Political Thought in the Age of the Reformation

Michael Baylor

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Political Thought in the Age of the Reformation

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This article focuses on the political thought of the Protestant reformers during the Reformation, both those thinkers historians commonly refer to as moderate or “magisterial” reformers (especially Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Zwingli) and those they refer to as “radical” reformers. Although the political concerns of Protestantism remained profoundly religious, and most reformers retained in various guises the view that authority was bipartite, the political theory of the reformers was modern in its concentration on secular authority and the essential character, function, and scope of the state's power. The diversity of Reformation political thought also emerged over the issue of whether secular authorities should play a positive, even a leading role in the renewal of Christianity to which Protestant reformers were committed. In the mid-1520s, a massive popular insurrection, known as the German Peasants' War and partly inspired by the Reformation, produced a variety of challenging new political ideas. Its repression fundamentally altered the course of the Reformation and produced new divisions not only between magisterial and radical reformers but also amongst the surviving radicals.

Keywords: Reformation; political thought; Martin Luther; John Calvin; radical reformers; magisterial reformers; Protestantism; Peasants' War; Christianity; political theory

Article.  9771 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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