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In The Politics of the Reformation in Germany, Thomas A. Brady, Jr. constructs a new understanding of the Protestant Reformation through the biography of a little-known figure, the urban politician Jacob Sturm (1489-1553) of Strasbourg.
At once a man of the late Middle Ages, the Reformation and the Renaissance, Sturm's political career cut through every one of the levels of the complex political life of Germany in this era - the city, the province, the region, the Protestant movement, and the Holy Roman Empire - and examination of it reveals why Protestantism, which began as a radical movement, quickly allied with local and regional government to become a conservative force.
Professor Brady places the Reformation in the context of the political pluralism of the late Middle Ages and in so doing provides an interpretation that does not see it as the beginning of Germany's movement towards national statehood. Rather it gives full play to the popular movements, the largest and richest in Europe before the French Revolution, and to local interests and traditions. This perspective also allows for a reassessment of the impact of the Reformation on the political culture and government of the Holy Roman Empire and its potential for altering the future course of German history.
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Thomas A. Brady, Jr. is Professor of European history at the University of California, Berkeley.
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