Barthel Beham, ‘Christ in the Sheep Shed’ (1524), in: Max Geisberg (ed.), Der deutsche EinblattHolzschnitt in der ersten Hälfte des XVI. Jahrhunderts (München: H. Schmidt, 1923)
Module Summary
This leaflet contains basic information on ‘Germany in the Age of the Reformation’.
Full details on seminars and materials can be found on the module website:
1. Context and introduction
The Reformation triggered the single most significant set of transformations in early
modern Europe. Religion and confessional allegiance shaped the social, economic and
political culture of the Continent for centuries to come. The protagonist of the German
Reformation, Martin Luther, is universally recognised as one of the outstanding
historical figures of all times.
‘Germany in the Age of the Reformation’ allows in-depth engagement with one of the
key issues raised by the core module ‘The European World 1500-1750’. It prepares
students for more advanced early modern options in the third year. The module builds
on a curriculum originally designed by Henry Cohn and assumes no knowledge of
German (although, in line with departmental policy, use of foreign languages is
strongly encouraged).
At the close of the Middle Ages, the Holy Roman Empire experienced an age of
unrest. Luther’s new doctrines provided the catalyst for fundamental changes. This
module focuses on the socio-cultural impact of the Reformation. Particular attention is
given to dissemination processes (role of print; visual propaganda; forging Protestant
Churches and identities), the effect on different social groups (Urban / Rural
Reformation; Peasants’ War; gender relations) and confessional tensions (Radical
Reformation; Catholics; Jews). The course concludes with an assessment of the longterm legacies of the German Reformation.
2. Module tutor and contact details:
Prof. Beat Kümin, Office H313. T: (5)24915; e: [email protected]
3. Times and venues
Lectures (weekly, from 1 October): Tuesdays 2-3 pm in …. (venue to be confirmed;
not weeks 6, 16)
Seminars (weekly, from 1 October): EITHER Tuesdays 10-11 (Group Bucer) in …
OR Tuesdays 3-4 in … (Group Luther). See the respective online platforms for details
on tasks and activities.
4. Teaching and learning methods:
The module will be taught through weekly lectures and 1-hour seminars. Participants
are expected to attend classes, read recommended texts in private study and play an
active part in seminars. The latter will give opportunities, as appropriate, for brief
presentations, discussion in break-out groups or formal debates between opposing
sides (facilitated by the Learning Grid). Students write two non-assessed assignments,
one of which can be a book review (with the option to add a mock exam). Individual
tutorials will give feedback on the latter as well as seminar performance. A workshop
on resources and long essay writing will be offered in term 2 and a revision session in
term 3.
5. Writing a Book Review:
An ideal book review should:
summarise the structure, method and main points of the work;
discuss how the author’s arguments fit into other writing on the subject;
comment on the range of sources used and how they contribute to the argument;
explain the strengths and weaknesses of the book from your point of view;
assess whether / how the work will advance relevant debates;
acknowledge other sources of information in footnotes and a bibliography.
It may be helpful to look at other people’s reviews in scholarly journals (many of
which are accessible online through the library catalogue), e.g:
Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte: Literaturbericht; Central European History;
German History; Historische Zeitschrift; History; Journal of Early Modern
History; Sixteenth Century Journal; Zeitschrift für historische Forschung.
Many websites and search engines also give access to reviews and other relevant
materials (see e.g. ‘JStor’ or ‘Reviews in History’).
The following is not a definitive list but merely suggestive of books you might like to
review. If you have other ideas please discuss them with your seminar tutor:
P. Blickle, The Communal Reformation (1992)
Th. A.Brady Jr, The Politics of the Reformation in Germany (1997)
O. Brunner, Land and Lordship (1995)
C. W. Close, The Negotiated Reformation (2009)
C. Scott Dixon, The Reformation and Rural Society (1994)
H.-J. Goertz, The Anabaptists (1996)
H. A. Oberman, Luther: Man between God and Devil (1990)
L. Roper, The Holy Household. Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg (1989)
U. Rublack, Reformation Europe (2005)
R. Scribner, Popular Culture & Popular Movements in Reformation Germany (1987)
G. Strauss, Luther’s House of Learning (1979)
6. Workload and assessment:
Written coursework consists of 2 mandatory non-assessed assignments (EITHER two
2,000-word essays OR one 2,000 word essay and one 1,000 word book review) and
an optional two-question mock exam. The respective submission dates are Friday of
week 8 (autumn term), Tuesday of week 18 (spring term) and Tuesday of week 22
(summer terms).
For assessment, students sit a two-hour, two-question paper and write a 4,500 word
long essay (to be submitted by the departmental deadline specified on the
Undergraduate website). Students should agree an essay title and relevant reading
with the module tutor in the course of the Spring Term. There must be no
‘significant’ overlap with exam questions / long essay topics in any module. For
regulations on deadlines, word length and extensions see the departmental
‘Assessment’ webpage.
The module is based on resources in English, but students with knowledge of German
are encouraged to use it in all assessed and non-assessed work. Consult the module
tutor for appropriate topics and see the online list of ‘Materials in German’.
7. Aims & objectives:
This module highlights the key role of religion in pre-modern society. It provides an
in-depth survey of the country which proved seminal for the development of the
European Reformation. Students will examine the roots as well as the dramatic sociocultural effects of changes in theology and ecclesiastical organization. The
Reformation divided sixteenth-century communities and affected each social / gender
group in particular ways. The module draws on extensive primary and secondary
materials to illustrate how the people of Germany experienced and in turn shaped
these fundamental transformations.
8. Intended learning outcomes:
a) the further development of study, writing, presentation and communication skills,
including the use of visual evidence and e-resources;
b) greater understanding of the importance of religion in early modern society and the
socio-cultural impact of confessional change;
c) the ability, through writing a 4,500-word essay, of presenting a sustained argument
backed by precise and well-chosen evidence drawn from appropriate sources and
secondary literature;
d) developing critical analytical skills through the assessment of historical approaches
often at variance with one another (particularly by participating in debates and writing
a book review);
e) enhanced awareness of the contributions of different historical sub-disciplines –
ecclesiastical history, the historical sociology of religion, gender history, and others –
to an understanding of the Reformation.
Time allowed: 2 hours
Answer TWO questions
Answers should NOT include any significant amount of material already
presented in ANY assessed essays.
Read carefully the instructions on the answer book and make sure that the particulars
required are entered on each answer book.
1. ‘Weak and incapable of reform’. Is this a fair judgement on the Holy Roman
Empire around 1500?
2. Why did many people go on pilgrimages in the late Middle Ages?
3. Which aspect of Luther’s theology had the greatest appeal in sixteenth-century
4. How did the Reformation alter the relationship between the living and the dead?
5. What was the most effective means of communicating the Reformation?
6. ‘In 1525, the German peasants embarked on a “holy war”.’ Do you agree?
7. Did the Reformation make men and women ‘spiritual equals’?
8. What attracted many German princes to the Reformation?
9. Are the religious changes of the 1520s best characterized as a ‘Communal
10. Should the Reformation be seen as a watershed in German history?