Archives for posts with tag: counter reformation

the following are some very random thoughts/notions/questions/half-baked ideas about the reformation(s). just some things that i’ve noticed which may or may not mean something. thought i’d share. (^_^)

∎ i’ve mentioned this before, and i’m sure i’ll mention it again: to me, it looks like the reformation(s) occurred on the fringe of “core europe” (“core europe” being frankish austrasia/neustria where bipartite manorialism was first established and from whence it spread to other areas of western europe). why was there no (or comparatively little) reformation activity in the core of “core europe”? [the red line on the map below indicates the hajnal line which, if you don’t know what that is that by now…GET OFF MY BLOG! (~_^) the areas sloppily outlined in black are austrasia and, to its west, neustria.]

religious divisions of europe map + austrasia + hajnal line

the pre-reformation era rebel christian groups that popped up were on the fringes: the waldensian movement began in southern france in the twelfth century, but really took root in the alpine border region between france and italy; the cathars of the same period were also from northern italy/southern france. john wycliffe came from a long line of yorkshiremen, and lollardism, having arisen in england in the mid-1300s, was also a movement located on the fringes of austrasia. even within england, lollardism seems to have had more of a following in areas that encircled “core england” — “core england” being where the manor system was first established (kent) and where the institution was most successfully implemented (the home counties).

the first proper set of of reformers — the hussites et al. that were a part of the bohemian reformation which began in the late-1300s — were from the kingdom of bohemia, nowadays the czech republic, so fringe (again, in relation to austrasia). luther was from eisleben in saxony, which later would be a part of east germany (the gdr), very much “fringe germany” — and lutheranism was, and is, very much a german/scandinavian thing, once again not occurring in the heart of “core europe.” calvinism is even more fringe than lutheranism, finding followers in scotland(!), among the frisians and dutch, the swiss, southwest france (the hugenots), and off in some parts of eastern europe — although calvin, himself, was from northern france. the radical reformation groups were even fringier.

why this pattern? (is it a pattern?!) why did the reformation (the reformations) arise around the edges of “core europe”?

∎ one of the main bugs of the reformers was, of course, what they viewed as the corrupt behaviors of the established church and clergy — the selling of indulgences, nepotism, usury — all that sort of thing. this was particularly the case for luther and his followers. it’s very clear that, today, northwestern “core” europeans are less corrupt than any of the peripheral europeans — southern europeans, eastern europeans, even (*gasp!) the irish:

europe - cpi 2015

was the reformation in germany the moment when an anti-corruption tipping point was reached in these northern populations? were corrupt, nepotistic behaviors simply largely bred out of these populations — via heavy outbreeding, heavy bipartite manorialization, and strong nuclear-family orientation for eight or nine hundred years — by this time? again though, if so, why wasn’t there a similar movement(s) in northeast france/belgium (austrasia) where these three factors (what i think were selection pressures) originated?

∎ the push for the publication of bibles in vernacular languages, and the widespread idea that there ought to be a personal/direct relationship between an individual and god, both strike me as expressions of individualism. again, individualism today is much stronger in northwest european populations than pretty much every other group on the planet, including in comparison to peripheral europeans. was an individualism tipping point reached in northwest european populations — thanks to selection for those traits — right around the time of the reformation? attitudes connected to individualism had already appeared in northern europe by the eleventh century, but perhaps the tipping point — the point of no return — was reached a couple of hundred years later.

∎ as i’ve said before, it seems to me that the calvinist ideas of predestination and double predestination are less universalistic than teachings in other versions of western christianity, including roman catholicism. roman catholicism is rather universalistic in the sense that everybody can be saved, but one does have to join the church (or at least you had to in the past) and repent, so the system is not fully universalistic. something like unitarian universalism is much more universalistic — almost anything and anyone goes. predestination/double predestination, wherein one is damned by god no matter what you do, sounds like some sort of closed, exclusive club. i don’t think it’s surprising that calvinism is found in peripheral groups pretty far away from “core” europe.

∎ the general animosity toward the centralized, hierarchical authority of the roman catholic church by those in the magisterial reformation, and their preference for working with more local, approachable authorities (eg. city councils), might possibly be seen as a rejection of authoritarianism on some level. that the members of the radical reformation rejected any secular or outside authority over their churches makes me think they’re rather clannish like scottish highlanders or balkans populations — generally not wanting to cooperate with outsiders at all.

∎ one of the biggest targets of the reformation in germany — one that, unlike the indulgences, etc., you don’t normally hear much about — is that the reformers wanted to take back control of marriage and marriage regulations from the central church. apart from the cousin marriage bans, another huge change that the roman catholic church had made to marriage in the middle ages was to make marriage valid only if the man and woman involved freely agreed to be married to one another. the church, in other words, had taken marriage out of the hands of parents who were no longer supposed to engage in arranging marriages for their children. the choice was to be freely made by the couple, no approval was necessary from the family, and, up until the 1500s, you didn’t even have to get married by a priest — two adults (a man and a woman) could just promise themselves in marriage to one another, even without witnesses, and that was enough. (one might always be disowned and disinherited, of course, if your parents didn’t approve, but they could not legally stop you from marrying.)

the germans reversed this after the reformation, and put marriage back in the hands of parents — at least they had to give their approval from then on. the reformers also reversed the cousin marriage bans, although curiously the rates of cousin marriage do not appear to have increased substantially afterwards.

i’m not sure how to characterize any of this. seems to be a bit anti-authoritarian and possibly individualistic. not sure. Further Research is RequiredTM. (^_^)

that’s all i’ve got for you today. the short of it is: i wonder if the reformations were a product of several tippining points in the selection for certain behavioral traits in northwestern europeans, among them individualism, universalism, and anti-corruption sentiments. and i don’t think the selection for any of these stopped at the reformation — northwest “core” europeans continued down that evolutionary pathway until we see at least one other big watershed moment in their biohistory: the enlightenment.

previously: the radical reformation and renaissances

(note: comments do not require an email. knock, knock!)

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in a brief article on the church’s role in the development of things like political liberty (belated happy magna carta day, btw!) and prosperity in medieval england, ed west says:

“Last week I was writing about Magna Carta and how the Catholic Church’s role has been written out, in particular the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton.

“But the same could also be said about much of English history from 600AD to 1600; from the very first law code written in English, which begins with a clause protecting Church property, to the intellectual flourishing of the 13th century, led by churchmen such as Roger Bacon, the Franciscan friar who foresaw air travel.

“However, the whitewashing of English Catholic history is mainly seen in three areas: political liberty, economic prosperity and literacy, all of which are seen as being linked to Protestantism.

“Yet not only was Magna Carta overseen by churchmen, but Parliament was created by religious Catholics, including its de facto founder, Simon de Montfort….

“Likewise literacy, which hugely increased in the 16th century and is often attributed to the Protestant attachment to the word, was already increasing in the 15th and the rate of growth did not change after Henry VIII made the break with Rome….”

here’s the graph from max roser on literacy rates in western europe from the fifteenth century onwards [click on chart for LARGER view]:

Literacy-Rates-in-Western-Europe-from-the-15th-century-to-now_Max-Roser

and more from ed west:

“As for the economy and the ‘Protestant work ethic’, well the English economy was already ‘Protestant’ long before the Reformation.

As one study puts it:

“‘By 1200 Western Europe has a GDP per capita higher than most parts of the world, but (with two exceptions) by 1500 this number stops increasing. In both data sets the two exceptions are Netherlands and Great Britain. These North Sea economies experienced sustained GDP per capita growth for six straight centuries. The North Sea begins to diverge from the rest of Europe long before the “West” begins its more famous split from “the rest”. [W]e can pin point the beginning of this “little divergence” with greater detail. In 1348 Holland’s GDP per capita was $876. England’s was $777. In less than 60 years time Holland’s jumps to $1,245 and England’s to 1090. The North Sea’s revolutionary divergence started at this time.’

“In fact GDP per capita in England actually decreased under the Tudors, and would not match its pre-Reformation levels until the late 17th century.”

so there are three big things — political liberty, prosperity, and literacy — all of which improved significantly, or began on a trajectory to do so, already by the high middle ages in northwestern or “core” europe (england, netherlands, nw france, ne germany, scandinavia, etc.).

there are additionally some other large and profound societal changes that occurred in core europe which also started earlier than most people think:

– a marked reduction in homicide rates, which has been studied extensively by historians of crime like manuel eisner, was written about at great length by steven pinker in his Better Angels, and most recently was suggested by peter frost and henry harpending to be the result of genetic pacification via the execution of criminals in the middle ages (i think they’re partly/mostly right!).

here’s the example of england (from eisner 2001):

eisner - homicide rates in england

“In the thirteenth and fourteenth century, the mean of almost 40 different estimates lies around 24 homicides per 100,000. The average homicide rates are higher for the late fourteenth century than for the thirteenth century, but it seems impossible to say whether this is due to the difference of the sources used or reflects a real increase related to the social and economic crises in the late Middle Ages. When estimate start again after a gap of some 150 years, the average calculated homicide rates are considerably lower with typical values of between 3-9 per 100,000. From then onwards, the data for Kent line up with surprising precision along a straight line that implies a long-term declining trend for more than 350 years.” [pg. 622]

while it is likely that the state’s persistent execution of violent felons over the course of a couple of hundred years in the late medieval/early modern period resulted in the genetic pacification of the english (and other core europeans — this is the frost & harpending proposal), it is also apparent that the frequency of homicides began to drop before the time when the english state became consistent and efficient about its enforcement of the laws (basically the tudor period) — and even before there were many felony offences listed on the books at all. homicide rates went from something like 24 per 100,000 to 3-9 per 100,000 between the 1200s and 1500s, before the state was really effective at law enforcement [pg. 90]:

“As part of their nation-state building the Tudors increased the severity of the law. In the 150 years from the accession of Edward III to the death of Henry VII only six capital statutes were enacted whilst during the next century and a half a further 30 were passed.”

the marked decline in homicides beginning in the high middle ages — well before the early modern period — needs also to be explained. you know what i think: core europeans were at least partly pacified early on by the selection pressures created by two major social factors present in the medieval period — outbreeding and manorialism.

– the rise of the individual, which began in northwest europe at the earliest probably around 1050. yes, there was a rather strong sense of the individual in ancient greece (esp. athens), but that probably came and went along with the guilt culture (pretty sure these things are connected: individualism-guilt culture and collectivism-shame culture). and, yes, individualism was also strong in roman society, but it seems to have waned in modern italy (probably more in the south than in the north, and possibly after the italian renaissance in the north?). siendentorp rightly (imho) claims that it was the church that fostered the individualism we find in modern europe, but not, i think, in the way that he believes. individualism can come and go depending, again i think, on mating patterns, and the mating patterns in northwest europe did not shift in the right direction (toward outbreeding) until ca. the 700-800s (or thereabouts) thanks to the church, so individualism didn’t begin to appear in that part of the world until after a few hundred years (a dozen-ish generations?) or so of outbreeding.

in any case, the earliest appearances of individualistic thinking pop up in nw europe ca. 1050, which is quite a bit earlier than a lot of people imagine, i suspect.

– the disappearance of and dependence upon the extended family — the best evidence of this of which i am aware comes from medieval england. the early anglo-saxons (and, indeed, the britons) had a society based upon extended families — specifically kindreds. this shifted beginning in the early 900s and was pretty complete by the 1100s as evidenced by the fact that members of the kindred (i.e. relatives) were replaced by friends and colleagues (i.e. the gegilden) when it came to settling feuds. (see this previous post for details: the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society.)

the usual explanation offered up for why the societies in places like iraq or syria are based upon the extended family is that these places lack a strong state, and so the people “fall back” on their families. this is not what happened in core europe — at least not in england. the importance of the extended family began to fall away before the appearance of a strong, centralized state (in the 900s). in any case, the argument is nonsensical. the chinese have had strong, centralized states for millennia, and yet the extended family remains of paramount importance in that society.

even in the description of siedentorp’s Inventing the Individual we read: “Inventing the Individual tells how a new, equal social role, the individual, arose and gradually displaced the claims of family, tribe, and caste as the basis of social organization.” no! this is more upside-down-and-backwardness. it’s putting the cart before the horse. individualism didn’t arise and displace the extended family — the extended family receded (beginning in the 900s) and then the importance of the individual came to the fore (ca. 1050).

there are a lot of carts before horses out there, which makes it difficult to get anywhere: the protestant work ethic didn’t result in economic prosperity — a work ethic was selected for in the population first and, for various reasons, this population then moved toward even more protestant ideas and ways of thinking (and, voila! — the reformation. and the radical reformation as a reaction to that.) a strong state did not get the ball rolling in the reduction in violence in nw europe or lead to the abandonment of the extended family — levels of violence began to decline before the state got heavily involved in meting out justice AND the extended family disappeared (in northern europe) before the strong state was in place. and so on and so forth.

it’s very hard for people to truly understand one another. (this goes for me, too. i’m no exception in this case.) and, for some reason, it seems to be especially hard for people to understand how humans and their societies change. i suppose because most people don’t consider evolution or human biodiversity to be important, when in fact they are ALL important! in coming up with explanations for why such-and-such a change took place, the tendency is to look at the resultant situation in our own society — eg. now the state is important rather than the extended family, which is what used to be important — and to then assume that the thing characteristic of the present (the state in this example) must’ve been the cause of the change. i don’t know what sort of logical fallacy that is, but if it doesn’t have a name, i say we call it the cart-horse fallacy! (alternative proposal: the upside-down-and-backwards fallacy.) explaining how changes happened in the past based on the present state of affairs is just…wrong.

so, a lot of major changes happened in core european societies much earlier than most people suppose and in the opposite order (or for the opposite reason) that many presume.
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also, and these are just a couple of random thoughts, the protestant reformation happened in the “core” of core europe; the radical reformation (a set of reactionary movements to the main reformation) and the counter reformation (the more obvious reactionary movement to the reformation) happened in peripheral europe. the enlightenment happened in the “core” of core europe; the romantic movement, in reaction to the enlightenment, happened in peripheral europe (or peripheral areas of core countries, like the lake district in england, etc.). just some thoughts i’ve been mulling over in my sick bed. =/
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see also: The whitewashing of England’s Catholic history and The Church’s central role in Magna Carta has been airbrushed out of history from ed west. oh! and buy his latest kindle single: 1215 and All That: A very, very short history of Magna Carta and King John! (^_^)

previously: going dutch and outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence and medieval manorialism’s selection pressures and the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society and the radical reformation.

(note: comments do not require an email. back to my sickbed!)