English 233: Introduction to Western Humanities - Baroque & Enlightenment

Religious wars
in the wake of the Protestant Reformation


Readings in Matthew and Platt, The Western Humanities, 2nd Ed.:

"Warfare as a Response to Religious Dissent, 1520-1603" (pp. 337-338).

How did the settlement reached in the Peace of Augsburg (1555) "contain the seeds of further wars"?

"Absolutism, Monarchy, and the Balance of Power" (p. 353-359).

Make it a point to note how frequently and variously religious considerations entered into the civil disturbances that wracked France and England during the Seventeenth Century.

The 20th-century German playwright Bertolt Brecht once remarked that "the Thirty Years War pulled the teeth of the Protestant Reformation in Europe."  I

In the brief account (p. 358) of this protracted series of wars, you will of course want to be alert to the various ways in which religious causes (the advancement or roll-back of Protestantism) were relied upon in mobilizing leaders and populations to join in the conflict in specific situations.  
But you will also want to be looking for factors other than religion at work in addition to or even under the pretext of religious crusade or defense.  
The chief decision-makers in France during the period of the Thirty Years War were a pair of Roman Catholic prelates - Cardinal Richlieu and Cardinal Mazarin.  Would you say they were motivated primarily by religious convictions, or by other considerations, in their decisions?  What do you see as the ranking of their priorities?
Finally, you will want to ask yourself a pair of questions that is not dealt with in the narrative you will be reading:  
(a) How might religious people of different persuasions have made sense of the results of various battles and of the terms of the final settlement?  And
(b) what sorts of facts might have led some minds to conclude that the determining factors in the conflict had nothing to do with divine interventions or Providence but were to be understood as strictly human and material?  That is, what might have prompted some analysts to conclude that the the military and political outcomes of the conflict, along the way and overall, were adequately and most intelligibly to be explained stricltly on the level of events.

In reflecting on the motives of the French king Louis XIV in the conduct of his many wars (pp. 358-59), would you say that religion or some other factors were paramount in Louis' decisions about when to go to war and what to agree to in peace treaties?

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      This page last updated 21 April 2000.