Whither Reformation History: A Roundtable Discussion on the 500th Anniversary

AHA Session 152
Central European History Society 7
American Society of Church History 22
Friday, January 6, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Mile High Ballroom 2B (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Euan K. Cameron, Union Theological Seminary
Amy Nelson Burnett, University of Nebraska
Brad S. Gregory, University of Notre Dame
Carina L. Johnson, Pitzer College
Howard P. Louthan, University of Minnesota

Session Abstract

Centennials are often the occasion for reassessing history, and in this regard the Reformation is no exception. Indeed, the very idea that Luther’s and Zwingli’s conflicts with Rome had had a discrete, inaugural moment congealed around their first centennial in 1617. Reformatio acquired a definite article at about the same time. Since then, of course, historiographies of “the Reformation” have evolved through countless permutations, from the pious, confessional histories of the early modern period, through the statist Protestant historicism of Leopold von Ranke and the Catholic counter-narratives of Johannes Janssen, to revisions—be they social, political, economic, or feminist—and cultural “turns”—be they symbolic, linguistic, or spatial. Ever since Ranke, each wave has been prompted by or given rise to new sources and methods for interpreting them. This panel marks the Reformation’s fifth centennial with a freewheeling, roundtable discussion of Reformation historiography, where it has been, its present condition, and where it should be heading, in and after 2017. The panel brings together historians who have published major interventions on Reformation history, its interpretation and consequences, as well as historians whose work has made major contributions to the themes we pursue and the methods we apply: Amy Burnett, who has exposed the evolution of Reformed pastoral training and revived the social history of the evangelical reforms in liturgy; Howard Louthan, who both restores irenicism to Reformation narratives and interpolates their Bohemian strands; Carina Johnson, who weaves Reformation historiography into cultural relations between Europe and its “Others,” Aztec as well as Ottoman; and Brad Gregory, comparative historian of sixteenth-century martyrdom and modern herald of the Reformation’s epochal, if unintended, consequences.
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