an increasingly dogmatic and legalistic clergy alienated the laity with a heavy-handed approach to church discipline. Offering a keen and convincing read of judicial records, Haigh tempers that claim and concludes that "ecclesiastical discipline could be local, personalized, conciliatory and flexible" (140).
Other contributors engage relevant sources with similar expertise and flair. Christine Peters analyzes the 1547 Reformatio ecclesiarum saxonicarum along with the iconography on the east wall of the chapel at Honigberg to explain how rigid standards concerning church discipline could co-exist with a notably flexible attitude toward liturgy and ritual within the Saxon Transylvanian Church. Andrew Pettegree mines the catalogues of books on sale at the Frankfurt Book Fair to argue that the books offered by French printers at the fair not only accommodated Huguenot exiles but also appealed to significant numbers of Francophone German speakers. Pettegree has provided an appendix of French vernacular books at the fair, as transcribed from a composite list published in 1 592. The plentiful municipal archives in Augsburg allow Bernd Roeck to present a diachronic examination of bi-confessionalism in that city from mid-sixteenth century to the end of the Thirty Years' War. Roeck demonstrates how Protestant and Catholic allegiances paralleled existing socioeconomic structures and how political processes shaped (and were shaped by) confessional identities.
Most of these essays do not offer the reader the "wider perspective" promised in the introduction. Without a doubt, Luise Schom-Schütte's article on the "new clergy" in post-Reformation Europe comes closest to delivering on that promise. Drawing from her research on the "Old Reich" as well as synthesizing a host of other scholars' work, Schorn-Schütte is able to offer both a synthetic and diachronic view of the socioeconomic and educational backgrounds of Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy. She argues convincingly that the evangelical ideal of an educated clergy embedded and involved in the lives of parishioners, crossed confessional boundaries, and shaped Roman Catholic as well as Protestant clerical ideals.
Ultimately, the volume does not succeed in counteracting the trend toward the fragmentation of Reformation studies. The entries within the sections do not form any strong thematic coherences, and even placement within each category can seem arbitrary: for example, the editors have placed Michael F. Graham's examination of how clergy in Scotland performed within the political sphere during crises of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the section concerning the clergy; it might as easily been included in the section on politics. The detailed introduction attempts to provide some connections so as to achieve a broader perspective, but the scope of topics is too wide, the entries themselves too focused.
This shortcoming should not deter readers from experiencing this collection's many strengths, however. The essays are of uniformly high quality and offer arguments bom of careful research. Specialists and nonspecialists alike will appreciate the intelligence and clarity with which the authors put forward and defend those arguments.
Arizona State University