What Did the Reformation Mean to Peasants?


This essay assignment has two goals. One is to give you some practice in the analysis of primary sources the raw data on which historical interpretations are built. You have already encountered two such sources the trial of Bernardino Pedroso, the Spanish music teacher accused of abducting Ottavia Rosignoli, and Ludovico di Varthemas observations on religion and social customs in the South Indian city of Calicut/Kozhikode. The second goal is to give you a taste of what it means to build a historical interpretation upon the primary sources available to them.


The primary sources for your essay are contained in the volume edited by Michael G. Baylor, The German Reformation and the Peasants War: A Brief History with Documents. Your assignment is to choose one of the following essay questions and write a response to it. The questions are clustered in two groups, but you only need to write on one of the topics. Your paper should contain at least 1000 words IRL, thats about four pages. At the head of your essay, be sure to indicate which of the topics your paper addresses.

Cluster 1: What Did the Reformation Mean to Peasants?

Part 3 of The German Reformation and the Peasants War (pp. 74-105) contains documents that express the views, directly or indirectly, of the peasants who rose up in rebellion in 1525, as well as their hopes for the future if their revolt succeeded. Each of the topics in this cluster asks you to choose a pair of documents and analyze them closely.

PROMPT: 1.2 A Reformation for Peasants?

Assume that The Twelve Articles (Document 14) and the Memmingen Federal Ordinance (Document 17) are a reliable guide to the peasants ideas about the reforms then underway in western Christianity (i.e., the Reformation). What, according to these texts, did the peasants think the Reformation was about? What, in their view, was the proper scope of religious reform? Did the peasants distinguish between religious, social, and political reform