One Reformationsforschung in Europa und Nordamerika / Reformation Research in Europe and North America: A Historical Assessment






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Publication: Church History
Author: Hillerbrand, Hans J
Date published: December 1, 2011

doi:10.1017/S00096407H001375 One Reformationsforschung in Europa und Nordamerika / Reformation Research in Europe and North America: A Historical Assessment. Edited by Anne Jacobson Schutte, Susan C. KarantNunn, and Heinz Schilling. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2009. 390 pp. euro89.00 paper.

Bibliographies are an indicator of the liveliness of scholarship, and they have become even more indispensible in recent years as guides to the ever increasing number of scholarly publications, both monographs and journal articles. Given this staggering production, it has nowadays become more complicated to be conversant with what is going on in a field, which limits, of course, the ability to form opinions and judgments about the state of scholarship and its ftiture prospects. Bibliographies are especially helpful when presented as review essays or with annotations.

In tbe field of Reformation studies, the annual literature survey (Literaturbericht) of the Archive for Reformation History - a wonderful illustration for a bibliographie raisonnče - has been an enormous scholarly tool for historians and theologians working in the field. Accordingly, one welcomes the decision of the German and North American editors of the Archive to celebrate the centennial of the journal with a comprehensive bibliography of scholarship on the Reformation during the past generation, thereby offering at once a salient inventory of the state of the field. The result is a volume of almost 400 pages, an even quantitatively impressive length that will inevitably trigger the response that scholarship on the Reformation î's, indeed, alive and well, perhaps more so than at any time in the past - this present reviewer's concerns, voiced in an essay in this journal several years ago, notwithstanding.

With the exception of three topical essays (on Catholicism, gender, and theology), the essays in the volume attempt to cover the field of Reformation studies along geographic lines. Each essay surveys Reformation scholarship in a particular country during the last half-century. Not surprisingly, therefore, we have a long list of essays on European countries, some, such as the Czech and Slovak republics, not ordinarily considered citadels of Reformation scholarship. Nonetheless, this conceptualization enhances the awareness of the often overlooked international richness of Reformation scholarship, assuredly a most welcome feature of the book under review. Gone are the days when scholarship on the Reformation was viewed as nothing but a trip up and down the Rhine. There are some inexplicable modifications of this geographic conceptualization, such as the inclusion of the dynamic (and controversial) Finnish Reformation scholarship in the essay on Scandinavia. Also, both the Netherlands and France are covered in two essays each for reasons not altogether clear (at least to this reviewer). The eighteen authors are a mixture of distinguished scholars in the field (Thomas Kaufmann, Tom Brady, David Loades, Silvana Seidel Mancha, and others) and younger scholars.

As is inevitable in massive undertakings of this sort, the quality of the individual contributions differs. Conceptually, not all essays rise to the level of the essays by Tom Brady and Thomas Kaufmann. Brady, the dean of American Reformation historians, focuses on the bibliographic vision of the Reformation as social history. He does so with the insight and expertise we have come to expect from him, but - no matter how insightful - there is a downside to this well-informed essay. What might be called "church-historical" and theological studies tend to be absent; the impressive work of Randall Zachman, Ronald Rittgers, Amy Bnrnett, Carlos Eire, or Richard Muller, to name but a few scholars, is not given the centrality their work deserves. One is left with the impression that little theological scholarship of note has been published in recent decades. The (topical) essay by Christoph Burger on theological studies tends to confirm this sentiment, for it is far too brief and far too limited to cover the important theological studies of recent decades. Thus, Dorothea Wendebourg's study on the memorial aspect of the Lord's Supper in key reformers, for example, or Thomas Kaufmann's detailed study on the Strassburg theologians and the Lord's Supper, are missing. The essay on Reformation scholarship in French-speaking Switzerland is to a large extent an encomium to the work of Pierre Frankel.

Also, the geographic format of the volume, with each essay focusing on the scholarship in a particular country, means that transnational scholarship on broad phenomena of the Reformation era is not cohesively presented. A good illustration is the treatment of the Anabaptists and other "radicals" of the sixteenth century, which is found in snippets in the essays on American, Swiss, and Dutch scholarship; the vitality of this aspect of Reformation scholarship, especially its revisionist wing, is thereby not captured. Intriguingly, there are no references to the highly important reference works and source collections on the Anabaptist movements that made this scholarship possible (Mennonite Encyclopedia, Bibliography of Anabaptism, Täuferakten, Bibliothecum Dėssėdentėum, and so forth). Similarly, the richness of Catholic scholarship on the sixteenth century does not seem to be fully covered. One notes, for example, the absence of John O'Malley's essay on conceptualizing sixteenth-century Catholicism.

Moreover, the principle of providing annotations is not followed through consistently in the essays. Some put the annotations into the footnote apparatus, while others confine themselves to enumeration of titles. These are regrettable lacunae, which mar, despite the strengths of some of the individual essays, the quality of the volume. A heavier-handed editorial policy might have been helpful (a tricky proposition, to be sure, as authors always insist that they know better than editors). All the same, the basic contours of what has happened in Reformation scholarship in the past generation - the revisionism of the English Reformation and Anabaptist origins; the impact of social history; the fascination with the East German paradigm of the "early bourgeois revolution; the new topics in Luther scholarship, to name but a few - come through loud and clear.

Author affiliation:

Hans J. Hillerbrand

Duke University

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