Important elements to remember when writing your historical overview on Europe prior to the German Reformation is that the rise of Nation States marked the end of the 30 Years War that reshaped the boarders and territories that divided Protestants and Catholics. This led the way for three separate European Reformations, one for the Germans, another for the French and the finally the British Reformation. However, remember when writing your research paper on the German Reformation, do not get distracted by the two other reformations, which is easy to do since they occurred during the same time and had similar themes. Stay focused on the German Reformation and its tie to Martin Luther, the famous Catholic turned Protestant Reformer.
Themes of German Reformation
Themes of the German Reformation that your research paper will want to focus on include both the spiritual and political reforms taking place. Remember that Germany wasn’t the great nation it is today. Back in the 1500’s, Germany was independently controlled by the church of Rome and was a collection of duchies. Where you can introduce Martin Luther into the political history of the German Reformation is that he wanted Germany to be controlled by local authorities instead of by an entity found far away and not in touch with the German people’s ideals. The interest of the peasants lies in relief from the domineering and demanding church. Luther points out that freedom of the physical body is not worth anything without freedom of the soul. Luther writes, “What can it profit the soul that the body should be in good condition, free, and full of life; that it should eat, drink, and act according to its pleasure; when even the most impious slaves of every kind of vice are prosperous in these matters?”. The peasants and Luther wanted accountability in the church and leaders of the state.
Characters of the German Reformation
In as far as revolt is concerned, the peasants used Luther as a tool of their revolt. This is not to say that the peasants were not interested in Christian issues, but they appear to be secondary to the issues of governing with the community. In fact, the peasants’ interest within the church was such that one of the critical difficulties with church doctrine for the peasants was that it made the common people mere “subjects” of the priest, rather than “partners of the priest”. This communal reformation with regard to the interactions begins prior to the Reformation and reaches its height when the Reformation is beginning. This would indicate that the Reformation was a reaction to the changes that had already taken place with regard to the social revolution that occurs.
Perhaps, attempting to determine whether the religious changes of the Reformation belong to Luther or the rebels may be impossible. The evidence that is available appears that the Reformation was a social revolution that involved one of the primary features of society, religion. Thus, Luther’s troubles with the church at this time were merely the reflection of the environment in which he lived, or rather, the Zeitgeist of the times. Luther merely reflected this Zeitgeist in religious ideology.