The Historiography of the Reformation
The reformation could possibly be described as one of the most significant dividers between Europeans since the dissolving of the Roman Empire. It was an ascending force from the medieval age into a modern age. Though most monarchs were still staunch supporters of the pope, for the first in Western Europe, the Catholic Church was being questioned, protested, and rejected by the peasantry along with the aristocracy. A value over spirituality was beginning to take authority of religion versus the corrupt rituals of the stubborn Romans.
Again, part of the reasons why so many began to rise up with Martin Luther was due to the Church’s corrupt abuses. The selling of indulgences was an outrage to Luther. A lack of reform and understanding led to more frustrations. Having a Latin mass became something of oppression, thus, encouraging Luther to translate the Bible into German, for all his people to read. Luther’s anti-subservient preaching began to inspire the peasants to rise up against their lords in response to the economic burdens of that time. A response to the outdated, feudal tyranny.
In conjunction with this, the reformation also paved the way for forms of nationalism. The Holy Roman Empire was irreversibly weakened, for instance, dividing the territory based on the rulers own faith. A good majority of Germans converted to Protestantism in order to avoid more foreign influence of their principalities. The weakening of the Catholic Church would allow for the Holy Roman Empire to later fall after Napoleon’s decree, leaving a power vacuum for a German Reich to form even later under Bismark’s Prussia. Meanwhile, England, despite Lutheran distain, would become subject to its own religious insurrection, allowing for King Henry VIII to become head of state and church on a theology loosely based on Calvinism, inspired by Luther.
2) The scientific revolution certainly laid the foundation for scientific experimentation. Though at times hindered, the revolution was liberation from the church as it was from old knowledge. Instead of obeying the comforting words of the clergy in order to avoid the strains of the Middle Ages, society was granted freedom to seek out new knowledge that had been in opposition with the church’s findings, such as the bases of a solar-centric universe and a world made of atoms rather than environmental elements. People were encouraged to seek out individual solutions to scientific problems that were more or less dominated by theological belief.
3) The Renaissance was also an insurrection from the Church in many ways. Due to the humanist influence, civilization began to focus on the living world as opposed to providence. Unlike the medieval period, life was not considered a wretched burden to push through in order to reach paradise, but more of a gift to explore while it was still in effect. Such things brought about marvelous portrayals of art and a revisiting of ancient classics such as Greek and Roman philosophy. A more secular approach to life was appearing. This too would encourage Protestantism and later nationalism. Humanism became a basis for the beliefs of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli. In conjunction, Protestantism paved the way for western nationalism during the colonial period and later during the two World Wars. For it was the Roman church that extended through Europe as a savior in the face of the plague and the Crusades, but as the Renaissance evolved, people began to realize that the Pope’s tyranny was an obsolete uniting symbol that could only hinder nations and peasantry.