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The Age of Reformation

by E. Harris Harbison

Publication Year: 1955

In The Age of Reformation, first published in 1955, E. Harris Harbison shows why sixteenth-century Europe was ripe for a catharsis. New political and social factors were at work-the growth of the middle classes, the monetary inflation resulting from an influx of gold from the New World, the invention of printing, the trend toward centralization of political power. Against these developments, Harbison places the church, nearly bankrupt because of the expense of defending the papal states, supporting an elaborate administrative organization and luxurious court, and financing the crusades. The Reformation, as he shows, was the result of "a long, slow shifting of social conditions and human values to which the church was not responding readily enough. The sheer inertia of an enormous and complex organization, the drag of powerful vested interests, the helplessness of individuals with intelligent schemes of reform-this is what strikes the historian in studying the church of the later Middle Ages."

Martin Luther, a devout and forceful monk, sought only to cleanse the church of its abuses and return to the spiritual guidance of the Scriptures. But, as it turned out, western Christendom split into two camps-a division as stirring, as fearful, as portentous to the sixteenth-century world as any in Europe's history. Offering an engaging and accessible introductory history of the Reformation, Harbison focuses on the age's key individuals, institutions, and ideas while at the same time addressing the slower, less obvious tides of social and political change. A classic and long out-of-print synthesis of earlier generations of historical scholarship on the Reformation told with clarity and drama, this book concisely traces the outlines, interlocked and interwoven as they were, of the various phases that comprised the "Age of Reformation."

Published by: Cornell University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5

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Foreword, by Edward Whiting Fox

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pp. v-x

...proposition that each generation must rewrite his­ tory is more widely quoted than practiced. In the field of college texts on western civilization, the conventional ac­ counts have been revised, and sources and supplementary materials have been developed; but it is too long a time since the basic narrative has been rewritten to meet the rapidly changing needs of new college generations...


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pp. 12-15

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pp. 1-2

...In the first place, this means that the century witnessed the Protestant Reformation, that revolt from the Roman Catho­lic Church led by Martin Luther and others which ended the ecclesiastical unity of western Christendom. This is the common usage of the term, and it was in this sense that Pre­served Smith used it a generation...

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I. The European World about 1500

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pp. 3-46

...Lake Constance, turns northward to begin its course through Germany to the North Sea. It was here that one of the two great church councils of the fifteenth century had been held. Here one of the famous universities of Europe was located; here John Froben, one of the great printers of the sixteenth century, had his shop; and here Erasmus, the prince of Humanists, spent his later years...

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II. The Religious Upheaval

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pp. 47-91

...We will never know precisely what happened to Luther in the years between his becoming a monk in 1505 and his dramatic attack on indulgences in 1517. But we know from his contemporary lecture notes and from his later writings and conversations with friends that he underwent years of harrowing emotional and intellectual tension which finally resulted in a "conversion" experience sometime during these years...

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III. The Struggle for Power

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pp. 92-134

...Europe's economy was subjected to severe strain by the spectacular rise in prices which began about the middle of the century. The war expenditures and devaluation pol­icies of European governments had something to do with the inflationary movement, but the main cause was the mounting flood of precious metal which poured into Eu­rope from Spanish America after the opening of the fabu­lously rich silver mines at Potosi in Peru...

Chronological Summary

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pp. 135-138

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Suggestions for Further Reading

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pp. 139-142

...The most successful attempts at a synthesis of the age are in French and German. The two relevant volumes in the Peuples et Civilisations series are particularly good: Henri Hauser and Augustin Renaudet, Les Debuts de l'age moderne [1492-1559] (Paris, 1938), and Henri Hauser, La Preponderance espagnole [1559-1660]...


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pp. 143-146

E-ISBN-13: 9780801468544
E-ISBN-10: 080146854X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801498442
Print-ISBN-10: 0801498449

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 1955

Edition: 1