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Reviewed by:
  • Town, Country, and Regions in Reformation Germany
  • Gerritdina (Ineke) Justitz
Tom Scott . Town, Country, and Regions in Reformation Germany. Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions: History, Culture, Religion, Ideas 106. Leiden and Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2005. xxvi + 454 pp. index. illus. tbls. map. $199. ISBN: 90–04–14321–1.

Town, Country, and Regions in Reformation Germany is a collection of fifteen articles, published between 1978 and 2004. Its readers "journey" through the "German Lands in the Early Modern Era, 1300-1600," where they encounter many diverse regions and landscapes in which "every complex of historical forces," notwithstanding "similarly structured situations," has the potential to yield a variety of outcomes (xvii, xxi-xxii).

In his preface, Scott explains the selection of these particular essays. Several recent articles were not readily accessible for English-language students. For those unfamiliar with issues stemming from the fragmented nature of the German lands, these essays offer insight into "power, politics, and class formation" and highlight "the interplay of local, regional, territorial, and national or imperial interests, structures, and identities." Finally, their theoretical approaches to local and regional history offer "frameworks for understanding which not only make (the historical) experience logically intelligible in itself but also provide opportunities for comparison and contrast" (xiii).

The articles are presented in three parts. Drawing extensively on archival sources, the six chapters of part 1, "Town and Country between Reform and Revolt," explore the complex relationships between town and country before and during the Peasants' War. The first chapter discusses the influence of radical urban preachers (Balthasar Hubmaier) and religious ideology on the alliances between towns and rebellious peasants. Next, Scott examines the applicability to Upper Germany and Switzerland of Peter Blickle's concept of "Communal Reformation." Chapter 3 investigates the dynamics and the larger political context of the popular revolts of the 1510s. The next two chapters inquire into the complex relationships between towns, the Bundschuh and the Peasants' War in light of the movements' respective motivations, aims, and ideologies. Part 1 concludes with an investigation into the contradictory nature of the alliances between southwest German towns and the rebellious peasantry.

In part 2, "Economic Landscapes," Scott explores the regional economic landscapes of early modern Germany by prominently engaging the work of Walter Christaller and Hektor Ammann. In chapters 7 through 11, Scott identifies and defines these landscapes, discusses the towns' pursuit of economic and political hegemony over their hinterlands; and suggests that economic regions, while intrinsically difficult to define, are conceptually profitable as long as the "flexible interaction of institutional\political factors with commercial\economic ones" is acknowledged (273). An examination of "urban" and "urbanized" landscapes leads to a discussion of the relationship between urbanization, economic development, and the realities of political fragmentation. The final essay in this section considers the expansionist territorial policy of Freiburg im Breisgau to suggest that one must [End Page 195] view the town's actions in light of both its "subjective requirements" and its "objective possibilities," that is the town's and the king's needs and interests (323).

In part 3, "Regions and Local Identities," Scott reflects on the use and usefulness of the concept of a "bridging landscape," or Brückenlandschaft, and concludes that the Alsace may be identified as an economic bridging landscape (348). He discusses the "Booklet of One Hundred Chapters" and its author's vision of reform of empire in light of the political reality in the Upper Rhine region at the turn of the sixteenth century. The final two chapters in the journey take us back to Switzerland and southwest Germany for comparative discussions of freedom and bondage. The year 1291 was not about the "ideal of alpine freedom"; rather, it marked the erosion of seigneurialism, the beginning of communal emancipation, and the ultimate territorial expansion of the cities turning peasants into subjects (389). The final chapter surveys the changing nature, function, and meaning of lordship over serfs across Europe and over time (ca. 1350-1700).

In this collection of tightly-argued essays, Professor Scott demonstrates his considerable erudition and linguistic acumen, as well as a keen appreciation for the many theoretical possibilities and dimensions of his subject. Some overlap in theme and...


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