When I began this project, I knew nothing about the Reformation. I’d never even heard of it, apart from hearing the name Martin Luther and knowing there were sects of Christianity called Protestants and Catholics. I knew nothing about how these came to be, or really what went on in the world at all in the 1500s. I began my research process by doing the James Tracy reading assigned in class. The reading left me with a sort of sense of what was going on, but it seemed like the reading sort of threw us as readers into the middle of an analysis of the Reformation; a time period I had never even heard about before this. It seemed a little specific to really tell me the big picture as a base for my research, so I went to the Encyclopedia Brittanica article on the reformation and got a little simpler, broader view of what was going on. I looked at the list of suggested tasks, and it told us to do some background research on the Reformation before delving deeper into smaller sub-topics. I had already read the Brittanica article, so I looked at a Reformation article on another site Mike recommended: the Catholic Encyclopedia.
The article on the Catholic Encyclopedia was definitely a lot different than the Tracy article or the encyclopedia Brittanica article. It portrayed the Reformation as a more violent, culturally harmful period and glorified the Catholic counter reformation, which I had previously thought was just a last-ditch effort to stop the bleeding of revolution. The suggested tasks list told me to compare two articles, so that’s what I did for the blog post that was due the next day. Reading these three vastly different articles on the same topic let me think about how the Reformation was viewed by all parties, whether as a liberating or devastating time. Using a couple of different sources instead of just fully trusting one let me start to form my own view of the Reformation.
Then it was time to pick a topic. I had already been glancing over the list of topics by this time, seeing if I found anything interesting. Few topics stood out for me, because I wasn’t really interested in the large topics I thought would be a stereotypical choice for a project like this. Instantly, radical reformation caught my eye. Topics involving revolting peasants, weird laws, and crazy people definitely could keep me interested more than plain old Lutheranism. The first one I looked at was the case of Münster, Westphalia, under which Mike had a link to an article written by a former classmate of his. The link was broken, and a class period spent scouring the internet for this seemingly-great article went to waste. Even searches for Münster, Germany during the Reformation didn’t turn up much other than secondary accounts on Wikipedia and the like; but I needed a primary source.
Eventually my attention turned to the other event Mike had listed under Radical Reformations, the Schleitheim Confession. At first just looking at the name made it seem boring to me, but I took a look at it, and these people were pretty crazy. They treated everyone not Anabaptist as “abominations in the eyes of god,” and made a “clear” separation between things that were good and evil. A bit more background research on the Anabaptists revealed they didn’t really keep all their promises in this confession. A trip back to the Catholic Encyclopedia to see their impressions of the Anabaptists may be in order. Eventually, I think I’ll turn this into a presentation, because I think these people are a bit to crazy to contain in a blog post.
At first, this project seemed like it would take a long time and be really boring, since Mike had given us about a month to do this, but now it seems like it won’t be so hard. This mission might be possible after all.