German Peasants' War and Anabaptist Community of Goods

German Peasants' War and Anabaptist Community of Goods

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    German Peasants' War and Anabaptist Community of Goods
    Book Description:

    In the late 1520s persecution drove many Anabaptists to Moravia where, throughout the sixteenth century, they continued the commoners' resistance to privilege in church and state. Stayer argues that in Münster, however, where there had been no Peasants' War and where urban notables were prominent in the Anabaptist leadership, Anabaptist communism was badly corrupted. The historical continuities which Stayer establishes between the Peasants' War and Anabaptism in Switzerland, south Germany, and Moravia can in part explain this contrast.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6295-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    The connection between the German Peasants’ War of 1525 and Anabaptism, which also began in 1525, is controversial. As recently as 1972 Claus-Peter Clasen inAnabaptism, A Social History,a vastly important monument of current Anabaptist research, concluded that there was no significant relationship between the Peasants’ War and Anabaptism.¹ The present work undertakes to establish that Anabaptist community of goods, as it was understood and practised in Switzerland, south and central Germany and Austria, territories which experienced the Peasants’ War, and Moravia, which received Anabaptist refugees from those lands, owes a crucial, if indirect, debt to the Peasants’ War....

    • CHAPTER ONE The Peasants’ War Seen through the Prism of Current Historiography
      (pp. 19-44)

      The uprising of 1525, conventionally named the “German Peasants’War,” was a phenomenon whose tangled root system was political, economic, social and religious. It is so difficult to interpret because,to use Freudian language, it was “overdetermined” - it had entirely too many plausible causes, each of them necessary to the shape it took, but none of them quite sufficient to explain it. For the foreseeable future it will be impossible to do more than suggest a “provisional assessment” of the Peasants’ War, following the exampleof Peter Blickle, now the outstanding scholar in the field. Blickle’sown “provisional assessment” has provoked extensive scholarly...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Radicalization of the Social Gospel of the Reformation, 1524-1527
      (pp. 45-60)

      The German Reformation was accompanied by a “social Gospel” well before the outbreak of the Peasants’ War. It is true that Luther, at least in his 1523 tractVon weltlicher Oberkeit(“On Temporal Au-thority”), had forged a distinction between spiritual and temporallife which implied that the Word of God was not directly relevant to human society.¹ Alert followers, such as Wenzeslaus Link, pastor of Altenburg, digressed from their anti-clerical tirades to warn thefollowers of the Reformation not to seek a merely “fleshly freedom,” as had the Jews who expected a temporal king as their Messiah.² However, another face of the...

    • CHAPTER THREE Anabaptists and Future Anabaptists in the Peasants’ War
      (pp. 61-92)

      In his classic social history of Anabaptism,¹ Claus-Peter Clasen counts only 32 to 37 peasant rebels² among the 3,617 Anabaptists he has identified in the years from 1525 to 1529,³ about one in a hundred. There are some odd omissions: Balthasar Hubmaier, who as pastor of Waldshut enthusiastically endorsed the town’s alliance with the rebels, is not one of Clasen’s thirty-seven. Subsequent scholarship has turned up some new names. But no large number of known Anabaptists can be identified by name as participants in the 1525 upheaval. Nevertheless, most scholars currently active in Anabaptist studies think that there is a...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Swiss Brethren and Acts 4: A Rule of Sharing and a Rule against Exploitation
      (pp. 95-106)

      The first Anabaptists in the Reformation era initiated believers’ baptism in Zurich in January 1525 in an effort to create immediately a complete, uncompromising and uncompromised reformed Church.¹ Persecuted and scattered, rent within and without, they crystallized their sectarian distinctives in the Seven Articles of Schleitheim in February 1527.² From the beginning in Zollikon and St Gallen they referred to themselves as “brothers in Christ.”³ Later, from some time in the 1540s, they were called the “Swiss Brethren,” the name being coined by two other Anabaptist groups that wanted to maintain an identity distinct from them - the Hutterites and...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Anti-Materialistic Piety of Thomas Müntzer and Its Anabaptist Expressions
      (pp. 107-122)

      In the interrogation under torture of Thomas Muntzer the day following the battle of Frankenhausen, he declared that “he undertook the uprising so that all Christians should be equal, and to drive out or kill the princes and lords who would not support the Gospel.” In response to the next question he divulged the names of prominent members of his League for the defence of the Allstedt Reformation, created during his pastorate there. Then, immediately thereafter, he said that the principle and goal of the Allstedt League was “Omnia sunt communia” and that goods should be distributed to everyone according...

    • CHAPTER SIX Anabaptist Münster, 1534-1535: The War Communism of the Notables
      (pp. 123-138)

      Since the 1960s Münster Anabaptism has been the object of new research that has made it less lurid and more intelligible by relating it more successfully to the rest of Melchiorite Anabaptism, the other urban communal reformations and the politics of the Holy Roman Empire. This research has more often than not concentrated on the preconditions that were essential to the Anabaptists’ assumption of power in Münster, but in the process has added much to our grasp of the Anabaptist regime itself. Its approach has been analytical and it has generally avoided moralizing rhetoric and facile comparisons with the bizarre...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Anabaptist Moravia, 1526-1622: Communitarian Christianity in One Country
      (pp. 139-159)

      The united realms of Bohemia and Moravia were formally a part of the Holy Roman Empire but in practice they were an independent kingdom. Because of the legacy of the Hussite Wars, a century earlier than Anabaptist migration, Bohemia and Moravia were almost the only part of western Christendom with a legally secured tradition of tolerating a plurality of confessions.¹ Even before the Reformation Catholics, Utraquists and Bohemian Brothers had lived side by side, certainly not in amity but without religious warfare. In Moravia, particularly, Catholicism was very weak in the early sixteenth century. When Balthasar Hubmaier came to Nikolsburg...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 160-164)

    The Anabaptists’ deal of realizing the prescriptions of Acts 2 and 4 eventually took the form of Christian mutual aid instead of Christian community of goods. This change began very early among the Swiss Brethren, where mutual aid was a matter of assisting needy households in a congregation, as occurs even now among the Swiss Brethren’ most literal descendants, the Old Order Mennonites and the Amish. We might call this the “barn-raising” type of mutual aid. Among the Dutch Mennonites, mutual aid took place in an economic context that can properly be called commercial capitalism; and there it assumed the...

  9. APPENDIX A: Anabaptists in the Peasants’ War
    (pp. 165-167)
  10. APPENDIX B: Fragment of the Lost Chronicle of Gabriel Ascherham
    (pp. 168-172)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 173-220)
  12. Index
    (pp. 221-227)