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The Age of Reformation

The Age of Reformation

Copyright Date: 1955
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    The Age of Reformation
    Book Description:

    In The Age of Reformation, first published in 1955, E. Harris Harbison shows why sixteenth-century Europe was ripe for a catharsis. New political and social factors were at work-the growth of the middle classes, the monetary inflation resulting from an influx of gold from the New World, the invention of printing, the trend toward centralization of political power. Against these developments, Harbison places the church, nearly bankrupt because of the expense of defending the papal states, supporting an elaborate administrative organization and luxurious court, and financing the crusades. The Reformation, as he shows, was the result of "a long, slow shifting of social conditions and human values to which the church was not responding readily enough. The sheer inertia of an enormous and complex organization, the drag of powerful vested interests, the helplessness of individuals with intelligent schemes of reform-this is what strikes the historian in studying the church of the later Middle Ages."

    Martin Luther, a devout and forceful monk, sought only to cleanse the church of its abuses and return to the spiritual guidance of the Scriptures. But, as it turned out, western Christendom split into two camps-a division as stirring, as fearful, as portentous to the sixteenth-century world as any in Europe's history. Offering an engaging and accessible introductory history of the Reformation, Harbison focuses on the age's key individuals, institutions, and ideas while at the same time addressing the slower, less obvious tides of social and political change. A classic and long out-of-print synthesis of earlier generations of historical scholarship on the Reformation told with clarity and drama, this book concisely traces the outlines, interlocked and interwoven as they were, of the various phases that comprised the "Age of Reformation."

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6854-4
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. v-x)
    Edward Whiting Fox

    THE proposition that each generation must rewrite history is more widely quoted than practiced. In the field of college texts on western civilization, the conventional accounts have been revised, and sources and supplementary materials have been developed; but it is too long a time since the basic narrative has been rewritten to meet the rapidly changing needs of new college generations. In the mid-twentieth century such an account must be brief, well written, and based on unquestioned scholarship and must assume almost no previous historical knowledge on the part of the reader. It must provide a coherent analysis of the...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    THE sixteenth century was an Age of Reformation. In the first place, this means that the century witnessed the Protestant Reformation, that revolt from the Roman Catholic Church led by Martin Luther and others which ended the ecclesiastical unity of western Christendom. This is the common usage of the term, and it was in this sense that Preserved Smith used it a generation ago when he entitled his masterly interpretation of the period, The Age of the Reformation. But there was the Catholic Reformation as well, a movement which the great German historian, Leopold von Ranke, called “the Counter Reformation.”...

  5. CHAPTER I The European World about 1500
    (pp. 3-46)

    AT THE ancient city of Basel the river Rhine, flowing westward from Lake Constance, turns northward to begin its course through Germany to the North Sea. It was here that one of the two great church councils of the fifteenth century had been held. Here one of the famous universities of Europe was located; here John Froben, one of the great printers of the sixteenth century, had his shop; and here Erasmus, the prince of Humanists, spent his later years. Basel was a center of trade and of industry as well as of scholarship and religion. It experienced something of...

  6. CHAPTER II The Religious Upheaval
    (pp. 47-91)

    THE immediate origins of the Protestant Reformation lay in the religious experience of Martin Luther (1483–1546). We will never know precisely what happened to Luther in the years between his becoming a monk in 1505 and his dramatic attack on indulgences in 1517. But we know from his contemporary lecture notes and from his later writings and conversations with friends that he underwent years of harrowing emotional and intellectual tension which finally resulted in a “conversion” experience sometime during these years. The nature of this experience was to determine the main features of Protestant belief and the direction which...

  7. CHAPTER III The Struggle for Power
    (pp. 92-134)

    THE latter half of the sixteenth century witnessed a sharp struggle for power resulting from the convergence of forces liberated by the religious upheavals of the preceding period.

    Europe’s economy was subjected to severe strain by the spectacular rise in prices which began about the middle of the century. The war expenditures and devaluation policies of European governments had something to do with the inflationary movement, but the main cause was the mounting flood of precious metal which poured into Europe from Spanish America after the opening of the fabulously rich silver mines at Potosi in Peru (1545). The influx...

  8. Chronological Summary
    (pp. 135-138)
  9. Suggestions for Further Reading
    (pp. 139-142)
  10. Index
    (pp. 143-146)