Thoughts about the SCSC Session: “New Approaches to the Radical Reformation”

Here are a few bibliographical notes related to my contribution to the roundtable on 1 Nov. 2018 in Albuquerque, NM…

I have 3 proposals for the future of Radical Reformation Studies:

  1. Scholars shouldn’t study the Radical Reformation any longer, except as a once-inspiring and now very problematic heuristic tool or historiographical category.
  2. In its place, scholars of early modern “radicalism” (however understood) should study the transformation of new religious movements into established churches, which in turn were challenged in time by movements of reformers / freethinkers / heretics / dissenters / competing factions (or whatever).
  3. The study of transformations from movements to institutions to movements puts the study of heresy and dissent into a broader framework by reconnecting it with the study of confessionalization / confessional cultures, and by encouraging scholar of the German Reformations to join conversations with other scholars of early modern radicalisms.

  1. Scholars shouldn’t study the Radical Reformation any longer, except as a once-inspiring and now very problematic heuristic tool or historiographical category.
    • M. Driedger, “Against ‘the Radical Reformation’: On the Continuity between Early Modern Heresy-Making and
      Modern Historiography” in Radicalism and Dissent in the World of Protestant Reform. Eds. Bridget
      Heal and Anorthe Kremers. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017, pp. 139-161.
    • M. Driedger, “Thinking inside the Cages: Norman Cohn, Anabaptist Münster, and Polemically Inspired Assumptions about Apocalyptic Violence” in Nova Religio 21:4 (May 2018), 38-62.
  2. In its place, scholars of early modern “radicalism” (however understood) should study the transformation of new religious movements into established churches, which in turn were challenged in time by movements of reformers / freethinkers / heretics / dissenters / competing factions (or whatever).
    • Specifically on this dynamic in early 16th-century German history, see Hans-Jürgen Goertz’s work on religious movements, the radical Luther, anticlericalism, and Reformation history in general.
    • For a general sociological view of this dynamic in Christianity, see the work of David Martin, the British sociologist of religion. A good introduction is David Cayley’s interview with Martin (https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/the-myth-of-the-secular-part-2-1.3143513).
    • For more about this dynamic in early modern dissenter communities (mostly in 17th-century Amsterdam), see the work of Leszek Kolakowski (Christians without churches, and the antinomies of religious freedom).
  3. The study of transformations from movements to institutions to movements puts the study of heresy and dissent into a broader framework by reconnecting it with the study of confessionalization / confessional cultures, and by encouraging scholar of the German Reformations to join conversations with other scholars of early modern radicalisms.
    • Nicholas Terpstra. Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World: An Alternative History of the Reformation. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
      • For an even more global view, see Merry Wiesner-Hanks, ed., Religious Transformations in the Early Modern World: A Brief History with Documents. Boston and New York: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2009.
    • Glenn Burgess and Matthew Festenstein, eds., English Radicalism, 1550-1850. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
    • Ethan Shagan, The Rule of Moderation: Violence, Religion, and the Politics of Restraint in Early Modern England. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
    • Margaret Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons, and Republicans. London: Allen & Unwin, 1981.
    • Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Other links:

  • “Amsterdamnified”: Gary Waite and Mike Driedger’s collaborative research project on “Religious Dissenters, Spiritualist Ideas and Urban Associationalism in the Emergence of the Early Enlightenment in England and the Low Countries, 1540-1700” (http://amsterdamnified.ca/project/)
  • Special issue special issue on “Reframing the History of New Religious Movements,” Nova Religio 21:4 (May 2018) (available for free online at http://nr.ucpress.edu/content/21/4/5)
  • Emodir: The Research Group in Early Modern Dissents and Radicalism (https://emodir.hypotheses.org/)