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Peasants' War Sources Notes

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Peasants' War Class

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! Luther can be said to appeal to the peasants
‣ German nation
‣ Brothers -­‐ equality => priesthood of all believers
- Used within the clergy and fraternities
- Community
‣ Preaches directly to this class
‣ Visual culture
Karsthans -­‐ folk, archetypal figure of the peasants => illustration from 1521
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‣ Originally a term of insult
‣ Clothes and scythe identify him
‣ Dialogue pamphlets -­‐ the peasant is given a voice
Passion of Doctor Martin Luther (Strasbourg, 1521)
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‣ Working peasant
‣ Symbolic peasant shoes -­‐ bundschuh
- Reminiscent of 15th century revolt
‣ Could link to Carlstadt -­‐ honest work


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How coherent were the peasant demands?
! Most widespread popular uprising apart from the French Revolution
! Coherent -­‐ was an actual peasant army
‣ Organised into bands -­‐ territorial
- Some were as large as 8k
✦ Alsatian -­‐ 18k
! Black Forest manifesto -­‐ must join the Christian Brotherhood
! 12 Articles -­‐ unifying manifesto
‣ Printed over 25k times over the next 2 months


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Incoherent -­‐ democratic => poor command structure
‣ Peasant army contained a wide mix of people -­‐ not united under one cause
Smallholders v. farmers
‣ Rural proletariat were less inclined to negotiate
Shared cause?
‣ Materialistic
‣ Enthusiastic preachers
‣ Natural enemy of their overlords
Initially at least there was little cooperation amongst the nobles


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! Religion -­‐ opportunistic way to bridge differences between different groups
‣ Shift from restorative rebellion to more of a revolution
! Organisation -­‐ how do the peasants know where to go?
‣ Strategic -­‐ which castles to take
‣ Where to go next

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Miners and mining
! Economically strong group -­‐ profession

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Socially diverse -­‐ shareholders v. wage labourers
Almost all their grievances are about mining -­‐ lack of a religious element
Want to benefit from their hard work
Complain about tax
Issue of foreigners without expertise -­‐ obtain a share of profit
Dislike of the Fuggers
Issue of capitalism
‣ Lack of understanding -­‐ how do they work out who is to blame?
‣ Use of the word usury
‣ Idea of fairness
! Luther has a mining background -­‐ miners may expect support
‣ Eucharist -­‐ talks of steel and fire
- Link to talk of hell -­‐ used towards peasants

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Preachers and anticlericalism
! Seems to come out of economic aims
! Socio-­‐economic issue are used by preachers
! Even Luther recognises that many of the 12 Articles are secular -­‐ does not write on them
! Müntzer and others -­‐ more simple than Luther?
‣ What you should do for salvation e.g. Mühlhausen Articles
Müntzer was not so radical in his ideas -­‐ it was the application of his mystical theology to
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society that was so radical
! Müntzer wants to form leagues
‣ More authoritative
‣ Wants more of a group mentality -­‐ could secure his leadership
‣ Nobles are forming leagues
‣ Institutionalises the apocalyptic elect
‣ Significance of the rainbow

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Gender
! Fraternal spirit transcends regional ties
! Gender divisions were more strongly reinforced
‣ Women surrender and plead for mercy
! Widows, orphans etc. -­‐ passive victims
! Müntzer -­‐ women could receive divine revelations
! Schappeler -­‐ both men and women are more knowledgeable than priests
! 'The common man'
‣ Gender specific
‣ 'The common woman' -­‐ implies a prostitute
! Practical effects -­‐ women have to stay home and work
! Müntzer's wife -­‐ revenge


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Authority
! Election of nobles -­‐ relocation of authority
‣ No longer hereditary
! The peasants are radicalised -­‐ people do not want to be associated with them


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Did Luther misunderstand the peasants?
! Issues -­‐ election of pastors, tithes and abolition of serfdom
‣ Other articles are to do with secular issues
! Peasants put themselves forward as having a Christian justification
‣ 12 Articles are quite moderate -­‐ need for authority
! Luther argued from a theological standpoint
‣ He is not trying to understand the peasants
‣ Just in terms of natural law -­‐ yet they have forgotten Christian law
Justice v. theological judgement
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! Describes them as enemies of the Reformation -­‐ same as the Catholics
! Against Robbing Hordes -­‐ baptism does not make men free in body and property but in
soul
! Did not intend his work to be prescriptive


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! Did the peasants misunderstand Luther?
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‣ Did Luther mislead the peasants? -­‐ says he did not
Was Luther the prime authority?
‣ Local leaders
‣ Müntzer
1523 work on authority and the extent to which it should be obeyed
Luther gets involved very late
‣ Admonition to Peace -­‐ April 1525
Against Robbing Hordes -­‐ Luther had not fully understood what was going on
Luther was writing in response to the 12 Articles -­‐ lack of understanding of the overall
political situation => Against Robbing Hordes


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! Peasants would have risen regardless of whether Luther had written his works


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Sources from the German Peasants' War

Articles of the Peasants of Memmingen and the Reply of the Memmingen Town Council,
March 1525)
! Wish to elect a pastor for themselves -­‐ want pure Word and holy Gospel

~ Will provide pastors or admonish existing ones
! New Testament does not oblige them to give the tithe

~ Should suspend article until peasantry have reached a settlement with the

common Estates of the league
Christian lords should release them from serfdom -­‐ redeemed with
Christ's blood
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~ Purchased serfdom for a considerable amount of money and no hindrance to the

salvation of the soul

~ Yet will try as much as possible to release subjects
! Not allowed to shoot game or catch fish -­‐ unjust as The Lord God gave man power of all
the animals on the earth

~ Allowed to on free and common land -­‐ only with their own hand and not to sell
! Services -­‐ council will show good will to them
! Entry fines -­‐ will not use them any more yet will only rent out for a year
! Fines for felonies

~ Should remain the same yet the council will provide adequate supplies of

firewood and timber for building
! Council will look at individual cases for property and rights
! Rent and remission in a bad harvest

~ Allowed to sell produce and will try to effect remission after inspecting damage
! Council will look at burdens

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Articles of the Town of Forchheim and the Surrounding Villages, 27 May 1524
! 26 May -­‐ rioted to expel magistrate who had sought to prevent them fishing dry the
fishponds
! Wish to have rights of common
! No tithe other than the thirtieth sheaf
! No consecration tax
! All clerical foundations and exempted properties shall be subject to taxation
! Clergy should use civil judges for rent and debt

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The Hallau Articles, before 14 July 1524
! List of demands in July 1524
! Potentially the most militant of the risings in mid-­‐1524 -­‐ Hallau grievances were defused
by the Schaiausen Council's astute response
! Tithes used in local area -­‐ no other grievous impositions

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Articles of the Peasants in the Brigach Valley in the Black Forest, 18 November 1524
! Secular demands
! Free game
! Free to carry certain weapons
! Against obligations e.g. carrying manure
! Only lawful taxation

! No punishment for marrying without permission

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Articles of the Kisslegg Peasants, 22 February 1525
! Lords' attempts to exploit peasant labour
! Coerced to perform services
! Issues such as hunting which they have to work in and which can ruin fields
! Cultivation to the neglect of their own farming
! Male and female children are taken and coerced into service
! Trade should be punished by law instead of violence
! Issues of land tenure
! Issue of timber used by lords and not by them
! Fines for inheritance or marriage outside an area
! Mankind is not born servile

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Grievances of the County of Rheinfelden, Spring 1525
! First grievances inspired by the 12 Articles presented by an entire county -­‐ Rhine valley
! Reaffirm the 12 Articles of the common peasantry
! We 'who have for so long been abused and coerced contrary to God and justice'
! Wish to have an entirely free land -­‐ movement and no servile obligations
! Whoever enjoys rights of property should be obliged to bear common burdens -­‐
Commander should contribute to the annual territorial tax
! When a poor man was acquitted of a breach of the peace after accusation by the lords,
he had to pay the legal costs
! Lords receive tax, tallage and dues yet do not sit in lawcourts

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Articles of the Porrentruy Band, 1525
! Articles of the bishop of Basel's subjects
! Take possession of land and goods of Jews -­‐ should be granted land where they can
subsist
! 'All clerical persons, be they men or women, should place themselves and their goods at
the troop's disposal'
! Previous burdens before the territory was mortgaged
! Everyone's lineage and estates shall be inspected to see whether they were dishonestly
obtained

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The Memmingen preacher Christoph Schappeler: Complaint of the Procurator Fiscal
before the Episcopal Ordinariate in Augsburg against the Memmingen Preacher
Christoph Schappeler, Beginning of 1524
! Schappeler was joint author with Sebastian Lotzer of the 12 Articles
! 1523 -­‐ Schappeler said from the pulpit in a parish church in Memmingen 'One is not
obliged to give the tithe on pain of mortal sin'
! 6 December 1523 -­‐ 'It will come to pass that the priests must confess to laymen'
! Layfolk are more learned than priests -­‐ 'God be praised that the truth has now come to
light after having for so long been repressed by the priests for their own purposes'

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Jacob Strauss and the Usury Controversy in Eisenach, 1524
! Expelled from Tirol => became a preacher in Eisenach in 1523

! 51 theses attacking the payment of any form of interest as unchristian usury and

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contrary to the Gospel
~ Longer tract in 1524
Still said that interest should be paid out of Christian love until abolished from above
~ Yet there was a more radical interpretation -­‐ payment of interest was conniving
at usury
Many from Eisenach and surrounding districts began to refuse interest payments and
even the tithe -­‐ tenth of produce was equated with usury
Town Council of Eisenach wrote to Elector John of Saxony
Rebellion seen as caused by his rebellious and intemperate sermons
~ Common man burdened with rents and services
Do not trust that he was not on their side -­‐ 'he said and was heard to say, with loud and
pained laments and with tears in his eyes, that he could not restrain them and that if
monks, nuns and priests were not expelled at once and never again readmitted there
would be such misery and bloodshed in the town that we would all be struck dead and
he would not be able to avert it'
~ Promised the crowd this -­‐ told them they could use whatever foodstuffs they
found

The Muhlhausen Articles, mid-­‐September 1524
! Composed by Thomas Muntzer and Heinrich Pfeiffer -­‐ advocate a revolutionary
reshaping of secular government on theocratic norms
! Sent to villages -­‐ unsuccessful attempt to win their support
! New council
! Righteousness and justice in accordance with the holy Word of God -­‐ poor treated in the
same way as the rich
! No fixed term of office for the council
! If someone is unwilling to govern, another should be appointed
! Sufficient for their sustenance should be provided
! Flesh is always inclined to evil
! Not prepared to come to terms with them unless they accept something in the common
interest and in accordance with God's truth and righteousness
! 'It is our considered and unanimous decision that all our actions and dealings should be
measured against the commandment and righteousness of God, to see if they are
contrary to [the will of] the people or of God'

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Preamble to the 24 Articles of the Common Territory of Salzburg, May-­‐June 1525
! 'God alone is all justice'
! Very anticlerical
! Should follow divine teachings -­‐ 'According to these, no injustice may be tolerated, but
we see clearly in the mirror of the holy Gospel how the common man is greatly
aggrieved oppressed and led to ruin by numerous injustices'
! 'These antichristian thieves and tyrants are so stubborn that they will not turn to God
and the divine and evangelical truth; the reason lies in the damned vice of pride, which
arises from the devil'
! 'Thereby the common good and the poor common folk have been destroyed with their
false, knavish, invented arguments and hunted into their money-­‐net with violent
coercion . . . and if a poor man speaks against them, they fool and coerce him with their
false, untrue, deceitful and unchristian ban'

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