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Introduction: 1517, and all that: dating the beginning of the Reformation in Early Modern Britain and France

Aude de Mézerac-Zanetti

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  • 1 For an overview, see https://www.luther2017.de/en/.
  • 2 Biographies of Luther in French and English published in 2016 and 2017 include: Mathieu Arnold, Lut (...)
  • 3 For instance, Martin Luther, Une anthologie : 1517-1521, ed. Frédéric Chavel and Pierre-Oliver Léch (...)
  • 4 A few examples would include: Michael DeJonge, Bonhoeffer’s reception of Luther, Oxford, Oxford Uni (...)
  • 5 Perhaps the most notable English language publication on the memory and history of the year 1517 is (...)
  • 6 A quick google search yields a profusion of results but for a scholarly example of how the annivers (...)

1As the quincentenary of the posting of the Ninety-five Theses by Martin Luther, 2017 has been a year of commemorations, ending and crowning the Luther Decade in Germany.1 31 October 1517 has come to represent much more than Luther’s public protest against indulgences, having long been hailed as the starting point of the Reformation. The anniversary spurred the publication of countless books on Martin Luther’s life,2 editions of his works,3 theological treatises,4 as well as a flurry of publications on memory and commemoration.5 It has excited interest in the beginnings of the Reformation in academia, popular culture and even businesses – witness the sheer amount and versatility of Luther memorabilia available for sale.6

  • 7 Gwenaëlle Deboutte, “L’énorme succès du Playmobil Martin Luther”, La Croix, 12 April 2017, accessed (...)

2A case in point is the German toymaker’s production of a Luther Playmobil™ figure for the occasion (by April 2017, 750,000 Martin Luther box sets had been produced, the initial run of 34,000 having sold out in three days).7 Although the playset displays the official 1517 commemoration logo, the figurine is not represented with a hammer and the Theses; instead, it celebrates Luther’s translation of the New Testament into German (1522), thus rather unwittingly raising the vexed question of what really started the process of the Reformation.

1517 and the Thesesanshlag as the starting point of the Reformation

  • 8 For a very brief exposition of the controversy surrounding the reality of the posting of theses, se (...)

3Luther’s posting of the Ninety-five Theses on a Wittenberg church door on 31 October 1517 could have been a non-event, an academic squabble in a small university town. Although it is unlikely that the posting itself ever took place, Martin Luther’s decision to share his doubts about the operation of indulgences with religious authorities on that date came to be seen as the beginning of the Reformation.8

  • 9 Lindal Roper, “Martin Luther”, in Peter Marsall (ed.) The Oxford Illustrated History of the Reforma (...)
  • 10 Marianne Carbonnier-Burkard, “Les jubilés de la Réforme: des constructions protestantes (XVIIe-XXe (...)
  • 11 P. Marshall, 1517, op.cit. p. 54 and 80.

4In Germany and in Lutheran circles, the commemorative agenda was set early: the very first act of memorialization was a toast by Luther himself in 1527, on the tenth anniversary of the start of his journey towards the truth.9 The year 1517 at this point was not connected to the posting of the Theses, which was only first mentioned in the 1540s by Philip Melanchton. And in the 1550s, when Lutheran cities started to memorialize Luther, the dates of his birth and death were the focus of these early celebrations.10 Actually, other moments in Luther’s life could have just as easily been chosen to epitomize the start of the Reformation. The 1519 Leipzig disputation with Johann Eck, the burning of the papal bull in 1520 or the 1521 Diet of Worms, when Luther made his stand with the oft quoted statement of principle in German “I can do no other, here I stand, God help me”, for instance, would also have been suitable options. Yet it is the nailing of the Theses on the door of the Schlosskirche that stuck; in Peter Marshall’s words, the “non-occurrence of a non-event gradually transformed itself into a verifiable historical fact” and one imbued with “weighty symbolic significance”.11

  • 12 P. Marshall discredits the widely circulated false assumption that Johannes Sleidanus was the first (...)

5So how did the imagined event of the Thesenanschlag become the seminal event that started the Reformation? Nothing contributed more to its elevation than the passing of time. As the sixteenth century wore on and a specifically Lutheran confessional identity emerged, the date and event gained credibility as a turning point but it took two more centuries for the event’s iconic status to be fully established.12

  • 13 Ibid. p. 82-85.
  • 14 M. Carbonnier-Burkard, art.cit. p. 219 and P. Marshall, op.cit., p. 86-90.
  • 15 Ibid., “un contre-jubilé, à la fois polémique et ironique”.
  • 16 P. Marshall, 1517, op.cit. p. 13
  • 17 Ibid. p. 1
  • 18 Ibid. p. 6-12, especially, p. 6
  • 19 Ibid. p. 2-5

6The 1617 commemorations in Germany were an important milestone in the process. The celebration of the first centenary of the start of the Reformation (and the first ever celebration of a centenary) truly established the date’s credentials as one of the more dramatic turning points in history. The broadsheet chosen to illustrate this volume dates back to 1617 and is the earliest depiction of Martin Luther writing the Theses on a church door and an allegorical depiction of the far-reaching effects of the act: the quill pierces a lion (Leo X) and knocks the tiara off the pope’s head. Meant to represent “The Dream of Frederick the Wise”, it is probably an early seventeenth century fabrication.13 Two recent publications have shown how institutionalizing the remembrance of 1517 contributed to the event’s creation into one of the most momentous shifts in the history of early modern Europe. Marianne Carbonnier-Burkard traces the successive jubilees of 1517, noting how the term jubilee was reclaimed from its Catholic usage through Scriptural reference (Leviticus) and as an ironic debunking of the Catholic practice that gave rise to the Reformation in the first place.14 The 1617 commemoration was an “anti-jubilee” which was “both polemical and ironical”.15 Peter Marshall’s recent book on 1517 focuses mainly on the event’s afterlives and foregrounds the role of the Thesenanschlag as foundational myth for German and Protestant identities. He traces the emergence of the Thesenanschlag narrative, setting about to write “the cultural history of an imagined event.”16 For although the posting itself probably did not occur, it is “one of the greatest remembered moments in history.”17 It has inspired numerous reenactments, the one performed by the reformer’s twentieth century namesake, Martin Luther King, on the closed door of City Hall in Chicago being perhaps the most memorable.18 As a trope the Ninety-five Theses has also been very successful, spawning hundreds of lists of 95 items.19

  • 20 Ibid, p. 188-195 (Iserloh’s thesis and subsequent debate) and p. 196-200 (the resilience of Thesena (...)

7Clearly an invented tradition, and yet one whose resilience in popular culture has been only marginally affected by its debunking in the 1960s,20 1517 and the Thesenanschlag raise questions about the very concept of historical event and its uses.

Events and their significance in historical analysis

8The nature of the Reformation as a process rather than a single and simple event is broadly acknowledged. Understanding its glorious complexity has already occupied generations of historians, and will undoubtedly keep future scholars just as busily employed.

9There is general agreement that the conversion of individuals and polities to a new and diverse brand of the Christian religion was a nebulous process spanning decades if not centuries, and never entirely complete or successful. This anniversary issue of Études Épistémè (Autumn 2017) explores the construction of the symbolic dates for the Reformation in early modern Europe with a special focus on how the beginning of the French and British Reformations were identified and remembered in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

10But why focus on singular events when doing so might result in unravelling the complex tapestry of Reformation history that has been painstakingly woven over decades by successive historiographical schools of thought and varied methodologies?

  • 21 See in particular, Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society, 1 (...)
  • 22 The most striking examples are in Denis Crouzet, Les Origines de la Réforme,1520-1560, Genève, Sede (...)
  • 23 William H. Sewell, “Historical events as transformation of structures: inventing Revolution at the (...)

11For all our emphasis on the Long Reformation and the slow and muted progress of reformed ideas in early modern hearts and minds,21 we remain wedded to the idea that there are “key events”, moments that epitomize epochal turning points. This is especially true when speaking to and writing for students and the general public:22 “momentous events are the bread and butter of narrative history”.23

  • 24 An entire Gallimard collection centres on “les journées qui ont fait la France”, best sellers inclu (...)

12And more generally, over the course of the last few decades, the significance of events and their usefulness in historical analysis has been reasserted after being somewhat neglected. Events, once considered as the mere building blocks of “eventual history” (histoire événementielle), have been rehabilitated. This is particularly true in France, where historians had privileged structural approaches, continuity and change across the longue durée, in the tradition of the Annales school but where the “event” has made a noted comeback.24

  • 25 W. Sewell, art. cit. p. 844.
  • 26 “Il n’est pas simplement ce qui advient mais ce qui advient à ce qui est advenu”, quoted in Pascale (...)
  • 27 For instance, see Georges Duby, Le dimanche de Bouvines, Paris, Gallimard, 1973 but also P. Marshal (...)
  • 28 See the publications cited above in note 5 and L’identité huguenote, faire mémoire et écrire l’hist (...)

13By William Sewell’s reckoning a “historical event, then, is (1) a ramified sequence of occurrences that (2) is recognized as notable by contemporaries, and that (3) results in a durable transformation of structures”.25 The Reformation would thus neatly fit into this framework. However, this definition overlooks a key feature and one which made 1517 an event, i.e. its echo in time and memory, which in fact established its status. In the words of Pierre Laborie, a French historian of the Vichy regime, an event “is not just what happened, it is what happens to what happened”.26 By acknowledging the echo of the event through time, analyses of events can thus reconcile “evental history” with the “longue durée” and provide a thoughtful reconstruction of a singular occurrence against its broad backdrop and follow its avatars through time.27 For memory is central to understanding Reformation history. The celebration of 1517 showcases how history and memory are co-dependent, particularly so in our modern culture which thrives on anniversaries and commemorations of the past.28

14So, this volume raises the question: what can events do for us? By examining when the Reformation began in France and England, an “event” whose dating is problematic, the volume’s contributions illuminate several key aspects of how an event was and is put to use by contemporaries and historians. Each article in the volume explores several of the following four avenues. First, the exercise illuminates the role of the historian in constructing the past: selecting starting dates is an exercise in interpretation. Next, selecting an event as the starting point of the Reformation also had clear hermeneutical implications for contemporaries living through a period of dramatic change. Thirdly, for French and British Protestants of the early modern period, the idea of the Reformation as a continuous process was integral to their understanding of the past and present. Beyond polemical discourse justifying the antiquity of their Churches, for the most part, Protestants were less interested in how and when the Reformation began than in how it was being continued in the present and how its spirit could be rekindled. Finally, once recent events are identified as turning points thus gaining historical status, they have tended to be memorialized, leading to the emergence a commemorative culture at the turn of the seventeenth century. Deciding what to memorialize reveals much about the culture in which the practice emerged.

Interpreting the origins of the Reformation

  • 29 Edward H. Carr, What is history, London, Penguin, 1976 (1961), p.12-13.
  • 30 S. Dixon, op. cit., p. 15.

15Almost sixty years ago, delivering the G.M. Trevelyan lectures at the University of Cambridge, Edward H. Carr described “the process by which a mere fact about the past is transformed into a fact of history”. In this process, the professional historian’s role is instrumental: “the belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy.” 29 Because the Reformation in France and in England was a halting process, progressing in fits and starts over decades, the role of the historian is even more obviously foregrounded in the present case. Discussing Reformation history, Scott Dixon recently remarked that “chronology is an inexact science, (…) it takes its meaning from a particular reading of the past” hence “periodization follows from interpretation.”30

16In a prologue entitled “When did the English Reformation happen? A historiographical curiosity and its interpretative consequences”, Alec Ryrie examines in turn the numerous dates that could be seized upon as the starting point of the English Reformation. In the absence of a clear starting point or even of a recognized historical construct such as Germany’s 1517, the process of reforming the English Church has been said to have begun in 1485, 1525, 1529, 1534, 1547, 1549 and 1559. Playful as it is, the exercise opens hermeneutical avenues, as picking a date necessarily services an interpretative framework. When examining the English Reformation as a state-led, top-down process, 1529 and 1534 serve as the most convincing starting points. Conversely, historians seeking to emphasize the grass-roots origins of the movement for church reform will favor 1525. But the two decades spanning from 1530 to 1550 may also be seen as a transitional period in which Protestantism progressed in fits and starts, with a spectacular reversal of fortune under Mary’s reign. The Reformation could then be seen to have started in earnest only with the accession of Elizabeth, whose long reign and successful succession definitively established the Protestant religion in England.

17The multiple starting points of the French Reformation are the focus of Yves Krumenacker’s article, “Quand débute la Réforme en France”. As in England, there is no single event signaling a clear break with the past, and this lack of simplicity is complicated by the fact that the French figurehead of the movement settled in Geneva and hardly operated within the kingdom of France at all. The French Reformation was theologically diverse with strong regional atavistic features thus muddying the narrative. Recent historical works on the subject have mostly, but not always, shied away from ascribing origins to the movement. Determining the beginning of the Reformation in France is an exercise fraught with controversy: any starting point is necessarily bound up with an interpretative agenda. This is particularly true of the works of French historians writing in the period when tensions between France and Prussia (later Germany) were rising; this context encouraged Protestants and historians to promote the indigenous roots of French Protestantism by emphasizing the place of the Vaudois and Albigeois as ancestors of the movement or the sway of French humanists such as Lefèvre d’Etaples. Finally, historians may choose to foreground the influence of Luther’s ideas in France, the role of Calvin, or to offer an interpretation that combines the two.

Constructing confessional identities

  • 31 Irena Backus, Historical Method and Confessional Identity in the Era of the Reformation, 1378-1615, (...)

18Well-defined starting points and neat turns were also convenient for contemporaries making sense of the recent past and pushing an agenda for the future. In the present case, the narrative depended deeply on the confessional identity of the protagonists. Several contributions showcase the “creative role of history in the Reformation era as a decisive factor in the affirmation of confessional identity”.31 For instance, the articles by Susan Royal and Katy Gibbons examine the mirror images of Protestant and Catholic thought on the start of the English Reformation.

19English Catholics, the “losing side” in the battle for the English Church, “developed their own vocabulary to describe the monumental changes they were witnessing”. For them, the Reformation was, had to be, a mere schism, provoked by Henry’s corrupt appetites. In “When did the Schism begin and why? Views on the English Reformation amongst Catholic polemicists”, Katy Gibson traces the issue in Catholic polemical writings of the second half of the sixteenth century. Writing from Italy, Reginald Pole immediately warned the king against his disordered appetites which would cause political and religious corruption in the kingdom. And whether they were writing under Protestant regimes (Edward VI and Elizabeth I) or during the Catholic Restoration of Mary I, Catholic writers maintained this reading of the Henrician break with Rome. Writing about the start of the Reformation served polemical purposes in many of these cases, especially in the 1580s when Catholics turned to militancy and advocated regime change. The call to overthrow Elizabeth was justified by the claim that Henry’s marriage to her mother Anne Boleyn had been unlawful, immoral and even incestuous. The circumstances of the Reformation were tied to a specific event, the break with Rome, and its interpretation as a schism provided an instrument to mobilize Catholics in favour of a radical political and confessional agenda.

20Sixteenth century English Reformers, on the other hand, attempted to resist being defined as the proponents of a “new learning” and sought to present their ideas as a return to the Gospel and to the uses and beliefs of the early Church. Susan Royal, examines how John Foxe and John Bale looked back to the origins of their movement in “English Evangelical historians on the Origins of ‘the Reformation’”. The Lollard networks of the previous century and the figure of John Wyclif were instrumental to Protestant chroniclers in tracing the indigenous origins of the English Reformation and in providing the Protestant Church with deeper historical roots. The Lollards’ use of vernacular Scripture was central to the claim. The present and recent past were interpreted within an apocalyptical framework that reinforced the connection between sixteenth century evangelicals and their forefathers.

  • 32 Ibid. p. 3-4.

21Similar evidence is on display in Tony Claydon’s “The Reformation of the Future: Dating English Protestantism in the Late Stuart Era” which begins with an in-depth examination of how sixteenth and seventeenth century Englishmen viewed the origins of the Reformation. By picking a starting date for an on-going process one inevitably revealed one’s preferred stance on the theological, liturgical and ecclesiological controversies which divided the Church of England throughout the period. Seventeenth century Anglicans looked back to Henry and Elizabeth’s reigns as seminal moments in the creation of the via media they cherished, while Dissenters and radical Protestants focused on the Edwardian reforms and the rise of the Puritan critique of the Elizabethan settlement. Dating the start of the Reformation was as clear a dividing line as liturgical practices and theological beliefs in the religious conflict that pitted English Protestants against each other in the Stuart era. So, Irena Backus’s seminal insight that historical exploration was not just a tool in theological polemic but a means of constructing confessional identities and that “appeal to history need not contradict the sola Scriptura principle” are broadly shown to apply not just to German and Swiss theologians but also to English Protestants of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.32

22In Scotland, a specifically Presbyterian identity was also being shaped in the seventeenth century. Alasdair Raffe’s article on “Confessions, Covenants and Continuous Reformation in Early Modern Scotland” charts the origins of covenanting in Scotland and the use of Covenants and their renewal in early modern Scotland. Covenants were an integral part of Presbyterian identity and one of its building blocks. Over the course of time however, covenanting evolved and the under the later Stuarts signaled dissent from a national church under royal control and became exclusive to Cameronians and radical seceders.

23Finally, Christian Grosse’s article “Célébrer la providence divine, jubilé et culture commemorative réformée (Genève, XVIe-XVIIe siècle)” traces how the start of the Reformation was memorialized in sixteenth and seventeenth Geneva. The starting points of the Swiss Reformation (in particular, the abolition of the mass in 1535 and the triumph of Calvin’s faction over their opponents in the city in 1555) were identified in the 1550s, and the setting up of the first commemorative monument memorialized the providential history of the establishment of true religion in the city. Celebrating political independence from the Duchy of Savoy and the break from the Catholic church were the two strands that fashioned a distinctively Calvinist and Genevan culture.

Defending an agenda for the present: the notion of continuous Reformation

  • 33 As regards the French context, it is only lightly touched upon by Yves Krumenacker in this volume; (...)

24Another common thread running through several contributions is the emphasis on continuous Reformation. This idea pervades the texts produced by Reformers. On the one hand, Susan Royal and Yves Krumenacker demonstrate that responding to accusations of novelty from Catholics, English evangelicals and French Reformers alike argued that the true Church had an uninterrupted lineage through the centuries; even if the Catholic Church had strayed for hundreds of years, the true faith had been kept by dissidents, principally the Lollards in England, and the Vaudois/Waldensians and the Albigeois in France.33 Both English evangelicals and French Protestants claimed that their Church existed well before Luther came along and hence that their Reformation was merely a continuation of the past.

  • 34 For a brief list of examples see P. Marshall, “Redefining”, art. cit. p. 669-670 and T. Claydon, in (...)

25On the other hand, people living in the late-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries clearly believed that the Reformation was or should be an ongoing process.34 This theme is illustrated in the contributions which examine the evolution of the two brands of Protestantism found in the British isles.

26Tony Claydon’s article shows that interest in the beginning of the process was dwarfed by considerations about the future of the Reformation. For theologians and pastors alike, the focus was on ensuring the full success of the movement in the near future, including a Reformation of manners, and this often implied an eschatological reading of Reformation history, with apocalyptic use of dates and calendar computations. For instance, in the 1680s, 1517 was used to compute the starting date of Christ’s rule on earth in 1697, in the writings of Thomas Beverley, a Congregationalist.

27Despite the radically different circumstances of the Reformation in Scotland, commitment to the ideal of continuous Reformation was also a hallmark of the Scottish Reformation. Alasdair Raffe explores how the repeated use of Covenants reflected the religious anxieties of the moment and the desire to rekindle the spirit of the Reformation at times of crisis. The use of Covenanting oaths was a deliberate policy to ensure the continued Reformation of the church but also of the lives of individual partakers. Oath swearing took on a quasi-liturgical function: it became a national ceremony performed in a ritualized manner. And yet, Alasdair Raffe argues that in renewing the Covenants what mattered most was not repetition but constant actualization.

The emergence of a commemoration culture in early modern Protestant cultures

28Protestant states and principalities saw the rise of specific national or territorial commemorative cultures in the late sixteenth century. Choosing to memorialize one event is indicative of the specificity of the confessional and national culture. Yves Krumenacker examines how Luther commemorations fared over time in Reformed France, dependent on political circumstances and theological considerations. At times Luther was almost completely left out from celebrations of the anniversaries of 1517. In England, 1517 was not commemorated even if the importance of the date was acknowledged; Tony Claydon notes instead the importance of dynastic commemorations in Tudor and Stuart England. Under Elizabeth, her accession day became an annual festival; the discovery of the Gunpowder plot of 1604 was immediately commemorated as a day of felicitous delivery from Catholicism; the infamous execution of Charles I was also memorialized in church services during the Restoration. Finally, the start of the Glorious Revolution on 5 November 1688 connected the event to the two major instances of providential interventions in favour of Protestantism (the 1588 defeat of the Great Armada and the discovery of the Gunpowder plot) and compounded its significance as a memorialized event in annual celebrations and church services. English commemorative culture was thus tied to anti-Catholicism and to the monarchy. It thus reflects an idiosyncratic aspect of the English Reformation: the establishment of the sovereign as head of the church by the Act of Royal Supremacy of 1534. Finally, Alasdair Raffe is keen to emphasize that, in Scotland, the principal purpose of the renewal of the Covenants was always to call Scots to reform in the present, but repetition and the ritualization of the swearing ceremony might also be indicative of the emergence of a commemorative culture, rooted in a distinctively Presbyterian ethos.

29Christian Grosse’s article deals most specifically with this issue by addressing the question: how did the Genevan Reformers overcome their wariness for commemorations? The very idea of commemorating the past and celebrating jubilees was almost anathema to the Reformed mindset. The principal obstacles were theological as well as historical, and tied to the circumstances of the emergence of Protestantism. There was a certain degree of inconsistency in resorting to jubilees when the early reformers had so abhorred the practice to which indulgences were related. So, jubilees had to be carefully repackaged to suit reformed sensitivities. This process of transformation of the jubilee from symbol of popish abuse to accepted tradition is the focus of this article centred on the emergence of a commemorative culture in Geneva. Christian Grosse examines how the appropriation of this tradition by Reformed Genevans was shaped by commemorations. A close reading of the Genevois Jubilant published in 1635, on the occasion of the centenary of the abolition of the mass in Geneva, provides some indication of the cultural change that was afoot and which would enable Reformed Protestants to celebrate “inwardly, moderately and Christianly”.

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Notes

1 For an overview, see https://www.luther2017.de/en/.

2 Biographies of Luther in French and English published in 2016 and 2017 include: Mathieu Arnold, Luther, Paris, Fayard, 2017; William Clayton, Martin Luther: son cheminement, sa conversion et ses convictions: les cinq grands principes de la Réforme, Montélimar, CLC éditions France, 2017; Pierre Fanguin, Martin Luther, un destin singulier, Tharaux : Empreinte du temps présent, 2017 ; Rémy Hebding, Un chrétien nommé Luther, Paris, Salvatore, 2017; Yves Krumenacker, Luther, Paris, Ellipse, 2017; Andrew Pettegree, Brand Luther, New York, Penguin Press, 2015; Lyndal Roper, Martin Luther : Renegade and Prophet, London, The Bodley Head, 2016 ; Heinz Schilling, Martin Luther: Rebel in an Age of Upheaval, trans. Rona Johnston, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017; Anne Soupa, Le jour où Luther a dit non, Paris, Salvator, 2017; Peter Stanford, Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 2017.

3 For instance, Martin Luther, Une anthologie : 1517-1521, ed. Frédéric Chavel and Pierre-Oliver Léchot, trans. Jean Bosc, René Esnault, Maurice Gravier et al., Geneva, Labor et Fides, 2017; Martin Luther : dits et maximes de vie, ed. Marc Lienhard and trans. Annemarie Lienhard, Paris, Arfuyen, 2017; Martin Luther, “Raison et justification que des nonnes peuvent quitter leurs couvents en conformité avec Dieu, 1523”, Études théologiques et religieuses, 92.1, 2017, p. 25-34; Martin Luther’s Table Talk, Dallas, Gideon House Books, 2016; Mythologies luthériennes: les vies de Luther par lui-même, Mélanchthon et Taillepied, ed. Marion Deschamps, Lyon, Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 2017.

4 A few examples would include: Michael DeJonge, Bonhoeffer’s reception of Luther, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017; Mark C. Mattes, Martin Luther’s Theology of Beauty: A Reappraisal, Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2017; Johannes Schwanke, “Martin Luther’s Theology of Creation”, International Journal of Systematic Theology, 18.4, 2016, p. 399-413; Marius Timmann, The Hidden God: Luther, Philosophy, and Political Theology, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2015.

5 Perhaps the most notable English language publication on the memory and history of the year 1517 is Peter Marshall, 1517: Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017. See also, Scott Dixon, “Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and the Origins of the Reformation Narrative”, English Historical Review, 132 Issue 556, p. 533-569 and Thomas Albert Howard, Remembering the Reformation: an Inquiry into the Meanings of Protestantism, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016; Hartmut Lehmann, “2017: The Quicentennial Celebration of the Reformation in an Age of Secularization and Religious Pluralism”, Dialog: A Journal of Theology, 55.1, 2016, p. 79-87; David M. Whitford, “Martin Luther and the Reformation: A Reflection on the Five-Hundreth Anniversary, Horizons, 44.1, 2017, p. 137-147. In French, significant publications on the subject include: P. Bosse-Huber, S. Fornerod, T. Gundlach et G. Locher, Célébrer Luther ou la Réforme ?, Geneva, Labor et Fides, 2014 and Les anniversaires de la Réforme, ed. Yves Krumenacker, special issue of Chrétiens et Sociétés, 23, 2016. For ecumenical approaches of the anniversary see, for instance: Cardinal Kurt Koch, “Why a common commemoration of the Reformation?, International Journal for the Study of the Christian, 17.1, 2017, p. 3-10 and Nikolaus Schneider “Qu’est-ce que le jubilé de la Réforme? A qui appartient-il? Pourquoi sommes-nous ici, tous ensemble, à Zurich?” in Célébrer Luther, op.cit., p. 27-31. A major AHRC funded project entitled “Remembering the Reformation” is currently under way: https://rememberingthereformation.org.uk

6 A quick google search yields a profusion of results but for a scholarly example of how the anniversary of 1517 unleashed the imagination of product designers (the Luther socks are memorable), see the cover of Les anniversaires de la Réforme, op. cit.: https://chretienssocietes.revues.org/4070.

7 Gwenaëlle Deboutte, “L’énorme succès du Playmobil Martin Luther”, La Croix, 12 April 2017, accessed 20 September 2017, URL: https://www.la-croix.com/Religion/Protestantisme/Lenorme-succes-Playmobil-Martin-Luther-2017-04-12-1200839070

8 For a very brief exposition of the controversy surrounding the reality of the posting of theses, see Scott Dixon, Contesting the Reformation, Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, p. 205-206. The most recent discussion of these events may be found in P. Marshall, 1517, op. cit. p. 12-13 and chapter 5 and S. Dixon, art. cit., p. 537-544.

9 Lindal Roper, “Martin Luther”, in Peter Marsall (ed.) The Oxford Illustrated History of the Reformation, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 42.

10 Marianne Carbonnier-Burkard, “Les jubilés de la Réforme: des constructions protestantes (XVIIe-XXe siècles)”, Célébrer Luther, op.cit. p. 218-231, here at p. 218-220.

11 P. Marshall, 1517, op.cit. p. 54 and 80.

12 P. Marshall discredits the widely circulated false assumption that Johannes Sleidanus was the first historian to mention the posting of the thesis, ibid. p. 73-74 and note 38. Chapters 3 and 4 in his 1517 trace the rise of the event to historical significance over the course of three centuries.

13 Ibid. p. 82-85.

14 M. Carbonnier-Burkard, art.cit. p. 219 and P. Marshall, op.cit., p. 86-90.

15 Ibid., “un contre-jubilé, à la fois polémique et ironique”.

16 P. Marshall, 1517, op.cit. p. 13

17 Ibid. p. 1

18 Ibid. p. 6-12, especially, p. 6

19 Ibid. p. 2-5

20 Ibid, p. 188-195 (Iserloh’s thesis and subsequent debate) and p. 196-200 (the resilience of Thesenanschlag in popular culture and in the tourism industry).

21 See in particular, Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society, 1559-1625 and The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religion and Cultural Change in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, London, Basingstoke, 1988, p. ix; Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics and Society under the Tudors, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1993; Nicholas Tyacke (ed.), England’s Long Reformation, 1500-1800, London, UCL Press, 1998; Norman Jones, The English Reformation: Religion and Cultural Adaptation, Oxford, Blackwell, 2002; Alexandra Walsham, “The Reformation and ‘the disenchantment of the world’ reassessed”, Historical Journal, 51, 2008, pp. 497–528; Peter Marshall, “(Re)defining the English Reformation”, Journal of British Studies, 48.3, Jul. 2009, p. 564-586, here at 567-569; Alec Ryrie, The Age of Reformation: The Tudor and Stuart Realms 1485-1603, Harlow, Pearson Longman, 2009; Peter Marshall, “The Naming of Protestant England”, Past & Present, 214.1, Feb. 2012, p.87–128 ; Peter Marshall, Reformation England, 1480-1642 (2003), London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2012.

22 The most striking examples are in Denis Crouzet, Les Origines de la Réforme,1520-1560, Genève, Sedes, 1996, especially p. 25, 26, 27, 28-33, 35, 68, 216. See also, Patrick Cabanel, Histoire des Protestants en France, XVIe-XXIe siècles, Paris, Fayard, 2012, p. 31; Peter Marshall, “Editor’s foreword”, in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Reformation, op.cit., p. iii; Lyndal Roper, “Martin Luther”, in ibid. p. 42-43; Carlos Eire, “Calvinism and the Reform of the Reformation”, in ibid., p. 77, 81.

23 William H. Sewell, “Historical events as transformation of structures: inventing Revolution at the Bastille”, Theory and Society, 6, 1996, p. 841-881, here at p. 841

24 An entire Gallimard collection centres on “les journées qui ont fait la France”, best sellers include books such as 1515 et les grandes dates de l’histoire de France revisitées par les grands historiens d’aujourd’hui, ed. Alain Corbin, Paris, Seuil, 2005. In the field of British history, the pendulum had not swung so far away from “evental history”, popular titles are regularly published on 1666, 1688, individual years of both world wars, and of course on famous battles (Hastings, Waterloo), a lively branch of military history. For a very brief presentation the shift in French historiography and for a useful bibliography, see Pascale Goetschel and Christophe Granger, “Faire l’événement, un enjeu des sociétés contemporaines”, Sociétés & Représentations, 32, 2011/2, p. 9-23, here at p. 10-12, especially n. 6 and 7, accessed 31 October 2017, URL: http://www.cairn.info/revue-societes-et-representations-2011-2-page-167.htm. For the principal publications on the subject (in chronological order), see, for instance, Pierre Nora, “Le retour de l’événement”, in Faire de l’histoire, Jacques Le Goff & Pierre Nora (ed.), vol. 1, Paris, Gallimard, 1974, p. 210-227 ; W. H. Sewell, art. cit. ; Jacques Le Goff, “Les ‘retours’ dans l'historiographie française actuelle”, Les Cahiers du Centre de Recherches Historiques, 22, 1999, accessed 26 September 2017. URL: http://ccrh.revues.org/2322; DOI : 10.4000/ccrh.2322; Jacques Revel, “Retour sur l’événement : un itinéraire historiographique”, in Jean-Louis Fabiani (ed.), Le Goût de l’enquête, Pour Jean-Claude Passeron, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2001, p. 95-118; Arlette Farge, “Penser et définir l’événement en histoire. Approche des situations et des acteurs sociaux”, Terrain, 38, 2002, p. 69-78 ; Robin Wagner‐Pacifici, “Theorizing the Restlessness of Events”, American Journal of Sociology, 115. 5, March 2010, p. 1351-1386; F. Dosse, La renaissance de l’événement. Un défi pour l’historien : entre sphinx et phénix, Paris, PUF, 2010 ; Pierre Nora, Présent, nation, mémoire, Paris, Gallimard, 2011, p. 35-57 ; Roberto Terzi, “Institution, événement et histoire chez Merleau-Ponty”, Bulletin d'Analyse Phénoménologique, 13.3, 2017, accessed 20 September 2017, URL: http://popups.ulg.ac.be/1782-2041/index.php?id=1004;

25 W. Sewell, art. cit. p. 844.

26 “Il n’est pas simplement ce qui advient mais ce qui advient à ce qui est advenu”, quoted in Pascale Goetschel and Christophe Granger, “L'événement, c'est ce qui advient à ce qui est advenu... Entretien avec Pierre Laborie”, Sociétés & Représentations, 32, 2011/2, p. 167-181, here at p. 168, URL: http://www.cairn.info/revue-societes-et-representations-2011-2-page-167.htm. This is an echo of the well-known remark by Michel de Certeau on the events of May 1968 “un événement n’est pas ce qu’on peut voir ou savoir de lui, mais ce qu’il devient” (Michel De Certeau, “Prendre la parole” (1968), in Id.La prise de parole et autres écrits politiques, Paris, Points/Seuil, 1994, p. 51, quoted in F. Dosse, op.cit., p. 157)

27 For instance, see Georges Duby, Le dimanche de Bouvines, Paris, Gallimard, 1973 but also P. Marshall, 1517, op.cit.

28 See the publications cited above in note 5 and L’identité huguenote, faire mémoire et écrire l’histoire (XVIe-XXIe siècle), ed. Philip Benedict, Hugues Daussy, Pierre-Olivier Léchot, Genève, Droz, 2014. In 2011, Pierre Nora concluded a book about the memory/history nexus with a resounding rejection of the exaggerated influence of commemorative culture on the work of historians. P. Nora, op.cit. p. 417: “La commémoration a envahi tout le travail de l’historien, jusqu’à l’asservir tout entier. Elle inspire sa curiosité, elle lui dicte souvent son calendrier en fonction des anniversaires, centenaires ou bicentenaires. Elle rythme le programme des musées, des bibliothèques et des expositions, elle encombre les archives. Elle a engendré une idéologie du « tout-mémoire » et de la conservation intégrale. Elle est devenue le mode obligatoire de notre rapport au passé. Pire encore : la contamination commémorative est aller jusqu’à faire fleurir une histoire hypercommémorative et proliférer une race d’historiens improvisés qui se mettent héroïquement au service d’une mémoire purement militante.” 

29 Edward H. Carr, What is history, London, Penguin, 1976 (1961), p.12-13.

30 S. Dixon, op. cit., p. 15.

31 Irena Backus, Historical Method and Confessional Identity in the Era of the Reformation, 1378-1615, Leiden, Brill, 2003, p. 5.

32 Ibid. p. 3-4.

33 As regards the French context, it is only lightly touched upon by Yves Krumenacker in this volume; see his other relevant publications: “La généalogie imaginaire de la Réforme protestante”, Revue Historique, CCCVIII/2, 2006, p. 259-289 ; “Des Vaudois aux Huguenots: une histoire de la Réformation”, in ed. P. Benedict, H. Daussy, P.-O. Léchot, op. cit., p. 127-144 and Yves Krumenacker et Wenjing Wang, “Cathares, vaudois, hussites, ancêtres de la Réforme ?”, Chrétiens et sociétés [En ligne], 23 | 2016, URL : http://chretienssocietes.revues.org/4108 (last accessed 07 September 2017).

34 For a brief list of examples see P. Marshall, “Redefining”, art. cit. p. 669-670 and T. Claydon, in this volume.

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Aude de Mézerac-Zanetti, « Introduction: 1517, and all that: dating the beginning of the Reformation in Early Modern Britain and France  », Études Épistémè [En ligne], 32 | 2017, mis en ligne le 19 décembre 2017, consulté le 25 juin 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/1876 ; DOI : 10.4000/episteme.1876

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Auteur

Aude de Mézerac-Zanetti

Senior Lecturer in British Studies at Université de Lille, SHS. Aude de Mézerac-Zanetti obtained a doctoral degree jointly from Paris 3 and Durham University. She specializes in English Reformation history with a focus on changes in liturgy and popular practices. She has recently co-edited with Rémy Bethmont a special issue of The French Journal of British Studies (Revue Française de Civilisation Britannique) entitled The Book of Common Prayer: Studies in Religious Transfer (22.1, 2017). Other recent publications include “Reforming the liturgy under Henry VIII : the instructions of John Clerk, bishop of Bath and Wells” in Journal of Ecclesiastical History (54.1, 2013) and “Sacraliser la suprématie royale par la liturgie sous le règne d’Henri VIII” in Du profane dans le sacré : quand le religieux se politise, Guillaume Marche and Nathalie Caron (eds.), (Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2015). She is currently working on a book entitled Changing Prayers: the Reformation of the Liturgy under Henry VIII.

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