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Level 5

5AAT2026 Religion, Culture and Society in Reformation Europe

THIS MODULE IS NOT RUNNING IN 2019-20

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee this module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr David Crankshaw
Assessment: One 2,000 word essay (40%) and one 2-hour examination (60%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching arrangements: Two-hour weekly classes over ten weeks.
Pre-requisites: none

The Reformation, which began with Martin Luther in early sixteenth-century Germany, was one of the great turning-points of modern European history, splitting Catholic Christendom and giving rise to many different strands of Protestantism. For centuries, it was studied either by confessionally-driven theologians, for whom only the ideas counted, or by equally confessionally-committed historians, for whom institutional developments, and the ways in which they interacted with high politics, were the principal points of interest. But all of that has changed over the last forty years. New generations of scholars, most with no ideological axe to grind, have broken out of various disciplinary straightjackets to try to understand the Reformation in its complex social and cultural contexts. They are asking exciting new questions. What were the reformers attempting to achieve? What mechanisms did they adopt in seeking to get their messages across? How was the role of the clergy re-defined? What did evangelical ideas mean to women, to children and to those living in the cities? How did the Reformation intersect with the educational revolution of the sixteenth century? How did it affect attitudes to religious art and music? What were Catholic responses? Indeed, was the Roman Catholic Church adapting to new pressures largely independently of the emergence of Protestantism, such that it is legitimate to speak of a ‘Catholic Reformation’? How helpful is the concept of ‘confessionalization’ as an interpretative tool for historians of this era of rapid and dramatic change?

Using primary sources extant from the period, in English translation if necessary, this one-semester module addresses such issues in a mixture of lecture and seminar formats. With a broad chronological span, and a geographical scope stretching across much of Western Europe, it offers the stimulating intellectual challenge of learning how to relate key theological concepts to the experiences of the people, in all their diversity.

Sample topics

  • Introducing the Reformation period: primary sources exercise
  • Religion and celibacy, marriage, sex and the family
  • Women and religion
  • Religion, education and youth
  • The clergy and pastoral care
  • Religion and the arts
  • Liturgical changes: the shape, sound and sight of worship
  • Religion, health care and poor relief
  • Religion, popular culture and social control
  • The early modern ‘witch craze’
  • Confessionalization and its critics

Preliminary reading

1. Essential background reading (for students who did not take 5AAT2024 last year)

  • Dixon, C.S., The Reformation in Germany (2002)
  • Oberman, H.A., Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (English edn, 1989)

2. Further reading (for students who did take 5AAT2024 last year)

  • Burke, P., Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (revised edn, 1994)
  • Pettegree, A. (ed.), The Reformation World (2000)
  • Pettegree, A., Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion (2005)

Further information

Module aims
  • to facilitate an understanding of the nature and significance of certain key cultural and social ramifications of both the Protestant Reformation and what is termed either the ‘Catholic Reformation’ or the ‘Counter Reformation’.
  • to encourage students to develop the capacity critically to assess modern historians’ interpretations of those ramifications.
  • to encourage students to develop the capacity critically to assess selected primary sources.
  • to encourage students to improve their analytical, argumentative and presentational skills, both orally and on paper.
  • to provide a foundation for those students who wish to take other modules in religious history, particularly of the Reformation period.
Learning outcomes

Generic skills

  • The capacity to plan and execute research at a level appropriate to a Level 5 module.
  • The capacity to engage critically with primary and secondary sources.
  • The capacity to present well-reasoned and well-structured historical arguments, supported by relevant evidence, both orally and on paper.

Module specific skills

  • The capacity to identify, and to explain the significance of, certain key cultural and social ramifications of both the Protestant Reformation and what is termed either the ‘Catholic Reformation’ or the ‘Counter Reformation’.
  • The capacity critically to assess modern historians’ interpretations of those ramifications.
  • The capacity critically to assess selected primary sources.
Past syllabi

Please see the Teaching Plan here. 

Previous syllabus document available on request from trs@kcl.ac.uk

Please note that module syllabus and topics covered may vary from year to year.

 

 

module availability
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