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date: 21 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This essay surveys the long-term negotiation of religious reform in European villages. Following an account of institutional developments and popular religion in late medieval parishes, it traces the—selective—reception of the Lutheran, Zwinglian, and Calvinist messages, especially in the Holy Roman Empire, Scandinavia, the British Isles, Eastern Europe, and the Swiss Confederation, including the latter’s bi-confessional areas. Alongside personal piety, princely interests, and clerical leadership, the argument stresses the importance of political, socioeconomic, and cultural factors in determining whether peasants experienced substantial religious change. In the rare cases where rural communities could take their own decisions, some opted for Catholicism (Swiss Forest Cantons) and others for Protestantism (German imperial villages). The most thoroughly “reformed” regime emerged in early modern Scotland.

Keywords: bi-confessional areas, Catholicism, Holy Roman Empire, imperial villages, parishes, peasants, popular religion, Scandinavia, Scotland, Swiss Confederation

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