This year-long module examines the sweeping changes in religious life in Europe between the late Middle Ages and the seventeenth century. It concentrates on the upheavals associated with the Protestant and Catholic Reformations (the latter known also as the Counter-Reformation), but places these in a much broader context, examining the role of religion in the social, cultural, and political world of early modern Europe. The course does not treat religious issues primarily in theological or ecclesiastic terms, but in terms of piety – the `varieties of religious experience’ Europeans had, and community – the social and spiritual bonds formed by religion. It pays attention to the `common folk’ as much as to famous leaders, and looks for long-term shifts behind the era’s revolutionary events.
The first half of the module has a largely narratival structure, tracing the events and movements conventionally associated with the Reformations of the 16th century. After setting the context, it begins with reform efforts prior to Luther, and ends with the consolidation of rival `confessional’ churches by around the end of the century. The second half of the course is organized thematically. Each week a phenomenon – i.a. Ritual and Community, Sin and Confession, The Holy Household – is considered over the entire chronological scope, more or less, of the course. In this way we will trace changes in the way religion was experienced and practiced by Europeans of all confessions between 1450 and 1650, comparing the new, early modern forms of Christianity both to one another and to the late medieval religion they supplanted.