April 2005


Introduction Initial Contributions Discussion Reviews & Bibliography



We have formulated this forum topic as one with the potential of bridging the early modern/modern divide and also of serving our growing audience of early modernists. Below you will read an introduction to the theme, a discussion of its audiences, a list of planned contributors, and some relevant additional bibliography. We look forward to your comments and contributions.

I. What is "confessionalization"?

Since the 1980s, a growing group of historians and theologians have embraced the term "confessionalization" as a means for discussing the religious, political and cultural developments that spread as a consequence of the European Reformations in the later sixteenth century. In its simplest form, it refers to the consolidation and advancement of the development of the three confessions (Catholic, evangelical and Reformed Churches) in terms of religious doctrine, relationships with the state and developing religious identities, particularly in Germany but also in other parts of Europe and its empires. This idea, which has attained a paradigmatic status, offered scholars a welcome respite over terminological debates in their subfields. In a series of three conferences in the 1980s that led to published volumes, the Verein für Reformationsgeschichte explored the meaning of the term and its consequences for explaining early modern history in Germany. Wolfgang Reinhard provided a series of provocative speculations about the relationship of confessional developments to emerging modernity. In 1991, Heinz Schilling pointed out the reasons why suddenly it seemed that early modernists were rushing to study a period largely ignored by Reformation historians. This development was not uncontested, however; as quickly as scholars accepted what has grown to be a new consensus, critics of the synthesis emerged.

II. Why modernists should care about "confessionalization"

"Early modern" Germany is the modernist's other, and this has been the case at least since the debates over the Sonderweg stalled. As that debate pointed out, however, it is not simple to draw the boundaries between German modernity and early modernity. One of the most important contributions of the confessionalization paradigm has been to reinsert religion into the narrative of German modernity, an approach that has been quite fruitful. At the same time, however, similar questions raised by the paradigm have gone almost unasked, as for example, the relationship of German absolutisms to the German nineteenth and twentieth century. Thinking about confessionalization may help modernists to ask these questions from new perspectives.

III. Purpose and content of the forum

The purpose of our symposium is to examine both the theory and its critics to assess both how far early modernists have come in the last decades and to stake out new territories for research. Additionally, however, the editors hope that a discussion over this topic will draw out some of the connections between modern German history and its early modern "other."


The forum will launch on


We will begin our forum with a series of reviews that take a recent brief textbook summary intended for German undergraduates as a starting-off point for discussing the history and meaning of the debates, in both their details and their larger significance.
The text (available from the publisher and the usual outlets for German books) is:
  Stefan Ehrenpreis and Ute Lotz-Heumann. Reformation und konfessionelles Zeitalter. Kontroversen um die Geschichte. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2002. 138 pp. Bibliography and index. EUR 16,50 (paper). ISBN 3-534-14774-X.
In contrast to past debates, however, we do not expect the discussion to be limited to the contents of this this book, which is intended primarily as an introduction for those unfamiliar with the idea. We hope that early modern experts will intervene in the discussion with their expertise, and we hope that modernists will ask questions not only about how this research strand relates to their own work and teaching, but about how it can be understood, analyzed and critiqued from the modern perspective.
We welcome any comments, criticism, or suggestions you may have and look forward to a productive exchange.

Susan Boettcher
Eve Duffy
Christopher Fischer
Will Gray
David Imhoof
Paul Steege
H-German Editors

Initial Contributions


Monday, 18 April 2005
  H-German Editors FORUM: EdQ: Straddling the modern/early-modern divide


Monday, 16 May 2005
  John Holloran Re: FORUM: Confessionalization view
Sunday, 1 August 2004
  John Harvey Re: FORUM: Confessionalization view
  Andrew Gow Re: FORUM: Confessionalization view

Reviews and supplemental bibliography

Links to relevant H-German Reviews

Amy Nelson Burnett on Philip Benedict, Christ's Churches Purely Reformed

William Schrader on Thomas Brady, Jr., Politics of the Reformation in Germany

Henry Cohn on Richard Cahill, Philipp of Hesse and the Reformation

Joel Harrington on Miriam Chrisman, Conflicting Visions of Reform

Thomas Bach on David Crowner et al., The Spirituality of the German Awakening

Dean Bell on Achim Detmers, Reformation und Judentum

Kathryn Edwards on Michael Driedger, Obedient Heretics

Thomas Safley on Kathryn Edwards, Families and Frontiers

Derek McKay on Philip Gorski, The Disciplinary Revolution

Joseph Patrouch on Joel Harrington, Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation Germany

Nicole Grochowina on Sigrun Haude, In the Shadow of 'Savage Wolves

Timothy Fehler on Henning Jürgens, Johannes a Lasco in Ostfriesland

Kathryn Edwards on Susan Karant-Nunn, The Reformation of Ritual

Jason Coy on Franziska Loetz, Mit Gott handeln

Andrew Thomas on Karin MacHardy, War, Religion and Court Patronage in Habsburg Austria

Robert Bireley on Karin Masser, Christobal Gentil de Rojas y Spinola

Nathan Rein on Oliver Olson, Matthias Flacius

Matthew O'Brien on Brennan Pursell, The Winter King

Dean Bell on Susanne Rau, Geschichte und Konfession

Bethany Wiggin on Ulinka Rublack, Gender in Early Modern History

Joseph Patrouch on Thomas Safley, Charity and Economy in the Orphanages of Early Modern Augsburg

Mary Noll Venables on Bernd Schneider, Ius Reformandi

Bridget Heal on Jeffrey Chipps Smith, Sensuous Worship

William Schrader on Peter Wallace, Communities and Conflict in Early Modern Colmar

Marc Forster on Gerrit Walther, Abt Balthasars Mission

Mary Noll Venables on Andreas Klinger, Der Gothaer Fürstenstaat

Selected further Confessionalization bibliography

Marc Forster, _The Counter-Reformation in the Villages_. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992.

Marc Forster. _Catholic Revival in the Age of the Baroque_. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

P. Frieß et al., eds. _Konfessionalisierung und Region_. Constance: Universitätsverlag, 1999.

R. Hsia. _Social Discipline in the Reformation_. London: Routledge, 1989.

Thomas Kaufmann. _Universität und lutherische Konfessionalisierung_. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlag, 1997.

Maximilian Lanzinner. "Das Konfessionelle Zeitalter," in _Gebhardt Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte_ 10, ed. Wolfgang Reinhard. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2001.

David Mayes. _Communal Christianity_. Leiden: Brill, 2004.

Gerhard Oestreich. _Neostoicism and the Early Modern State_. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1982.

Rebecca W. Oettinger. _Music as Propaganda in the German Reformation. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001.

Regina Pörtner. _The Counter-Reformation in Central Europe. Styria 1580-1630_. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wolfgang Reinhard. "Gegenreformation als Modernisierung? Prolegomena yu einer Theorie des konfessionellen Zeitalters," _Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte_ 68 (1977), 226-252.

Wolfgang Reinhard. "Zwang zur Konfessionalisierung? Prolegomena zu einer Theorie des konfessionellen Zeitalters," _Zeitschrift für historische Forschung_ 10 (1983), 257-77.

Wolfgang Reinhard, ed. _Die katholischen Konfessionalisierung_. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1995.

H-C. Rublack, ed. _Die lutherische Konfessionalisierung_. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1992.

Erika Rummel. _The Confessionalization of Humanism_. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Heinz Schilling. _Konfessionskonflict und Staatsbildung_. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1981.

Heinz Schilling, ed. _Die reformierte Konfessionalisierung_. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1986.

Heinz Schilling, "Die Konfessionalisierung im Reich," _Historische Zeitschrift_ 246 (1988), 1-45.

Anton Schindling, _Die Territorien des Reichs im Zeitalter der Reformation und Konfessionalisierung_. 7 vols. Münster: Aschendorff: 1989-1997.

Heinrich Richard Schmidt. _Dorf und Religion. Reformierte Sittenzucht in Berner Landgemeinden der Frühen Neuzeit_. Stuttgart: G. Fischer, 1995).

Heinrich Richard Schmidt. "Sozialdisziplinierung? Ein Plädoyer für das Ende des Etatismus in der Konfessionalisierungsforschung," _Historische Zeitschrift_ 267 (1997), 639-682.

Winfried Schulze. "Gerhard Oestreichs Begriff 'Sozialdisziplinierung in der frühen Neuzeit'," _Zeitschrift für historische Forschung_ 20 (1987), 265-302.


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