Europe and the Modern World System

16th Century European History:  Conflicts of Power wrought by the World System and Religious Reformations

The purpose of this history blog is allow students to consider the wide range of conflict posed by the religious reformations amid the political divisions of competing interests in European nation-empires that emerged with the Age of Exploration from 1492 onward.
The idea of the Reformation begun by the rebellious monks Martin Luther in Germany and Huldrych Zwingli in Switzerland in the early 16th century, has been given an insightful comparative treatment in Carlos Eire’s, Reformations:  The Early Modern World 1450-1650.  Eire extends the treatment of the religious reform movements by comparing the radical populist reform movements in Northern Europe with the conservative reaction of the Catholic central powers of Southern Europe, where the Counter-Reformation took its particular reactionary forms in Italy and Spain.  By extending his discussion from the half century before Luther’s declaration in 1517 to the conclusion of the catastrophic Thirty Years War, he provides a way to broadly compare European internal crises with the global stance of religion and empire that pitted European maritime expansion against the land based empire of its nearest rival, the Ottoman Empire that had arisen and consolidated power in this same period.  Eire’s survey is helpful in providing an accessible view and scope into the depth and variety of reform movements.  It raises important questions as to the regional demands for reform and the broader political interests behind the different sets of claim to reform and allegiance in resorting to religious affiliation, through the various versions of Protestants, either as Lutheran, Calvinist, French Hugeonot, Presbyterian, and Anabaptist.  The book also rightly shows the intensive need for Catholic ruling elites to provide their own reform movement (Gegenreformation) in the Counter-Reformations.