The Negotiated Reformation: Imperial Cities and the Politics of Urban Reform, 1525-1550.
Cities played an important role in the Protestant Reformation in the Holy Roman Empire. Evangelical preachers and theologians found support for their ideas among urban populations, and towns such as Wittenberg, Zurich, Strasbourg, and Geneva arose as key Protestant centers and provided models for other communities to follow. Martin Luther's 1526 baptism ordinance for Wittenberg demonstrates that city's potency as a model for reform. A number of towns in Brandenburg-Nuremberg, Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, and Pomerania adopted the Wittenberg ceremony for their churches.
Historians have taken great interest in the towns because of the important role urban centers played in spreading the Reformation. Christopher Close offers a fresh examination of cities in the Holy Roman Empire in his book The Negotiated Reformation. He notes that, traditionally, scholars have employed three approaches to understanding the Reformation in the towns. Seeking to explain the appeal of evangelical ideas, historians have focused on reform from above, driven by civic and clerical leaders, or reform from below, as popular movements instigated by inhabitants. A third model, known as communal reform, has attempted to bring these two approaches together by considering the complex mixture of factors within a community, both from above and below, that led to Protestant changes. Close provides a new perspective in his book, asserting that, in addition to the internal dynamics within the city, pressure from outside also influenced urban ecclesiastical policy. In particular, he asserts that a town could influence the Reformation in other cities. Close labels this approach "negotiated reform," in which he explores the influence of external towns and the complex web of relationships that shaped a city's internal reform process (6). Thus he takes a broader approach to the question of urban reform by moving beyond the internal dynamics and examining the interconnectedness between municipalities that shaped ecclesiastical policy.
Close focuses on the imperial cities of Eastern Swabia in this book, examining how existing political affiliations, personal networks, and intercommunication between the towns influenced the Reformation in the region. Based on extensive archival research, the author explores the relationships between principal communities, demonstrating the impact cities had on the reform movements in the imperial towns Donauworth and Kaufbeuren. Close begins his study by exploring the key political and religious networks that connected Swabian towns in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The politics of the Swabian League, Three Cities' League, and Schmalkaldic League established a pattern of communication and cooperation between the urban centers, and these networks carried over into the religious changes brought by the Protestant Reformation. For example, civic leaders in Augsburg sent the preacher Wolfgang Musculus to Donauworth to strengthen reforms in that city. Donauworth's acceptance of Augsburg reforms was a condition to its entrance into the Three Cities' League. Understanding these networks in Eastern Swabia and how they shaped the religious policy is important, according to Close, because it leads to a clearer picture of urban reform and helps to explain the Reformation in imperial cities.
Close demonstrates the complex nature of urban reform in Eastern Swabia, shaped by internal dynamics as well as external pressure from other cities. Two questions deserve further consideration. The first concerns the influence of education networks, especially the particular universities that trained preachers in Eastern Swabia, and the extent to which these educational connections made an impact on reforms in the towns? In addition, to what extent did traditional religious affiliations, such as the Augsburg diocese, influence religious change? Although Close does not address these questions in his study, he provides a strong argument for "negotiated reform" and the complexity of sixteenth-century imperial cities. This approach to urban reform can be used to better understand the Reformation in princely territories too, where intercity communication and alliances contributed to religious changes. Although the political networks of imperial cities differed
from those towns within princely estates (Landstadte), the communities experienced similar combinations of internal and external pressure to reform. In the state of Hesse, for example, ecclesiastical leaders in Marburg influenced reform in other towns in the territory. The Schultheiss, the chief official appointed by princes to oversee administrative districts (Amter), also shaped how communities carried out reform, particularly the reapportionment of church lands and the paying of ministers' salaries. Thus Close offers a useful model that goes beyond just examining imperial cities and can help scholars understand territorial reform too.
The strength of Close's study is his re-evaluation of urban reform, which leads to a better understanding of the Reformation's appeal in towns. This book will be particularly useful to scholars interested in the Holy Roman Empire and cities in the sixteenth century. Moving away from the top-down or bottom-up approach, he demonstrates a more complex process for reform shaped by internal concerns among burghers and civic leaders, as well as external pressure that reflects intercommunication and association between imperial cities.
Michael S. Springer
University of Central Oklahoma
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|Author:||Springer, Michael S.|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2011|
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