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Confessionalization and Central European Peasantry By David Mayes, Department of History, Sam Houston State University Study of Central European peasant history has undoubtedly benefited from the appearance of the confessionalization paradigm. For one, the paradigm's broad claims have stimulated new avenues of research into topics concerning the peasantry. For another, it has compelled scholars to examine peasant religious history of the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, something which had previously received little attention. Research promises to continue as well, as discoveries leading to new questions provoke yet further inquiry. Included among those new questions are ones stemming from my own research on the peasant population of Upper Hesse. I would like to utilize this opportunity to touch on some of the main ideas derived from this research. Certainly one important question surrounding the peasantry and the confessionalization model concerns the agency given by today's scholars to the peasants of that era. To this point, most scholarly studies have depicted the peasants' agency as one of three kinds: receiving and defending confessional religion, resisting its confessionalizing intentions, or negotiating it in such a way that the peasants construct a confessional identity that ultimately suits them. My intention here is not to assess positively or negatively the value of these studies; that has been adequately done by other scholars. Instead I would like to explore another idea, one that, in my view, may throw our notion of peasant agency into a new light (at least, that is, for the peasants located in the Protestant territories). The idea has to do with the terms _christlich_ and _christliche Gemeine_. After looking again at the sixteenth- and early-seventeenth century ecclesiastical ordinances of Protestant territories (edited by Emil Sehling) and considering their content alongside the unpublished primary source material I have gathered (largely from Hessian archives), I find that _christlich_ was the principal and definitive word in the religious history of the period and that _christliche Gemeine_ was the period's central concept. It should be noted first that _christliche Gemeine_ appears with a number of different spellings, a fact apparent in the ecclesiastical ordinances. The spelling varied not only from territory to territory but also within each territory, within each document, and could even vary on a given page. In Hesse, the authorities more often used _gemeine_, while the rural (political) _Gemeinden_ more often used _gemein_ (or _gemeyn_). What was implied by _christliche Gemeine_ could vary. It could be used as an overarching, all-encompassing indication of all Christians who comprised God's church, or it could mean the community of believers in a single locale. The one implied simply depended on the context. Furthermore, the concept _christliche Gemeine_ was sometimes rendered as _die gemeine Gottes_, or die gemeine Christi, or some like synonym. And as for Gemeine, it was sometimes rendered as _kirche_ or, as in certain north German regions, _ker(c)ke_. The use of _kirche_ instead of _Gemeine_ shows that the two terms could be interchangeable in certain ecclesiastical contexts. In any case, the concept _christliche Gemeine_ was found in Protestant territories stretching from the coastlines of the North and Baltic Seas to the Alps. The _Gemeine_ was not the only thing the authorities wanted to make _christlich_. Surviving records reveal that their stated intention was for just about everything to be _christlich_, including individuals, who were to be _christen_ or _christliche personen_. For this reason, in the ecclesiastical ordinances one finds the adjective _christlich_ in front of words ranging from _zusamenkunften_, _gesang_, _andacht_, _vermanung_, _gebet_, _vorbitt_, _werk_, _zucht_, _discipline_, _beicht_, _prüfung_, _underrichten_, _gehorsam_, _ordnung_, _exempel_, _leben_ and _wandel_ to _warheit_, _glaube, _bekenntniss_, _religion_, _besserung_, _prediger_, _taufe_, _ceremonien_, _bescheidenheit_, _freyheit_, _vorsatz_, _mitleiden_, _gottesforcht_, _almoß_, and _bann_. Most critical to these authorities, however, was _christliche Lehr(e)_. Implicit and explicit to their stated ambitions was that only with the correct teaching and doctrine could the other, aforementioned things in fact be _christlich_, including the _Gemeine_. If they were lacking, then erroneous, damnable teaching and doctrine (_unchristliche lehr_, _gefehrliche irrthumen des glaubens_, _des antichristes valscher lere_, irrige, _widerwertige_, _falsche_, _verdampte_) would likely take hold instead. Hence the critical stress placed by the authorities on the creedal confessions and catechisms. It should come as no surprise that, with the onset of the confessional age in the German territories, the governing authorities' notions of _christlich_ and _christliche Gemeine_ became confessionalized. For authorities in Lutheran territories, _christlich_ was defined according to Lutheran theology and the Lutheran practice of religion, while the Calvinist or Catholic or Anabaptist teaching and practice was understood to be false, erroneous, damned, _unchristlich_. For this reason, the Lutheran territorial authorities, as seen in their church ordinances, considered themselves _christen_ and directed pastors and visitors to report any _calvinisten_, _papisten_, _wiederteufer_, _schwenkfelder_ and others who stubbornly opposed "our Christian church ordinance" and any _irrige leut_ who opposed "the worship service and the pure teaching of the holy Gospel." Authorities in Calvinist territories did essentially the same thing. They referred to themselves as christen and implemented measures to deal with those individuals who did not conform to their notion of Christian religion. The whole matter of _christlich_ and _christliche Gemeine_ may not seem necessarily noteworthy in the sense that one would expect the respective confessional adherents to declare that they alone held to the true, Christian religion (_unsere wahre und christliche religion_, _der rechte christliche glaube_) and that their opponents did not. But what does make the matter noteworthy and even profoundly important for our understanding of peasant agency is that the governing authorities who wrote such ecclesiastical ordinances may not have been the only ones who possessed identifiable, definable notions of _christlich_ and _christliche Gemeine_. Other segments of the German population may have had their own, distinct understanding of them and made documented references to them, too. In Hesse, for example, the terms were in common usage among the general populace just as they were among the governing authorities who wrote the ordinances. For residents in towns such as Marburg and Schmalkalden, the notion of _christlich_ became a (Lutheran) confessionalized one by the early 1600s. When Landgrave Moritz of Hesse-Kassel attempted a confessional change of religion from Lutheranism to Calvinism in the early 1600s, they rejected it outright. But in rural Upper Hesse, the (political) _Gemeinden_ had cultivated a notion of _christlich_ that was aconfessional, that is, void of and indifferent to confessional interests. The _Gemeinden_ actively maintained their aconfessional notion of _christlich_ amid the otherwise tumultuous confessional changes of religion (Lutheranism in 1576, Calvinism in 1605, and Lutheranism again in 1624), and therefore strode unfazed through them. This information leads me to wonder whether documented references to _christlich_ and _christliche Gemeine_ were being made in other territories, not only by the governing authorities. but also by certain segments of the general populace, such as the rural _Gemeinden_. If so, then the strength of the confessionalization model's claims about the peasantry may rest on the resolution of this question: whether the peasant notions of _christlich_ and _christliche Gemeine_ ever became confessionalized according to the governing authorities' way of thinking (and if so, in which respects and to what degree), or whether the peasantry instead possessed and maintained its own, distinct notion of _christlich_ through the so-called confessional age. As for Upper Hesse, the governing authorities were never able to confessionalize the rural _Gemeinden_'s notion of _christlich_. There are a number of reasons why. One of them is, ironically, not because their respective notions of _christlich_ were sharply opposed to one another but rather because they ran parallel to one another in many respects. The authorities and the rural _Gemeinden_ shared many of the same interests‹-the faithful practice of religion, dutiful ministers, effective schooling of the children, and so forth. Even confessionalizing the rural Upper Hessian _Gemeinden_'s notion of the sacraments was a fruitless venture, because the _Gemeinden_ looked on the sacraments as Christian and not through a lens confessionalized by Lutheranism or Calvinism. Therefore it did not matter to the rural _Gemeinden_ if the minister was Lutheran or Calvinist, or if the sacraments were administered according to the Lutheran or Calvinist form, or if religion was practiced along Lutheran or Calvinist lines. So while the succeeding Lutheran and Calvinist regimes in Upper Hesse could be satisfied that all these were brought into conformity with their confessional way of thinking, the rural _Gemeinde_ simply equated either confession's minister, sacraments and religious practice with Christianity. These served, in other words, as means by which the peasants could affirm themselves as _christen_. Through the later sixteenth and earlier seventeenth centuries the rural _Gemeinden_'s aconfessional objectives neutralized the authorities' confessional objectives by causing the latter to be a non-issue. As a result, the rural populace arrived at 1648 with an aconfessional Christian identity still intact. The above discussion leads to a second matter of importance concerning the peasantry. The so-called confessional age of 1555-1648 is, quite plainly, a classification and periodization biased towards the innovations, initiatives and historical experience of the governing and educated classes. As with others, such as the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Age of Absolutism and the Enlightenment, both the classification and the periodization are prone to overlook the peasants' historical experience or to skew our understanding of it. If _christlich_ was the principal and definitive word of the period, and if it is more accurate to insert confession and confessionalization into that context (instead of having confession and confessionalization serve as the context itself), then one may wonder whether classifying the 1555-1648 period as the confessional age should be reconsidered. Calling it the confessional age and then anchoring the confessionalization model over that time period naturally inclines the peasants' agency to be placed within the parameters of and in relation to confessional religion. The peasants are, as previously mentioned, either receiving, or resisting, or negotiating it. If, however, it can be demonstrated that German peasants (and/or other segments of the population) had their own notions of _christlich_ and _christliche Gemeine_, and if the peasants' efforts to achieve them are placed equally alongside the authorities' efforts, then it may be more accurate to classify the age as one defined by Christianities (as opposed to confessions), or as a Christian age (as opposed to the confessional age). It would be a classification that sets Christianity as the context, and one that places Christianity and Christian livelihood as the end-goal of the various segments of society and not just the governing rank-and-file. My study of Upper Hesse proposes this by demonstrating how the latter sixteenth-earlier seventeenth century was marked by communal Christianity (the aconfessional Christianity in rural Upper Hesse) and confessional Christianity (comprised of Lutheranism, Calvinism, Catholicism, Anabaptism). It bears repeating, however, that I have found _christlich_ and _christliche Gemeine_ to be definitive to the ecclesiastical ordinances of Protestant territories and Hessian archival documents. I have not had opportunity to examine their Catholic equivalents to know whether the same argument would apply to Catholic territories. A third important issue surrounding the peasantry and the confessionalization model has to do with the 1555 Religious Peace of Augsburg and the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. The confessionalization paradigm has earmarked the 1555 Peace as a crucial stepping stone for the modernization of Germany. The treaty is regarded as having greatly favored the territorial princes and boosted their efforts to centralize state power, and though it helped usher in the confessional age (seemingly a reactionary trend since it would prolong and even enhance the precedence of religion and religious politics), that same era of religious intensification facilitated the state-building process and the production of a more individualized, socially disciplined, and civilized population--both of which are regarded as features of the modern era. The 1648 Peace has been staked as an even more obvious signpost on the path to modernity. It has been credited with having helped lay to rest the archaic conflicts of religion and open the door to a new age highlighted by tolerance, science, skepticism, state interest, enlightened thought, and so forth. The effect has been a formulation of German history that heavily favors the modernization paradigms and serves the interests of progressive narratives. These interpretations of the treaties have been standard for quite some time and have been recently reinforced by the confessionalization paradigm. As a result, they have long served as pillars or cornerstones for our understanding of early modern Germany. From the peasants' perspective, however, these interpretations may very well have a great Achilles' heel, for they are ones which have been made from the vantage point of the central European states and of the educated elites. What would happen if we stopped and considered the cause-effect of these historic treaties from the vantage point of the village? Would doing so alter the interpretations of the two treaties and, with it, our notion of German history into the modern period? The case study I have done on Upper Hesse submits that the two treaties in fact played a vital role not in the top-down modernization of the peasantry but rather its opposite, the prolongation and even reinvigoration of that communalization of peasant life which had evolved across the late medieval period. There is room here to summarize the intricate argument only briefly. In sum, it states that the standard, top-down interpretations of the two treaties are wrong-headed as far as the peasantry is concerned, for the treaties in fact had (potentially) paradoxical effects at the village level. In effect the 1555 Peace prohibited alternative religious communities from forming within a given village because the territorial prince--now wielding his right of cuius regio eius religio--would never tolerate their existence. The 1555 Peace thereby preserved the singularity of the parish community as well as reinforced the (political) _Gemeinde_'s role as the local guardian of religious life for that community. This enabled the rural Upper Hessian _Gemeinden_ to pursue uninhibited their aconfessional interests of communal Christianity in local parish affairs. As a result, rural Upper Hesse's religious history during the "Confessional age" is one of communal Christianization. Does the same pattern apply also to the territorial cities? The case of Upper Hesse would suggest not. One reason is that the citizens' civic consciousness, which sought to safeguard the town's political liberties and rights, engaged them in the kind of religious politics that helped engender a confessional identity. The rural _Gemeinden_, by contrast, typically had no such liberties and rights to defend, and the parish customs they were keen to defend were aconfessional in nature. As for the 1648 Peace, instead of ushering in a peaceful era of confessional tolerance at the village level, it in fact opened the door for a dismantling of the aforementioned local, village cohesion by legally permitting the existence of two or more religious communities in a given village, or rural town. In those rural locales where a second religious community formed, the volatile process of a polarizing, communal confessionalization took place. (If a second religious community did not form, then parish life continued essentially as it had during the pre-1648 period). These polarizing effects unleashed a new phase of communalization. However, since in this case the rural locale now had not one but rather two (or more) religious communities, a communalization occurred within each of those respective communities, for peasants were compelled to identify themselves with one community against the other and to forge tight bonds with those in it. These claims have been made for Upper Hesse and, at least for this one region of Germany, have set on their heads the standard interpretations of the 1555 Religious Peace of Augsburg and 1648 Peace of Westphalia. Only case studies of other German regions would show whether the claims can be substantiated elsewhere. If so, then they would add to a growing body of scholarly works that have, in the past generation, begun to change consensus thinking about the peasants' religious history. Notes:  David Mayes, _Communal Christianity: The Life and Loss of a Peasant Vision in Early Modern Germany_ (Boston: Brill, 2004). The present article summarizes a few of the main ideas found in the book and also explores some related, additional ones that have developed since the book's recent publication.  Emil Sehling, ed., _Die evangelischen Kirchenordnungen des XVI. Jahrhunderts_, Bd. 1-15 (Tuebingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1957-).  A model for communal Christianity is proposed on pp. 23-60 in Mayes, _Communal Christianity_.  For much more on this argument concerning a reinterpretation of the two treaties: ibid., pp. 60-63 and 207-16.