History 119, European Cultural History 1500 - 1815

The following list includes 25 lectures given by George L. Mosse in the Fall of 1969. The topic of these lectures is European Cultural History 1500 - 1815. They were recorded for the WHA -Radio Series "University of the Air."

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Lecture #1 - Europe in 1500

Lecture #1 - Europe in 1500 - 45:23 min (mp3)
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Mosse begins the lecture by asking: What were the attitudes towards life like around the year 1500? What was the atmosphere like in Europe? Atmosphere is important because it determines human thoughts and actions. Society, Mosse says, was very different from today. It was a hierarchical society: men lived according to their inherited social positions. Princes and nobility directly influenced both politics and personal life. But another class was emerging: the world of learning, of intellectuals. This class was still mostly clerical, but it became associated with a certain “lifestyle”. The urban classes did exist and were rising in importance as well, but the vast majority of the population still consisted of agrarians. The towns were growing: during the 16th century, Paris would gain a population of 200,000.

This rise in urbanism brought to the fore another factor: the rapid rise of European population. It would bring about an economic crisis and high inflation. The population increase put great pressure on the land, while agriculture did not progress. Rising prices in foodstuffs and other goods would lead to unrest and hardship, especially for the poorer parts of the population. The princes, nobles, urban classes, and the world of learning were far removed from these concerns, but shared a common attitude towards life: this attitude was Christian for sure, but it was also linked urban and agrarian classes by a culture of fear and irrationalism. This was still a primitive society, death was sudden, and man lived surrounded by a “cloud of unknowing.”

By 1500, economic conditions were severe: a price revolution was starting, but it was also a time of bad harvests. 1500 saw a total crop failure in all of Germany that resulted in peasant uprisings, looting and pillaging, to such a proportion that in 1501 Europe for the firsts time saw a paid police force to maintain order. Additional scourges were diseases and epidemics. First and foremost, the Black Death: To the populations of Europe, this seemed like a willful and arbitrary punishment. Between 1499 and 1502, whole populations were decimated. A new disease, syphilis, joined the plague. This prompted preachers to call for repentance, penance and pilgrimages. The Plague was more frightening than the syphilis, because it occurred suddenly and greatly disfigured its victims. All of this leads to a heightened religious sensibility and a search for answers by all parts of the population.

To find answers, people turned to a kind of literature that had come down from the Middle Ages and was most popular: books of prophecies. Their content was simple, promising hope for the future: darkness would be followed by light, and after the Anti-Christ would come Christ. The roots of these books lay partly in the bible (which, Mosse tells the students, he is sure they have never read), especially in the Books of the Apocalypse. The Apocalypse is written in symbolic terms. Before the book of the seven seals can be opened, “the wine must be pressed and the harvest reaped” that means, before Christ’s return there will be bloody wars and mass the conversion of the heathens, especially of the Jews, to Christianity. Man lived in the expectation that the world was coming to an end; Luther believed it, and so did all protestant reformers and many of the intellectuals. With it came astrology. The stars were now in an evil conjunction. Saturn was “the evil planet”. The Anti-Christ would come up from the darkness; for a short while the Jews would rule the world before their conversion. Then the book of seven seals would be opened. (For example, Shakespeare firmly believed in astrology).

Basic to that age was a feeling of lost harmony, a turning to prophecy and astrology, shared by rich and poor, learned and ignorant. This was a result of the belief in a hierarchical world. Social status on earth, it was believed, corresponded to the heavens. A “golden chain of being”, from God down to the serfs on earth, tied all together.(This actually comes from Virgil). For the belief in an ordered universe, the “Elizabethan Homily on Obedience” was typical. Required obedience to the queen was put into this kind of hierarchical system. The Church had given sanction to it: this was the Christian universe by divine command, but if it had ever existed, it was now falling apart. In the Homily, people were exhorted not to rise above their station-which meant that people did just the opposite and attempted to rise in society. Increasing social mobility undermined hierarchy. The new urban people, the newly rich, new civil servants, the alienation of the peasant from society, undermined the existing hierarchy from above and below, side by side with the natural catastrophes of the time. The ordered universe was breaking down.

The individualism of the Renaissance added to this kind of challenge. Man looked for safeguards and explanations while, as Shakespeare said, “the stars are out of joint”. The “Golden Age” was both in the past and in the future: the paradise that had been before the fall was also the goal for the future. To reach the future goal, what was the evil you had to get rid of? There were three elements of evil, of the Anti-Christ, and all three were seen as opposed to nature and thus opposed to God: Jews, witches, and the corruption of the church. The operative word here was “unnatural”, offending the harmony of nature and by that destroying the harmony of political and social life. They were “humanity’s burden of guilt” as contemporaries put it. The years between 1450 and 1519 sees a flood-like increase of ritual murder accusation against the Jews. These went back to Roman times. At Easter time, the Jews were believed to kill a young child and drink its blood. This accusation was connected with the sacrament, in that it was an unnatural travesty of the sacrament, of the natural order. It led to the expulsion of the Jews of Spain in 1492.

From 1500 on, the Jews were isolated from the rest of the population. Venice began this isolation in 1516: first out of commercial rivalry, Jews were forced to move into a district called the “ghetto”. From then on we call this kind of isolation a “ghetto.” Ghettos spread through Italy, then through all of Europe. A Papal bull put the final seal of approval on this: Jews were to own no real estate, to employ no Christian servants, and were to be a “living example of the guilt of mankind.” Moreover, from this time on, Jews had to wear special dress.
Yet according to Prophecy, Jewish conversion must precede the Golden Age. It was the beginning of forced sermons of conversion: Jews were forced to attend church every Sunday. This practice started in the 16th century and went on throughout this period. To the Jews were added the witches, who openly defied the order of nature. The “Black Mass” was seen as a travesty of the Christian mass. Witches married the devil, slept with animals, and did other things that were always a perversion of nature. This was more frightening than Jews, for Jews could be isolated, but who could identify a witch? Witchcraft was imagined as a secret society. It came to serve to explain every unnatural event, and eventually any unconventional behavior in a primitive society. Some of the accused actually believed they were witches. Most important, however was the perceived corruption of the Church, which was also a corruption of the natural order. The play “The Rise and Fall of Anti-Christ” was very popular in Germany. The Anti-Christ triumphs over kings and emperors, but especially over the Church. God does not love worldly priests, it says in the play. What was the problem here? The Church was intimately involved with politics, owned a third of German lands: involvement with worldly society was perceived as part of the corruption and decline of the age. Mosse addresses the students: “Just like you today think that the university cannot fulfill its function because it has corporate contracts, people then thought the Church could not fulfill its function because it was involved with the worst part of the age’s corruption.”It sold its offices and behaved like any worldly power. So, man was cut off from God, and this brought about the dreadful punishments of the age. The watchword became renewal: The renewal of the Church, together with the conversion of the Jews and the extermination of the witches. The Italian Renaissance tried it by reviving the classical tradition; Luther and Calvin through uncorrupted Christianity; the peasant by a return to “the age of innocence”. Eventually, the arrival of a messiah was expected. Some talked about a peasant emperor, others of an emperor, others yet about a “pastor angelicus”. This all went back to the thought of the Middle Ages, the messianism of the middle ages, also revealing a longing for lost harmonies.

From 1500 on, we have an age of profound transition: from a hierarchical society cemented by religion and custom to the ruler-centered nation state; an agricultural economy to one based on commerce: it is no accident that the image of the Jew as Anti-Christ was linked to the image of the usurer- they were linked together and would remain so throughout the history of the Jews. The Jew was the harbinger of a bad modernity. And indeed, for priests in the early 16th century, the image was combined. One of them, Bernardino da Feltre, was especially concerned with the Jews, and used accusations of ritual murder but at the same time founded new loan associations (which still exist), the Banco Santo Spirito in Rome under Church auspices, to get rid of Jewish usury. A great deal of hypocrisy was involved here. The new was coming to the surface, which is never a very popular thing, above all in a primitive age.

People of the time saw all of this (new politics, new economics) as a punishment for moral failing and the attack on a hierarchical universe. Luther, who was closest to popular ideas and prejudices, made his vow to enter the church when he was nearly hit by a bolt of lightning. The brutality of the age knew only two types of entertainment: listening to preachers, or watching executions. Villages would buy condemned criminals for executions at great expense. Violence was everywhere. Spectators at these events were often crushed to death. Hawkers praised their wares. This lasted into the 18th century, and the reaction to the new guillotine was much the same. Refinement came only much later in our history: the last ritual murder accusations took place in 1915. It was then revived by the Nazis and still exists today. What did change was the greater sophistication of the upper classes.

But then, the same fears were held by rich and poor alike. The humanists ran to the preaching of Savonarola, and shared his millenarianism. “The Thousand Year Reich” is an old term from the book of the Apocalypse, referring to the second coming of Christ that would last a thousand years. The thought that God spoke through all kinds of things in nature, like stars, floods, and lightning, prevailed. Nobody doubted the divine system of reward and punishment. Also popular was the belief in alchemy, because the lower always goes to the higher. To us, such beliefs seem like superstitions, but alchemists, astrologists, and occultist believed that man’s mind could fathom the universe in the last resort. Superstition was one of the forces that drove Europe ahead. Learning would unlock the secrets of the universe. Millenarianism looked back to paradise, but in reality it pushed society forward because it became a dynamic, revolutionary myth. One of Luther’s teachers gave up his chair and went back to the plough. From all of this follows one thing: the Renaissance was already in full swing in 1500. The intellectuals and humanists of the renaissance were no rationalists. They also believed in portents and signs, but they did add something new: the rejection of Christianity, of a theological basis. They took their explanations from the classics rather than the Church. In the Renaissance, which starts about 1450, intellectuals started to question theological interpretations that had led to action, like the burning of witches (and the line between thought and action was very thin). The center of the new, non-theological attitude was Italy. Italy had always had a modern rather than medieval aspect, more urban than rural civilization in city states. The new comes form the urban typically enough.

Lecture #2 - The Italian Renaissance

Lecture #2 - The Italian Renaissance - 44:02 min (mp3)
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Even before the rise of the nation state in the West to which we now come, Italy had held a peculiar position in Europe. Unlike the rest of Europe, it included a modern rather than medieval aspect: power was centered in the cities and towns; unlike the rest of Europe, they never drastically or completely declined. The town dominated the countryside rather than vice versa. The towns had a great measure of political independence by playing the Holy Roman Emperor against the pope and thus they became independent by 1500 in central and northern Italy. Also, these “city states” came to play a central economic role: the Italian communes were the bankers of Europe, and invented many of the mechanisms of modern capitalist finance. These cities developed rather rapidly; Rome doubled its population to 110,000, Florence, to 17,000 people. This urbanism is the setting for the Renaissance. To understand it we must look at the internal development in these city states: from republicanism in the Middle Ages to despotism in the Renaissance, represented by the Medici in Florence, or the Visconti in Milan. Sometimes, they were ruled by outright despotism, sometimes by an economic oligarchy.

In these towns, nearly half of the population lived below the poverty line, and as a result, city politics tended to be explosive; bread riots became almost respectable and were tinged with religious fanaticism. These riots gave the despots their chance: many allied themselves with the masses and were thus swept to power; others used the riots to call in foreign troops, like the Milan Visconti family. In these two ways, they managed to establish themselves all over Italy.

By 1500 there was scarcely a commune left in Italy. Internal dissension was bound to weaken the structure of the city; the first thing the despots did was offer bread and peace, and second, they destroyed all independent organizations of the city, like the commercial guilds. The despots developed within a vacuum of political tradition. They furthered art and literature for their own glory, and sponsored public spectacles, for example by Leonardo da Vinci. The result was a decline of the civic spirit. The great political issue was how to renew civil society. For the intellectuals this seemed typical of degeneration. They blamed the despotism very largely on traditional Christianity. Despots made an alliance with the masses, disenfranchising intellectuals. Mercenaries, loyal to the despot, not the city, took the part of the citizen army.

A general quest for renewal resulted: a renewal of politics, morals, of everything. It is under these circumstances that the intellectuals in Italy began the “rebirth.” This was not a real rebirth, but a new political and moral attitude toward culture in general. Communal and intellectual classes were disarmed; their idea of renewal became centered upon art and literature. Patriotism in the city state centered on art and literature: guilds and intellectuals were excluded from politics. Thus, Petrarch was crowned poet laureate, with poets taking part in competitions in art. These were competitors towards a renewal of society in the one terrain in which they could still have some influence. This renewal would make for a new kind of political participation.

Intellectuals looked for new morals in classical sources, above all the Roman republic, a republic which had not yet declined and still produced great literature and art (not of course the Roman Empire). They not only wanted to imitate the classics, but they used them for inspiration. They were the first to develop the concept of “historical distance” (and also perspective in art). They developed a critical attitude towards their own institutions on the basis of ancient Roman documents. Lorenzo Valla discovered on the basis of those documents that the “Donation of Constantine” the claim of the church to Italian land rested on a forgery. Out of this idea of renewal and of taking the classics as a model came an attitude that was more modern than medieval and this moved Europe ahead. First, there was a renewed stress on the beauty of nature and on the importance of man as the handiwork of God. They were not rationalists and certainly not secularist, but they did reject Christian ideology; instead, they favored the idea of “pantheism,” of a ubiquitous God who did not need an intermediary. To realize this would lead to a renewal of society. God was not typified in theology but in a renewed sense of beauty and purpose. They were still concerned with the immortality of the soul, but they went to Plato as their source of inspiration, and from him developed an idea of beauty.

Renaissance painters still used Christian motifs and motives, but with something else in view: a new concentration on the beauty of man and nature. The Renaissance idea of beauty came from the classics: beauty was proportion. In order to find the proportions of beauty, they studied nature. The beauty of man was a direct reflection of God. Dante, Petrarch, and others made a game of assembling ideally proportioned women in their cities, accompanied by public discussions of love: Platonic love. This was love not based on sexual attraction, but on a theory of beauty, proportion, and a reflection of God that would lead to moral and social renewal. Sculpture and painting, writing in the vernacular tongue, were seen as means of national regeneration. Dante’s defense of writing in Italian was part of this. (Herbert Marcuse today does much the same thing).

These pioneering intellectuals were called “the humanists.” Who were they? They were intellectuals concerned with a revival of classical values, a revival of moral values that would lead to a revival of political ethics that had gone wrong under Christianity. Petrarch coined the term “Dark Ages”, the last outcome of which was the despot. They wanted to renew the classical virtues to outshine the Christian piety that had failed. Devotion to parents, country and the civil spirit were important, as was action, not contemplation. The concept of chivalry was no longer important, but illustrious deeds to fulfill the individual were essential. This could go and did go to excess, but it was an important new idea. In addition, the purity of the Latin style, not the bible, would lead to renewal.

The importance of these artists and intellectuals was that they started the first secularly oriented movement in Europe and put man at the center. Virtue was no longer the Christian virtue, but derived from man acting on the classical examples. They shared an acceptance of the present situation with the belief that with moral regeneration you could overcome despotism. The humanists were optimists, because they believed in the basic goodness of man and rejected the Christian idea of original sin. Another great belief was in education, centered on cultural activity, on the classics, in order to reform man and society. The humanists founded schools all over Europe. All the figures with whom we will deal were educated in these schools, with one exception: Luther.

A famous book, “The Courtier” by Baldassare Castiglione put forth the idea of the new “perfect man”. But his was a doctrine for intellectuals; it equated perfection and learning; it equated its optimism with cultural elitism. The vast majority of the population did not take part. But at times, the universes of the humanists and the vast masses with their millenarianism came together, most famously in the episode connected with Savonarola (1494-1498). Florence was besieged by the French king. The Florentines received the following prophecy from Savonarola: because Florence is directly under Christ, Charles VIII will bypass Florence and not sack it. Savonarola, through his prophecy, became the dominant force in Florentine life. It typified the kind of prophecy that appealed to the population at that time, seeing evil as an inevitability that would come before good. The Church cleansed by Charles VIII would bring about the Second Coming. The humanists supported Savonarola, but eventually he failed, and was burned at the stake by his enemies in Florence and Rome. Yet his ideas and example would not vanish; Savonarola’s Florence was an experiment to build a “New Jerusalem” on Earth to which Christ would come back. Another example of this took place in 1534, in Muenster in Westphalia. In England, a hymn that dates from this period desires “To build Jerusalem on England’s green and pleasant strand.” All of this shows a great millenarian urge to get out of misery not by humanist optimism but by apocalypse.

To return to Savonarola’s Florence: millenarianism stood side by side with humanist activity. The answers came from both sides, but one was constructed by the elite, the other came out of popular culture. These were the respective backgrounds of Luther and Calvin. The Renaissance came out of a real political atmosphere, but it pushed thought in a new direction, away from traditional Christianity. The Humanists wanted a revival of society through a return to the classics and education. Yet, many contradictions existed, which you can see in the Savonarola episode: humanists also shared the perceptions of popular culture. The contribution of humanism is clear: man is educable, but who was to educate the people? The monopoly of the despots and the Church on education had to be broken. There was no pervasive rationalism, no secularism, and no market economy until the 19th century. But in the sixteenth century, a new way of looking at man, and a new view of politics was created, which was important because it became the new politics. The man with whom it is linked is Machiavelli. He wrote when Florence was under despotism and invasion. Because he was a humanist, he tried to apply humanism to politics.

Lecture #3 - Machiavelli

Lecture #3 - Machiavelli - 42:17 (mp3)
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In the previous lecture, Mosse gave an overview of the Renaissance and talked about the political pessimism that forced the creative instincts of the nation into artistic and literary channels. The return to the classics was meant to revive the virtues of man in an Italy where all virtue seemed lacking in the face of despots, mercenary armies, and a lust for power. Now, it was Niccolo Machiavelli who tried to build a bridge to moral regeneration through art, literature, and politics. The dates of Machiavelli’s birth- and death (1469-1527) are important: He was an older contemporary of Luther.

Unlike Dante and other humanists, Machiavelli was an active statesman, who had occupied a leading political position until the Medici came to power and exiled him. In exile from a Florence ruled by despotism, he wrote his “Meditations” derived from the politics of Florence. What he wrote in his “Prince” and “Discourses” were the kind of things politicians were discussing at the time, but he gave them clarity and form: the doldrums of the times, fossilization of the social structure, despots, degeneration, decline of social mobility, etc. Machiavelli at the end saw the “Prince” as the only active person in Italy, and he tried to revive the civic spirit by stressing the importance of a citizen army; thus his interest in war and the art of war. (The Medici had come to power through the incursion of a foreign power, thus Machiavelli was interested in the art of war not for conquest, but for civic spirit). He wanted to revive political consciousness. Political consciousness was for him the essence of all things. He oscillated between optimism and pessimism.

But Machiavelli became more than a man of his time. His name became a slogan in Europe, denoting a new attitude toward politics. It is this new attitude which forms the crux of his influence. What he emphasized and exulted from the beginning was the community, a new and meaningful community in a time of fragmentation and dictatorship. A new civic spirit was needed for a meaningful community. For Machiavelli, that community must be a political, as well as a cultural community. This insight led to his fundamental conclusion: Politics is separate from all other human activities, and political demands must be put above all other demands to lead to renewal. Why this emphasis on politics as separate and above all others? Machiavelli saw the community as a political society, a political body having its own laws of existence. This was totally new. But we must add: the well-being of any society (and it can only be well if politics dominate, in the sense of a participatory community) depends less on its institutions than on the kind of spirit standing behind it: this spirit must be a single-minded willpower giving to man a heightened sense on the common good which made him focus on the community itself. Thus, Machiavelli from the very beginning puts forth an ideal commonwealth as a unified body of men which acts with the strength and willpower necessary for political success.

How can it come about? Machiavelli was pessimistic about the world he saw around him, a world dominated by change and struggle. The answer was “fortune. Not as we of the Christian world see it, where God either punishes or praises you according to your morality. Fortune for him was constant change, with which any politics will have to cope. In this sense he was a relativist: There was no best action, no single best form of government in such a world; what matters is the political spirit which leads to success, but this political spirit will have to be informed by relativism, for otherwise it will never be able to cope with the flux of fortune.

What can we say about the deeper level of Machiavelli’s ideas? His method is very important. For in taking the view of the “autonomy of politics” in a changing world, his method was to carry the Renaissance to a point of complete realism. But his realism was not immoral, as Christianity thought it was; he believed that like all other moral/ethical systems, the maxims of Christian morality must be judged by their consequences. If a maxim of Christian morality is politically harmful, it must be pointed out, lest it leads to political disaster. Within a Christian frame of reference, this was indeed revolutionary. For eternal values were now not eternal at all: They might have bad consequences. Morals in the Christian sense were relegated to the same plane as any other custom and institution. The main thing was to cope with fortune (change) through politics; otherwise there could be no good commonwealth. Contrast that with Martin Luther who said that if you deny God in one thing, you deny God in all things.

Central to Machiavelli’s view was a sense that Christianity had failed politically with the rise of the despots. Political failure was also a moral failure. The humanists tried to substitute the morality of Christ with the morality of Plato. Machiavelli came to see Christianity as something that could either be useful or on occasion had to be scrapped. In any case it was artificial for him, having no eternal value. The sins which ruined states were military and political sins, not moral ones. This does not mean that Machiavelli is without morality: what is important is the spirit behind politics, and this spirit is a form of morality. It is the morality of the Roman Republic, of civic participation. Through this, you get the well-ordered state so little in evidence during the Renaissance. It would bring out the basic capabilities and goodness of men. The greatest obstacle was Christianity to be sure, but above all, it was the passions of men.

Here he does something commonplace, since even for the Greeks, passion was the obstacle. For Machiavelli, it was the passion for power and ruling exemplified by the despots. How do you overcome it? Machiavelli concluded that things were so bad that before we could have the well-ordered state, we must have the right kind of man: a man who has virtue. The man who has virtue is for Machiavelli he who is imbued with the spirit of politics and makes political success his main end, but political success measured within the framework of the good society.

To answer the question how this ideal could be brought about, Machiavelli wrote the “Prince”. This Prince should curb man’s passion for power, cut down despots, and rule by enlightened despotism to prepare for the “good” community. All his advice for the prince is political advice, to make him strong enough for political success to overcome the present degeneracy and prepare to for the reign of virtue. What is so shocking about it? His end was a classical, not a Christian end. God is in a way “fortune,” and ruled out of Machiavelli’s political scheme. This was highly shocking at the time. The second term was the autonomy of politics: there can be no intrinsically wrong action. To reach the ideal commonwealth, you can use any kind of action-as long as your passion for ruling is curbed. A phrase became associated with Machiavelli, coined by him: “Reason of State.” It becomes current in Europe from this time on, meaning that the state is the highest good, and eventually came to stand for any state. The second term was “Policy." It means originally that all sorts of actions can be taken in order to bring about the good commonwealth, the overcoming of fortune by virtue. This word is the origin of the word “politician.”

With the reaction against Machiavelli, politics became a bad word. In 1621, an author in northern Europe used it along with epicureans, Sadducees, and libertines. The end of policy however was a moral one, a participatory republic. The means had to be drastic in Machiavelli’s Italy. The ruler-centeredness of “the Prince” was only a means. That too, people forgot later on. Cesare Borgia was Machiavelli’s hero, because he tried to unite Italy. This also gave Machiavelli a bad name. To understand him, we need to talk about two more things: how does he compare with other, more “normal” concepts of ruler ship, and, how did he get assimilated into Christianity itself? The advice to rulers by other humanists is the common Christian one: the ruler is responsible to God and had to behave like a good Christian. There was no “reason of state,” only Christian morality. The check on the ruler was a moral check, found in Christian morality. This provided the explanation for the barrenness of Queen Elizabeth in 16th -century England: her grandfather had sinned. This was the usual humanist way of dealing with the problem; it still assumes a Christian universe where sin is punished.

The central idea of Machiavelli was: How can a man who is good cope with an evil world? He must have the end goal in view: the commonwealth. He must cope through politics, as Mosse has defined it. For the Christian view, it is irrelevant and silly, because every man is tainted by sin, and the world is not evil because it was created and redeemed by God, who would deal with sin eventually. Throughout the 16th and 17th century, Machiavellianism was a swearword, but we notice a subtle change in what was considered allowable action, in Christian terms. At the beginning of the 16th century, one influential man said that the only thing wrong with Cesare Borgia is that he forgot the kingdom of God, a Christian commonwealth. For that end, more and more means are allowable. For example for Richelieu Machiavelli was justified by one passage n the bible: Abraham lied about his wife Sarah. Another passage that justified Machiavelli was Joshua’s Ambush on Jericho, approved of by God. In other passages, too, Machiavellism and Christian morality did not clash. Machiavelli was assimilated into Christianity by first, approving more and more means and simply saying the goal is wrong, and second by “casuistry” the use of passages from the bible. A third way of assimilating him was found in the sermons preached by the Pilgrim Fathers when leaving Holland: God’s revelation must to be followed; every opportunity that God puts in your way you must exploit. 

Machiavelli was the beginning of a conscious new politics, of a conscious acceptance of politics as a struggle for power in which almost all means are justified. This means of course an erosion of the moral checks of Christianity. It must be clear now that Machiavelli was from now on a factor in European thought, and also a climax of secularism. While all this was developing in Italy, a dialectical process was at work contemporaneously, like always in history: Luther in Germany, and a different kind of Rebirth in the North. Both would flow into the mainstream, but at first, the Renaissance was different in the North because it still maintained its medieval political structures and attitudes. It was an agrarian feudal civilization, not an urban one. While the Italian Renaissance wore its “Sunday dress”, the Northern one was much closer tied to popular fears. Luther was a “Man of the People”, closer to them than the humanists in Italy. Popular beliefs were vital to the Northern Renaissance.

Lecture #4 - Popular Culture and Humanism in Northern Europe

Lecture #4 - Popular Culture and Humanism in Northern Europe - 40:25 (mp3)
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Mosse notes that manners and political and social structures in the north of Europe were different from Italy: in the north, they were still medieval while Italy had a more urban complexion. The Reformation was a northern, not a southern European phenomenon. Initially, it was made possible by the type of religious life in the north, a life shared by both the common people and intellectuals. When we talk about “religious life”, we are referring to all aspects of  life in this time. Recall what life was like in Europe in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries: it was characterized by a general violent tenor, with millenarian and prophetic directions. Calamities and catastrophes afflicted people more than now, and were more difficult to guard against. The violent contrasts between poverty and wealth contributed to the primitive and frightening character of society. On display were not only religious processions, but also executions for the inculcation and edification of the commoners. Religious life was violent too, filled as it was with medieval symbolism.

This kind of “primitive” life had a preoccupation with death which shaded into the macabre. Burials lasted only nine days; after that time, the remains were dug up, and thrown into a charnel house for burning. Death and life intermingled. Today, life in American is much different: Death is repressed. Fear of catastrophes intermingled with the presence of death; salvation was thus a constant concern. The constant expectation of the end of the world and the frantic quest for salvation played into the quest for the millennium. We find this even today in backward regions in Europe, such as in Sicily. These kinds of “heightened manifestations” caused Luther much trouble: this thread went directly into the radical Reformation. Revolts throughout this period were animated by the spiritual quest, and by primitive rebels (from today’s point of view).

The first lesson that can be learned from this is that this kind of longing for salvation: it was always connected with the quest for a better life in this world, not only in the next, but in this world. This search for salvation tended to seek religious safeguards: in one way you could strike out and use the bible to build a better world, but on the other you could focus on religious safeguards. Before the Reformation, outward religious customs and observance, like the worship of images of saints in the beginning of the 16th century, were supposed to provide such safeguards. The Church always taught that you should render saints and relics their due, but that the object was God, not the relic. This was blunted and distorted by the perceptions of the populace. Superstitions, images, paintings of saints, and the familiarity with saints induced abuse. Louis XI, for instance, distributed the remains of St. Louis at a banquet, giving whole ribs to his favorites and only half ribs to the bishops. He also ground up relics and used them as medicine. Relics became less religious objects than objects of superstition, endowed with godlike power. The body of St. Thomas Aquinas was immediately boiled so it would yield clean relics. This kind of fetishism could also be observed in mass meetings that served the same purpose, to objectify what seemed to be the truth.

Long before the Protestant reformers, there was protest against these practices from within the Church. The Church was not responsible for this fetishism, but where the church failed was in its overindulgence with these practices. This caused a reaction that was led by the reformers. Too many earthly blessings were expected. There were masses for everything, even a mass against one’s living enemies so they might drop dead. With all this emphasis on the exuberance of popular religion, the distinction between the temporal and eternal was all but obliterated. Everything seemed to flow into each other. This led to a formalizing of religion, to a continual millenarian dynamic. The Catholic reformation tried to do something to counter this. The submergence of faith in good works was the main accusation of the Reformers against the Church: the accusation that outward things were more important than what Luther called “faith freely found”. The Reformers confused the abuse with the reality, but reformers do that in any case. Yet the Church did not stand in high repute with the people; it had lost contact with them. Clerics became mere administrators and were often held in contempt. They were perceived as just making money in times of crisis. What took the place of the Church were new religious orders: one, the Friars, in particular came to the fore. They were clergy who preached at street corners, emphasized preaching, drew vast crowds with their highly emotional preaching, but were still part of the Catholic Church.

But it was in the guise of the friars that the Protestant Reformers first appeared. They swayed crowds and as friars, captured the allegiance of cities. This kind of popular piety laid the basis of the Reformation in three ways: through the excessive formalization of religious practice, the attacks on the clergy, and through the ferment itself. What about the intellectuals? In the 16th century, very few intellectuals went to the university; they were therefore a distinct class. Northern intellectuals also benefited from the Renaissance that had percolated to the North from Italy. Northern intellectuals had enjoyed this humanist inspired education, but once they got out of the colleges, they too were captured by the religious atmosphere just described. They applied their learning to Christian concerns, not to the classics. No ivory tower intellectuals, they lived in this life-death atmosphere, the violent tenor of life. So they did two things: first, they applied their learning to the Christian sources in antiquity- they wanted to renew their society through ancient Christianity, the church fathers, not through the classics. The pure literature of Christianity would purify society. Secondly, they wanted to get out of the bind, renew society by getting rid of the confusion of death and life, the primitive elements in the religious scene of the time, and of superstition.

Yet going back to the sources meant criticism of the extant Church, which had lost touch with its classical sources. The Reformers wanted to discover a Christianity that would be more relevant for the time. As Erasmus put it, “My aim is to lead man back to Christ.” This meant to lead man back to a purified Christianity, out of the Middle Ages, out of the bind of fear and superstition, and back to reason. Like all intellectuals, they stressed reason and applied it to their decisions and did not “jump into utopia.” Their way to stress reason was to go back to the sources of Christianity. This meant that these northern humanists were bound to be men of moderation and had no sympathy for violence, or for Martin Luther who was so close to popular piety. They believed in moderation and dialogue. They thought they were best equipped to reform the church, but they also believed that a reform of the church had to be gradual: you could only come to true” Christianity through learning.

The northern humanists emphasized learning as the way to culture and truth: the learned would go to heaven. They shared with the southern humanist a faith in education. They believed that if you had the right kind of education, read the bible in the original and the Church fathers, you would be able to resist the millenarians and the irrational fears that permeated society, and you could also go to heaven. This became politically important, because these humanists became the advisors of bishops and princes. When Luther appeared, they advised them to take it easy, rather than risk an open break and violence. As a result, they made Lutheranism possible: Luther was excommunicated in 1521, but twenty years later, bishops and cardinals and other good Catholics were still negotiating with him. The humanists’ policy of moderation and conciliation badly misread the Protestant Reformation because these twenty years gave Lutheranism a chance to  get established. Had the bishops and princes enforced the pope’s excommunication in 1521, they would have utterly destroyed Lutheranism. (Mosse says as a disclaimer that conditions change, that things are different today, and that such an approach not valid for the UW circa 1969).

The northern intellectuals actually did a great disservice to the Catholic Church, because they introduced indecision. If you negotiate twenty years beyond the revolution, you help to establish it. Mosse summarizes this part by saying that the humanists never broke with the Church, but in this way did it a disservice. They were against dogmatism and believed in faith, but their faith was highly intellectualized. They were not able to reach the mass of people, and their ideas did not penetrate their traditional beliefs, yet, clearly, they became very important politically in guiding the powerful men of their world. They injected hesitation, indecisiveness, and also an element of toleration into the age. For example, Charles V. was educated, a humanist who never understood Luther because fanaticism was beyond his understanding. A tolerant man, he gave the Jews the most liberal patent then in existence. Luther did not come from such a background; he came from the popular-piety background. His intense concern for salvation, first accepting and then rejecting religious safeguards, was typical. His final idea, “sola fide” or “faith alone” cut through the insecurity: not fear, but trust was paramount.

Lecture #5 - Martin Luther

Lecture #5 - Martin Luther - 48:05 (mp3)
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To repeat, Luther was not a Northern humanist, but a man close to the popular piety of the North. To understand him, we have to look at his background, at his view of the church as a decaying institution, for his struggle of peace of soul, for his frantic looking for outward religious safeguards, and how he came into the monastery. All of this was very closely tied to the superstitions of the people themselves. Mosse says that Luther’s key discovery was the idea of faith and trust as a substitute for the kind of fear that was so typical of his development and that of the whole popular culture of the time. He accepted the existential condition of man’s sinfulness and fate. According to Luther, we must accept our fate and trust in our salvation, for Christ is always within us. Essential is man’s conscience that forms the relationship to Christ, and from which Christ works within him: therefore, your conscience does not really belong to you, but to Christ.

Luther thus cut through the framework of medieval theology. “Not reading and speculating but living and dying makes a theologian.” That is, his existential condition. Recently, much scholarship has tried to reestablish Luther as a humanist, and he was very educated indeed, but the central thing about him is his distinction between faith and the world, which is implied in his own personal discovery of faith. Faith is a matter of trust, of conscience. But the world itself is peopled with devils: Luther saw the world as essentially sinful. His whole point was that if we do not have purity of faith, the world would give in to sin. Therefore, he saw his enemies not just as personal enemies, but as agents of the devils, in a very literal way. He called for the extermination of radicals, witches and Jews. Through purity of faith, you can mitigate the evil in this world. The world of faith is one thing, but in the world, the here and now, Luther took a different attitude: he furthered reason and learning, believed in secular education, and was the first to call for compulsory education to make sure everybody could read scripture, but also for practical reasons. He also furthered the study of nature, nature as a reflection of God, but not an evil reflection, because God had given it to us to enjoy. Consequently, the great scientific advances took place in Lutheran, not in Catholic universities.

Unlike Calvin, Luther never constructed a system: It was Melanchton who systematized Lutheranism, not Luther himself. He was eventually pushed into reasoning things out, especially by the dispute with his Catholic adversaries. His tract of 1520 is certain on negative theological points, like the abolition of saints and things of that nature, but never positive: he does not say with what it should be replaced. His whole discovery of faith and truth prevented him from a positive theological construction, because faith was too personal. Everything was done piecemeal: Catholicism and Lutheranism were not easily distinguishable until 1540. The lines were not clearly drawn, either in theology and ideology, nor in politics. An equal indecision prevailed in Catholicism over politics.

These factors made for the considerable success of Lutheranism, since, as Mosse said, the excommunication of Luther was delayed, in part through the indecision of the Humanists and the Catholic Church, deepened by the political situation of the empire. Luther was “adopted” by the princes against the emperor. The Prince’s often had little to do with religious concerns. Catholic Bavaria strongly supported the Lutherans for purely political reasons. In 1529 at the imperial diet the Protestant minority declared that matters of faith can not be decided at imperial diets: what they were really saying was that every prince should decide his own and his people’s faith. They got away with it, because the alternative would give the emperor too much influence. This resolution established Protestantism in Europe. Luther’s possessed tremendous ability in the area of propaganda: he was the first to use the printing press and he used plain, popular language.

Of further importance was Luther’s close connection with the awakening stirrings of German nationality. He adapted folk songs to hymns, but above all, he appealed to anti-roman sentiments, and protested against the taxation that came from Italy. He mobilized anti-Italian sentiment especially among the more articulate classes. His translation of the bible, completed in 1534, was to make the Saxon court dialect the language of Germany. “I have endeavored to make Moses so German that no one would suspect he that was a Jew” was not a statement of modern nationalism, but of making the bible intelligible to common people. All this “folksiness” and propagandist abilities transformed a university movement into a popular one, from which friars emerged and captured the cities. All these factors made the Reformation successful, yet the problem of organization could not be shirked. Luther thus called on the princes to solve the dilemma: if salvation is through faith alone, why do you need regulation and order? St. Paul had said that the just shall be saved through faith alone, but he had also said “Obey the powers that be for they are of God.” How could faith and order be reconciled? One answer was that faith is an inward matter, and thus the outward world was a thing of indifference; therefore, you must accept whatever ruler you have. Inward faith was what mattered.

But Luther did not really believe in the strict alliance of throne and altar: more than anything  he furthered the alliance through vagueness and thereby increased the power of the princes. Yet, he equally furthered the importance of the community. Wherever Protestantism established itself, it abolished the whole network of Catholic social welfare. You no longer had convents that served as insane asylums or hospitals: they were replaced by the parish. Parishioners had a social duty to look after the poor; the parish was for Luther the assembly of Christians. Luther’s idea of parish organization was more democratic than Calvin’s. Guardians had to be elected to look out for the poor, and also to fix prices. Thus the parish community came to be filled with a social duty it had never had before. All Reformers would propose these new ideas of community.

Luther never solved the problem of organization, but it was put into relief by Luther’s “fellow travelers”. They were the peasants who sought to appropriate Lutheranism to solve their own dilemmas; the big peasant revolt of 1525 was only one in a series of peasant revolts. It looked both forward and backwards: it was a protest against both the tightening of feudal dues, but it also wanted to go back to feudal times before the tightening-up of feudal dues. These were not modern revolts; Mosse warns the students not to read class consciousness into it. They were partly millenarian, partly simply a protest against worsening conditions. They were not directed by peasants, but by the small nobility, middle- class people, and intellectuals. The famous twelve articles of the peasants were not written by peasants at all, but by a Lutheran priest of middle-class descent. They implied a nostalgia for a rural innocence before the fall; the “real” feudal system, and evoked a great sense of community. The leaders of the revolt were ordinary elected officials- often an official of the rural lord. They did not always object to paying taxes, but wanted their own officials to collect them. If they had a clearly expressed ideology, they were what we would call Anabaptist. The real basis of Anabaptism is an emotional commitment which you made with “open eyes” in adulthood. Anabaptists see themselves as the people of the Holy Spirit who formed a community of the elect, a second, “real” Israel, which implied equality. Anabaptism was always a lower-class movement, for millenarianism entered into it easily. The Anabaptists were exemplified by one leader in particular, Thomas Muenzer. Muenzer’s doctrine was “continuous revelation,” God reveals himself to his elect every day, God’s revelation goes through his elect, who would transform the world for the Second Coming of Christ. It was the poor who would save the world, because the rich were too corrupt and enmeshed in the world. The rich had therefore to be slaughtered, because their presence prevented the Second Coming. We have the same revolutionary impetus and the same sentiment in the English Revolution, for instance in Robinson’s sermon to the departing Pilgrim Fathers.

Luther fiercely opposed them because you cannot really build a social order on this. The problem was that tomorrow, another revelation might take its place. Moreover, these Anabaptists rejected scripture to a degree: they thought they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and were not in need of scripture. Luther had no answer to the difficulty of the personal interpretation of scripture, unlike Calvin, who had a system of logic in which the bible should be read. The people who caused Luther and others the greatest trouble were those who got caught up in the peasant wars. The Reformation did not cause it, it paralleled it. The peasants wanted to elect their own priests, but also their own bailiff and tax collector. The Reformation strengthened not the individual in the 19th century sense, but partly the idea of authority, and partly that of community. Immediately, these “fellow travelers” made Luther more conservative, sent him fleeing into the hands of the princes and gave Lutheranism an ever more conservative bend.

The Lutheran Reformation springs out of popular culture and piety, but Luther was a humanist and his distinction between the world and faith had serious consequences: it played into the indifference of Lutheranism to outward forms of organization and government. (This was not the case in Calvinism). Secondly, Luther furthered the idea of community, and all of the Reformation gave that idea a social content which would in the end become national legislation. It was no accident that the first modern social legislation, the Elizabethan poor law, came in a Protestant country. It lifts to the national level what had existed on the community level. The peasant revolts’ revolutionary ideology had little to do with Lutheranism: it was grounded in medieval millenarianism. However, it came ever more to the surface with the Reformation. Millenarianism survived in underdeveloped regions, and would also go into the anarchist movement. In sum, indecision and the problems of the emperor helped the establishment of Protestantism. (Calvin never had a problem with how to construct a system, or in forming revolutionary elite that would change nations, and make the first great modern revolution. Luther was very reluctant to form this kind of elite).

Two final things: the intellectuals were themselves were not so far removed from popular beliefs- many dabbled in things like alchemy, and believed in the battle between God and the devil in nature. The Puritans believed in it. Secondly, in the end, popular piety would not disappear: when the Protestants attempted to abolish all of the “superstitious” practices, people would still cling to them, stream to Catholic regions to attend processions, covered their houses with images of saints, etc. In some regions they were more successful in ending this behavior than others, but in all border regions, Protestants would stream over: they did not and could not stop it. The only country where the Protestants initially succeeded was England, and there it needed a revolution. Finally: the popular culture, which so influenced Luther and was so important for the millenarians, continues to influence: Even in the age of industrialism, it would break out in underdeveloped regions of Europe. We still find it today in the host, the chalice, and the mass. Popular piety plugged into an urge for millenarianism and into the revolutionary ideas of the time in the hope for an “instant utopia” and looked back to a time before “the fall.” Secondly, it could manifest itself in religious superstitions. Luther came out of such a background; his parents had been unlearned peasants. Though he did eventually get an excellent humanist education, he remained close to popular beliefs.

Lecture #6 - John Calvin

Lecture #6 - John Calvin - 47:17 (mp3)
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It must already be clear that the personality of Calvin was formed by a different background than Luther’s. Calvin started with a career in law, had the best humanist training of the time, and did not come from a rural background. From the beginning, Calvin liked to construct systems. Not through piecemeal inspiration like Luther: Calvin possessed a system-building, practical turn of mind. It is clear from the reading that Calvin was accused of being a Lutheran, and Luther’s influence cannot be discounted; but Luther was not the only influence: the whole humanist method and learning was important, and also the religious renaissance that was going on in France at the time, which was partly humanist inspired. It is no surprise that immediately after his conversion, Calvin began to write his most famous book, “The Institutes of a Christian Religion”, which was constantly revised from 1536 until 1558. From the beginning, the Calvinist movement had something that Lutheranism never had, a definite book of dogma, and thus a basic text.

The center of the “Institute” is the bible, Christ and God, but what we must stress is its view of God as an authoritarian ruler whose law is supreme, and the Old Testament as a preparation for the coming of Christ. Nevertheless, this enabled him to accept the moral commandments of the Old Testament. It is typical that he immediately grappled with a problem Luther had never dealt with: how to read the bible correctly; how can you avoid the kind of direct inspiration that would allow you to interpret the bible in your own manner? Calvin developed a system of logic that became a kind of barrier to “idle and wild speculation.” It would bring about the result he wanted. The “system” had to do with election, predestination, damnation, and salvation, but all these terms are connected to the supremacy of God: If God is an absolute monarch; God can elect anyone he wants. Human will and action has nothing to do with it; the only will is that of God, a god who can condemn or save anyone. For God to be supreme, he must have foreknowledge of anything and everything, including your next act. How could you possibly tell if you were of the elect? Calvin believed that there were no outside ways according to which you could tell; you were of the elect if you had made direct contact with Christ. If you were of the elect, you did not have to speculate about it because you had a clear conscience.

In all of Protestantism, conscience is the instrument of God within your self, yet no one can have a clear conscience because everyone is tainted with original sin; even saints have their faults. Therefore the elect can never be a “holy community.” On this issue, Calvin fought against the Anabaptists, who believed they were exactly that. (Because you cannot tell who is saved, the Church must be all-inclusive, and should not conceive of itself as an elite group like the Anabaptists). Since no one is perfect, all must work together to fulfill God’s will for the universe. The role of the Church is to come in and help with this process. To oppose the Church is therefore to oppose God. Disorder and scandal could not be tolerated in the Church, and that is how ecclesiastical discipline enters into this: Discipline was supposed to be guidance, not repression, and its purpose was to keep believers from subverting God’s plan for the universe. Remember, we are in a period where religious divergence equals subversion, and where heresy and immorality were regarded as political subversion. Calvin’s discipline centered upon fulfilling God’s plan, for which the human mind had to center on higher things.

The essence of fulfilling God’s plan and building the good society was discipline. Discipline would help you win the war for God and the New Jerusalem. Corruption manifested itself in one’s daily life in the constant war of the spirit against the flesh. The flesh means the distraction from the job at hand, i. e., having one’s mind centered on God’s plan. If you fall into sins of the flesh, you will know it because your conscience will be uneasy. God will punish you through your conscience, but the Church will help you to move in “the path of righteousness.” The war of the spirit against the flesh was true for everyone; everyone was equal in that regard. It did not matter what profession you were in. To use Calvin’s own term, you had to follow the “calling” that God chose for you. Every act within this world was by definition a religious act, for God had predetermined it. This meant that every profession had status and this was completely opposed to the medieval idea: No matter what your station in life, you are as good as any knight or lord. This gave a lift to the middle-class professions which until then had been looked down upon, and made them respectable. It pushed Europe ahead of other civilizations where that never happened, and where some professions are still better than others-mostly those from the past which we would consider useless. Through Calvinism, every profession became useful. People had to submit to discipline, but also gained equality through Calvinism, yet it is the Church that counts because it is the guardian of discipline, yet the Church and Calvinism must be independent from the state to fulfill its mission.

What emerges from all of this is a revolutionary impetus, but one different from the Anabaptists, not democratic, but centered on discipline and control. On a larger scale, Luther and Calvin destroyed the hierarchical universe of the Middle Ages because you, and your conscience, are immediately under God. The problem that came up immediately was how do you maintain an earthly hierarchy in absence of a heavenly one? Luther solved the problem by stressing order, by making a reluctant alliance with the ruler. An additional problem for Calvin was what to do about the elect, those that viewed themselves as predestined: Didn’t they know more about God’s kingdom on earth? But if so, wouldn’t you then have another kind of Anabaptism? Calvin was extremely concerned about this. For that reason, he attempted to separate Church and state, but was unsuccessful, for the Church had primacy. Yet, the Kingdom of God in Calvinism is a kingdom on earth, not just in heaven. Another problem was that Calvinism, with is logical system, believed that man must exploit all opportunities that God had placed in his way. That is how the Calvinists- like Queen Elizabeth and John Winthrop, for example-justified their actions, even their most brutal actions. It introduced into Calvinism a great deal of flexibility. One had to take every opportunity, because opportunity came from God. This made Calvinism a vital kind of revolutionary force, a ready-made doctrine for a revolutionary elite. Traditional hierarchy was meaningless for the elect. They stood outside of it. The create of this “elite” is what happened and what Calvin had wanted to prevent.

This twist in the Calvinist doctrine is what made the Puritans revolutionary elite, both in 16th-century England and in 17th-century New England. Here you have a crisis which would spread into all of Europe, inaugurating the whole age of the religious wars which break out in Europe in this period. What made it possible was the rise of revolutionary parties, such as Huguenots, Calvinists, Puritans, and Presbyterians. They were revolutionary because they based their ideas and actions on the doctrine of “election” and on the duty of constructing the good society: God had given them the means and the opportunity. Therefore the matter of salvation, damnation and election foreshadows the religious wars that would last for half a century. Calvin did not want that to happen, and tried to prevent it by stressing that a clear conscience is impossible, because everybody was born with original sin: There can be no elite on earth. Of course, what happened is that it turned out that it was very difficult to tell what a “clear conscience” was, and who possessed it. In the end, this would slide into self-righteousness. This was not really possible under Catholic doctrine or Lutheranism. (Mosse remarks that if you haven’t experienced this in the Anglo-Saxon world, he has; all his landladies both in Cambridge, England and Massachusetts had no doubts in their minds that they were elect. They also had no doubts in their minds that he was damned: This made for some difficulties.) However, it was a kind of self-righteousness that Calvin would have denied by his emphasis on original sin.

Calvin also emphasized another thing: moderation. Calvin was a humanist, who like all humanists, believed in Stoic ideas, in the necessity of curbing the passions. The enemy of man and government were the passions. God’s law was the most rational. This meant moderation and reasonableness must always be maintained. Calvin also emphasized this in an attempt to get rid of the idea of inspiration. But what he did not foresee was that this very idea of moderation and reason could be used to cement a revolutionary elite. All these revolutionary parties used Calvin’s ideas of reason and moderation to discuss and hone their tactics and bind themselves together. Thirdly, Calvin stressed that the ruler should reform the church and take the lead in bringing about the kingdom of God. But what if the ruler turns against the Calvinists? Then the ruler becomes a tyrant who should be deposed. Calvin tried to circumvent the idea of revolution and chaos by putting the authority not in the hand of the people and revolutionary elite, but in aristocratic hands. In doing so, he immensely enhanced the prestige of parliament and the estates, of these intermediate authorities. But what if in a nation there are no intermediary authorities that support Calvinism? For the first time (with John Knox and others, who said you have to put the sword into the hands of the people) the democratic idea of revolution developed: Calvin did not want this; he wanted an aristocratic revolution. A popular revolution was useful only when you had no intermediaries. Luther was much more democratic than Calvin’s church government. Here, congregations gave their silent approval to what the ministers decided. The Calvinist church government is not the origin of democracy; Calvin was an aristocrat. He wanted to prevent revolution, yet his doctrine had a revolutionary potential built in. A disciplined revolutionary elite grew up because of the political situation in particular countries.

In all of this, in Calvin and Luther, you have the idea of the community. Calvin-even more than Luther-stressed the idea of community, and the interrelatedness of human endeavors. They did not look at man as compartmentalized. The Church was a true community, and as such it had certain duties, such as price fixing, and above all, economic policies: interest could be taken, but only if it was for the good of the community, not the individual. There was a vital distinction between loans for productive works-that created work, and unproductive loans. Money should be creative, not sterile. For the first time, a great breach was made in the prohibition of interest with the idea of taking interest for certain purposes. Yet, once the breach was made, the limitations dissolved. Calvin’s contributions to the evolution of capitalism were indirect: in one, less important way, in the taking of interest. His real contribution was giving new status to a “profession” to the idea of a vocation. This liquidated the feudal view of the knight as the highest, best example to emulate. Finally, the community is not an island; it has to work to transform the world. Calvinism is activism, not contemplation. Therefore, it is no wonder that those who thought themselves as elect did become a revolutionary elite, in the end, a kind of aristocracy.

Calvinists were the first to have a consistent and coherent “life style.” This phenomenon affected all nations where Calvinism went. It fought a permanent war to transform the outside world, but also a war within you that is based on discipline and your own conscience. To that end, many Puritans kept diaries with ledgers of their sins. What was a sin? A sin was a sign of damnation, of immoderation by stepping outside the discipline that the church has laid down. The term “flesh” is meant to convey all the things that inhibit God’s plan for this world, such as card playing and similar games, drinking, and immoderate passions. For the first time, Calvinists believed that women could be equal to men in terms of sainthood; the battle applies to men and women alike. Family life was not connected with Eros, but with prayer. Chastity became important, because it prevents temptation. It was supposed to keep people’s minds on the main things of life, like fighting a revolutionary struggle. The revolutionary parties that arose were immensely successful with this doctrine.

There has been much nonsense written about Calvinism and the middle-classes by people who believe only in the importance of economics. Calvinism appealed to a cross section of the dissatisfied: the high nobility in Scotland, the low nobility and the urban people in France ( the middle-classes in France stuck with Catholicism), some of the middle-classes and the lower nobility. The only class to whom it never appealed was the peasantry: Calvinism was too intellectual; it had no gayety of religious expression, and millenarianism was absent. As a result, the illiterate and primitive majority was not drawn to such a faith. There was no peasant Calvinism in Europe in a meaningful way, which was no great disadvantage. The kingdom of God which Calvinism wanted is in the Bible, in the Book of Judges, which presents the only system of government in the Bible that God ever approved of directly: an aristocracy, but not a hereditary one, a stern, ideal society. There were terrible tensions within Calvinism. It dissolved itself into Anglo-Saxon self-righteousness in part by cutting through these tensions. The Catholic Church in the meanwhile also began a thorough kind of reformation - not a counterreformation though, because it started before Protestantism. Its final result would not be a revolutionary elite, but an artistic style, the Baroque. The triumphant Rome that you see today would be the final result.

Lecture #7 - The Catholic Reformation

Lecture #7 - The Catholic Reformation - 44:46 (mp3)
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By middle of the 16th century, Protestantism had reached the height of its influence and territorial spread; Lutheranism was recognized in the empire, Calvin was established in Geneva. Yet by 1600, the Protestant tide had been rolled back, for example, Austria and Poland had been reconverted to Catholicism. During the period when Protestantism was triumphant, the Catholic Church had not been sitting idle: The age of religious wars between 1555 and 1600 documents that the struggle continued.

Luther visited Rome in 1510 and was shocked by the decadent Renaissance papacy, yet only ten years later, the mutinous mercenary troops of Charles V. sacked Rome. It was one of the most destructive sacks of Europe: 6,000 men were killed, and a a large portion of Rome was burned. All the troops engaged in blasphemous rites, and as a result of the sack, the population of Rome declined from 90,000 to 40,000. It was an orgy of murder. The Catholic reformation is usually dated from 1527, but wrongly so. Before then, there had been people who wanted Reform, for example Erasmus, the Christian Humanists, and others. This urge did get an institutional form: Throughout the North and even in Rome itself, the disgusted pious founded brotherhoods, circles for prayer, charity, and the like. These were called Oratories, the most famous of which was the Oratory of Divine Love in Rome, founded in 1517. In Particular, the Rome Oratory gathered some prominent Church members, who emphasized faith and charity over works, and scripture i.e.  over Church tradition. These men first tried to mediate between Luther and the Church: very much in the nature of restraint and moderation of these Christian humanists. The result was the 1514 Diet of Regensburg, where Melanchthon, Calvin, and the Cardinals associated with the Oratory of Divine Love appeared. The Catholic Church and the Lutherans united on the importance of justification, faith, and the downgrading of works, but not on the role of saints, the papacy and the clergy. In the end, this attempt at mediation failed.

This failure would determine the future of the Catholic reformation. Hardliners in the Catholic Church did not believe in mediation. They were influenced by the example of Spain, which had driven out the heretics and believed in the purity of faith and race. But in the midst of Italy, the Protestants made inroads. On of the heads of an important religious orders converted. This was cause for alarm. The Catholic reformation therefore turned towards the Spanish direction, and began to reject the oratories and humanism, stressing religious discipline instead. The Church re-instituted the Inquisition in 1542. The Papal Inquisition had its center in Rome. But in 1540, the Jesuit order was recognized by the papacy; the Jesuits would become the instrument of the Papal Inquisition. The founders of the Jesuit order were Spaniards. The Jesuits organized themselves on Spanish example and its medieval crusading tradition. The founder Ignatius Loyola’s first effort was to “liberate” the Holy Land: only when this effort failed did he turn to domestic heretics. Loyola had been an army officer, and the Jesuits were organized like the military. Yet, because they were a small elite, their military organization was reinforced by a kind of mysticism popular in Spain. This became the famous spiritual exercises. These were exercises to discipline the will, resulting in religious fervor. The Jesuits were the “shock troops” not an army. But spiritual exercises did not mean spiritual intransigence. It was a kind of mysticism that directed you to contemplate salvation through the church. Many people, even humanists, in the end took to them without becoming members of the Jesuit order. The Jesuits concentrated on four things: first, on preaching- they were a disciplined order of friars. Second, on teaching- the method by which they reconquered Poland for the Catholic Church. Third, on becoming confessors to the powerful, thus penetrating the centers of power and taking the place of the humanist advisors. The fourth thing was an appeal to the senses. Loyola’s own view of religion was this: God can be found everywhere, in the senses and in reason. For this belief, (Loyola himself had been indicted by the Spanish Inquisition). As a result, the Jesuits believed in the use of psychological means to make religion meaningful to the people. The exercises were in fact a kind of psychological training. Above all, Loyola believed in using art for that purpose in several ways, in particular to express religious feelings, and to make religious passion clear to the people. It became especially important in Jesuit street theater. Facial expressions had to match inward experience, putting an emphasis on emotion which as a result, became exaggerated. It led to an exaggeration in representation which became very popular from then on, stressing Christ’s passion and resurrection, and the fear of death that was combined with the glory of making contact with God. Flagellation became popular as well.

But the Jesuits also used art to indoctrinate their novices. Often, the rectory where novices prayed was painted with gruesome scenes of torture. It is still to be seen in a church in Rome, in Santo. Stefano Rotundo. Mosse counted 55 scenes of torture represented there. It shows you the way in which the Jesuits proceeded, but also how a new style closely connected to popular piety was promoted and evolved. This style- based in Renaissance forms-became the first universal style we have: the Baroque. The style fit the Jesuit preoccupation with appealing to the senses and is exemplified by the mother church of the Jesuits in Rome, “Il Gesu.” The style is marked by the absence of harsh lines, luxury, and an altar that looks like a stage. There are two focuses in these churches: preaching and the altar. Their theatrical setting went with elements of exaggeration and was furthered by the great triumphs of the Catholic Church. One was the conversion of the Swedish Queen Christina. For her entrance into Rome, parts of the city were rebuilt. It became the Rome we see today: its streets are laid out for processions.

This kind of religious fervor was given a great impetus by the earthquake in Rome in 1587, which revealed the catacombs underneath, including the catacombs of St. Calixtus. There, the early Christians had hidden from the Roman emperor Diocletian. The tombs of the martyrs were an inspiration, for just as the early Christians had been beleaguered by Diocletian, the Catholic Church was beleaguered in Protestant countries now. The discoveries of the catacombs gave a great impetus for the building of churches, including the depositing of relics of saints underneath altars in churches. All this could slide into morbidity, especially in Spain. Pope Innocent VIII, for example, slept in his coffin. Pompous funerals in Spain, with embalmed corpses and the like, started then. Black became fashionable. The Baroque appealed to the senses, and contrasted with Protestant restraint. It became restless, being always in motion. It also fused with popular piety, which it reinforced. For the first time, we see miracle books that record the miracles of the local saints. The screen behind the altar was used to visually represent a part of theology. Baroque became a cultural pattern, a way of life, of color and form which fit in with popular piety. (Mosse claims that you cannot love Rome and Florence, Baroque and Renaissance. Mosse himself loves Rome because he feels closer to popular piety.

This cultural pattern came together with the Jesuit and later all-Catholic idea of the gradation of sin, the rejection of the Calvinist idea of original sin, and of predestination. Rather, salvation was attained through atonement; man was always redeemable, if helped by his father confessor. The difference between the South and North in Europe is not the climate, but the difference between Baroque and Protestantism: Catholics, Mosse states, have a more light-hearted attitude towards life, and are not as self-righteous. This comes from the fact that the Baroque penetrated one region, Calvinism the other. The Reformation was more than a theological business: theology was a way of life (like “the Revolution” for some students today) and would remain so for the less literate classes. It was clear that the Catholic reformation did not remain there. The Council of Trent tried to counter the abuses of the Baroque, but was not very successful in this effort. The most important thing the Council did concern the residency of bishops: Though it did not lay down any specific rules, it recommended the pope get the bishops out of Rome and into the provinces. The Council nearly foundered over that issue. It also provided for a trained ministry: every bishopric had to provide for a seminary for priests. Most parish priests had not been trained at all, and were often very ignorant. Most importantly: it tightened theology. After Trent, indecision and negotiation with Protestants was no longer acceptable or possible. It created a precise Catholic dogma, a platform from which to fight Protestantism. Combined with the capturing of popular piety, this further drove the Church to confront Protestantism: Protestantism started to fossilize, but the Catholic Church surged forward.

The new enemy of the Catholic Church was now the predominance of the nation state, of the new political order. Nation states began to no longer equate religious with political subversion; this way, tolerance slides in through the back door, causing indifference, because tolerance, Mosse says, is basically indifference. Finally, from the Catholic reformation emerged a new, dedicated type of revolutionary leader and ruler. While the Reformation was happening, the political scene had changed, introducing the rise of the nation state over the empire. The political tension that played into the reformation was one between empire and nation state. Lutheranism profited from the fact that the princes of the little principalities (which were basically nation states) could use it against the emperor. The Jesuits in their theory were much like the Calvinists, promoting resistance against the emperor. This was the revolutionary dynamic that pushed things ahead from 1555 on.

Lecture #8 - The Nation State

Lecture #8 - The Nation State - 42:55 (mp3)
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One problem Machiavelli had raised was this: was there a modern state in the 16th century? Some historians have thought so, such as the most important historian of the 19th century who studied the Renaissance, the German historian Jacob Burckhardt: he believed that there was what he called the “state as a work of art” in the city states of Italy in the Renaissance. But modern scholarship no longer applies this kind of concept to the political states of the 19th century, for it is doubtful that ideas of nationality and patriotism, which were politically operative powerful concepts, already existed in the 16th century. In the 16th century, we are only slowly emerging form the feudal age and into the modern nation state. This meant that the king, the local lord, the prince, was still the focus of loyalty and power. The territories he ruled were still regarded as feudal principalities, as his possessions rather than having a cohesion and life of their own. The kings also had religious sanction: they were anointed by church.

In this hierarchical society, several factors combined to change this: by 1500, the king had become the most powerful lord of the territories. By late middle ages, the kings had risen in the hierarchy by conquest and marriage, exploiting every part of the feudal structure. For example, the French king who in the fourteenth just been one lord among others had become the most powerful lord of France by 1500. Secondly, the kings played on the religious angle, on the fact that it was generally accepted that anointment at coronation time gave the king special powers, and that royal blood gave special distinction. (It is useful to remember that until 1700, the kings still touched people against sickness, and in order to heal diseases. Every crowned king had regular afternoons for the sick, to heal by touching them). It was an immediate society if you like, in which the king played a mystical role. The prestige was the ruler’s. The ruler had long claimed to be absolute, but until the 16th century, this was a theory. In fact, it was accomplished by putting down the other lords, and even more by the growing power of public officials.

In the middle ages every king had a council, made up of the most powerful lords of the regions. The lords in the council often owned more lands, and were more powerful than the king himself. They were independent in a sense. This now gradually begins to change: kings start to fill their councils with “new men” dependent on the king. As the king grows more powerful, this so-called “privy council” obtained more power and gradually filled with men of middle-class background. Newly rich, they had no ties in the localities. The ruler could use and, if necessary then behead them and confiscate their property. They were opposed to the feudal interest, wanted national economic policy, and a national coinage; economically, they were wedded to the king against the other great lords. What is essential is that the state in the 16th century was to center on two poles: the power and prestige of the ruler, and secondly, the hierarchy of his own officers. From 1500 on, the people who did the actual administration of the king’s domains were of bourgeois background, and the nobility was ever more pushed to the sidelines. The nobles now themselves aspired to become royal officers, and to transform themselves into an aristocracy of high officials. This explains the change that came over much of the nobility of the 16th century: They began to send their sons to the university, seeing royal service as a new line of power. The military knight was replaced by the royal servant. Lands could no longer suffice for sustenance.

In economic terms, the 16th century was the beginning of a 200-year period of inflation. This inflation was not merely due to the gold from the New World; it also was the result of the increase of the population, and the pressures of this increase. It was felt above all in food prices, then in the whole economy. The nobility thus became more and more dependent on the king. The king did not pay his bureaucracy as today, but rather he paid in the form of patronage. Just as the Church was selling its offices, so the king sold his for revenues. If the officer had done well, he would be rewarded by land gifts. The burden fell on the lower classes of the population, since the officer who received the land had to recompense himself through the labor of the people whom he administered. The royal court became the center of patronage and also of corruption. There were exceptions- like Cromwell-but only few. The bills for this system had to be paid mostly by the middle and lower classes of the population. This led to revolts, not for abstract freedom, but against the tax collectors and the bureaucracy. (Mosse remarks that it is nonsense to say that corruption doesn’t work; in fact, corruption often works very well. For a while, it worked extremely well). All of this increased the ruler’s power and stripped power from the old nobility.

The competition, and struggle for high offices increased the king’s power. The problem was that these offices tended to become hereditary. However, the great nobility did not take this change without opposition: on the contrary, it resented centralization, and it is among this nobility that rebellions could always find sympathy among the other estates. All estates and parliaments joined with them against the process of centralization. The old estates became the weapons of the nobility against the crown. The great rebellions of this period had nothing to do with democracy; the estates considered themselves the guardians of the old feudal privileges and therefore were at one with the nobles. It is the monarchy that centralizes and forms the state. (Mosse says that Shakespeare was politically an arch-reactionary, as can be seen in Richard II.) Within this new system, the new officials became so powerful that they were able to assert independence once more; they founded new noble families. This was handled very primitively through killings and confiscations. The name given to this period is the Dynastic age: It stands between feudalism and the modern age.

It was not until 1600 that a king of France addressed his subjects as “Frenchmen”- until then, no king thought in such national terms. The concept of frontiers had not yet emerged; this only came with Richelieu. Wars were still fought for dynastic reasons. Conquests were justified in feudal terms, not for the good of the nation. Once the territories were conquered, there was little attempt to unify them in any meaningful way. Employed officials were not judged by their citizenship, but by criteria such as ability, riches, or royal favor. Kings employed whom they liked, for example Mazarin in France. We should not confuse this with weakness: Most 16th-century governments could make themselves felt against rebellions; all 16th-century rebellions, apart from the English revolution, were suppressed and put down. Kings and rulers wanted centralization, and it was the religious conflicts of the period that gave them their chance. They took the opportunity to abrogate the feudal structure. National consciousness did emerge, but around religious ideas. What methods and means did kings employ to get more centralization? First, they tried to tighten up the bureaucracy, to create common institutions, especially of religious institutions. This kind of uniformity also meant political conformity.

The idea behind the Inquisition was why shouldn’t you kill somebody who killed your eternal soul? The pope protested the Spanish Inquisition which was used by the Spanish monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand as an instrument of power. Ideologically, Spain had created unity through unity of race and of blood. 200 years of crusades against the Moslems, and the expulsion of the Jews had accomplished that. Because of the conversion of Jews and their intermarriage with the nobility, accusations of heresy against these new Christians could be used by the Inquisition to get rid of the powerful nobility. Through these methods, Spain created an ideological unity that other European states did not have-though it was still split between Aragon and Castile. Also, Spain enjoyed a long military tradition gained by the long military effort to force the Moslems out of Spain. This gave them military predominance in Europe. “One race, one blood” was the Spanish slogan.

In other nations, the rulers began to stress their divinity at the coronation, and stressed the divine right of kings who should have control over the church. The king, they claimed, cannot be contradicted and must make the laws because he is from God. This was exemplified by the Elizabethan propaganda machine that praised “divine Elizabeth,” the “fairy queen.” The dynastic age and all it entailed came to a crisis with the religious wars. The outcome of the crisis was the idea of the nation which defeated the monarchs that helped create it. And yet, if we look at the 16th century, we find not only monarchs but empires such as those of Charles V, the Ottomans, and the Muscovites. (Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Venice were the only republics at the time.) It was the empires that played a meaningful role. Charles V’s empire was not created, but inherited. His chief advisors came from everywhere, including his enemy France. He was a foreigner even in Spain, which became the base of his power. The modern nation state clearly did not exist yet. All we have discussed played against the background of empire. Finally, before we come to the religious wars we have to discuss Charles’s empire.

Lecture #9 - Emperor Charles the Fifth

Lecture #9 - Emperor Charles the Fifth - 47:08 (mp3)
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Professor Mosse begins this lecture by pointing to three large empires, which largely dominated the known world in the 16th century. These were the Habsburg, Turkish and Muscovite empires. Each had universalist claims that transcended the boundaries of Continental Europe. Yet, it was the empire of Charles V that came the closest to universalism in both the Old and the New worlds. His empire dominated Western and Central European politics in first half of 16th century.

Mosse then proceeds to dedicate a large section of the lecture to a discussion of the personality of Charles V, as well as to how Charles’ personality influenced his rule, his successes and his failures. We learn that Charles V saw himself as the shepherd of his people (a topic Mosse picks up in the following lecture). He was deeply devout and his religious convictions largely guided his political decisions. As emperor, he saw himself as the moral ruler of Christendom against enemies such as the Turks and other Muslims, as well as against Lutheran heretics. Nevertheless, he was also influenced by the Christian Humanists of the Netherlands and believed in a degree of tolerance. This expressed itself in the extension of the most tolerant patent then in existence to the Jews. Due to this Christian Humanist influence, he also was convinced of the need for rational dialogue and persuasion. This was, in a sense, to provoke certain failures in his dynastic rule. Mosse points to three major failings that resulted from Charles’ over-trusting nature and from his belief in rational dialogue. First, Charles never acted against the Lutherans and Calvinists in the Netherlands.  Secondly, he hesitated too long in Germany and gave the Protestants too much time to grow in strength and numbers. Thirdly and finally, he trusted Francis II of France too much, which permitted, Francis to gain tremendous power at the expense of the Habsburgs.

Charles V chose in the end to abdicate in favor of his son, Phillip II, but left the latter with a significantly weaker empire. The German princes had elected Charles’ brother, and not his son, as the Holy Roman Emperor, thereby dividing the House of Habsburg into Spanish and German factions. This further implied the triumph of the territorial state wherein the ruling prince determined the religion of the state. Further, France had been significantly strengthened and its rise would dominate the story of Europe thereafter.

Mosse ends this lecture by foregrounding the next. Nonetheless, his conclusion is in many respects more interesting for his lengthy discussion of historical processes. By attempting to explain the mechanisms for historical change, Mosse – as he does in several lectures, but not to this fullness – demonstrates his decidedly Hegelian perspective.

Lecture #10 - The Crisis of the Nation State

Lecture #10 - The Crisis of the Nation State - 48:47 (mp3)
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The period of the religious wars, which stretched from 1555 to 1648, sees another decisive step in the evolution of the nation state into modernity. France, in a way, was one of the most important locales of all to demonstrate the political impact of the religious wars, for the outcome was not only a step towards the construction of the modern nation state, but also of vast importance for political thought- of how people perceived and thought about the state and government. What was happening? First, the king fiercely battled the forces that stood in his way-that is the nobility and the feudal rights. Secondly, with the religious wars we enter the age of absolutism.

By 1648, most rulers in the west had triumphed against the medieval forces which had been arrayed against them. This is of great importance for the future, for this absolutism meant in the long view a decline of individual customary rights, shared by the serfs and the lords in equal manner. What came about was a reactionary system. We must pay attention to two things in this regard: First, how did the rulers achieve such a triumphant consolidation of their power, and second, we must understand the emergence of a modern theory of the state, a theory that goes under the name of “sovereignty.” The religious wars forced the issue: it forced people and states to confront the question of whether they would rather have religious or national unity. Today, this sounds like a silly question, but in the 16th century, nobody made a distinction between religious heresy and subversion.

The decision between religious or national unity was indeed a perplexing question. In France, the religious wars started in 1559, superimposed over the conflict with the royal minorities.(In the Dynastic Age, royal minorities were the most feared problem: If the king was weak, the old noble families would reassert themselves). After 1559, there were still a whole series of royal minorities. In this kind of situation, the obvious happened: Revolutionary parties organized themselves. For example, the Calvinist revolutionary party; the Huguenots, following t the same methods as in the Netherlands, used the Calvinist religious structure to form military cadres led by the nobility. This organization of a revolutionary party by the Calvinists resulted in the organization of a revolutionary party by the Catholics, also led by the nobility. What you have in reality is a noble quarrel between factions of the high nobility over the monarchy. Things were further complicated by the fact that neither of these parties was properly speaking a national party. The Catholics received advice, money, and soldiers from Philip II of Spain, and the Calvinist party was advised and supported by Calvin’s successor from Geneva. There was a double danger to the French monarchy: from the very first, monarchical power was menaced by the nobility organized through these revolutionary parties, and the nation was threatened by foreign influence; especially that of Spain. Indeed, whatever section of France the Huguenots controlled, they immediately set up a state within the state, under noble leadership as laid out by Calvin’s theory of resistance to authority: Authority had to be resisted in an aristocratic, not a democratic manner. Therefore Calvin believed that it must be the “inferior authorities” that must spearhead the resistance against a heretical higher authority: by: by inferior authorities he meant the social strata that were beneath the monarch, but above the people. That was the theory upon which the Huguenots organized themselves.

The Catholic league had a more difficult problem in resisting authority. Among them, the idea gained currency that the sword should be in the people’s hands, and that the people themselves had the right and duty to do away with the tyrant, which indeed happened. But this was never the majority view, even on the Catholic side; it was the nobility that was regarded as the spearhead against authority. And yet, thanks to this situation, assassination was now added to the hazards of rule in Europe. This situation brought to the fore who was the mother of all these short-lived kings: Queen Catherine d’ Medici. Remember that nationality had not yet gelled. Catherine d’ Medici was undoubtedly a singularly able woman in an impossible situation. The Calvinists and Catholics engaged in a life- and death struggle; not only on the question of what was to be the religion of France, but which faction within the nobility should rule France: both sides to reverse the trend toward centralization. Catherine tried to save the monarchy by two courses of action: first, by the logical one, toleration; she did not much care for the necessity of religious principles. She initiated a dialogue between Catholics and Protestants, but the interference of Geneva and Spain caused this attempt to fail. She wanted to gain time and proclaimed an edict of toleration not unlike the future Edict of Nantes, but it did not work: neither Geneva nor Spain agreed to support it. In a second course, she tried to get rid of one faction. One of her sons supported the Huguenots, who persuaded the young king that France needed to intervene in the Netherlands. Catherine rightly disagreed. Out of this situation, the most famous event of the religious wars ensued; the Massacre of St. Bartholomew Day of 1572. Catherine arranged for the whole Huguenot nobility to be assassinated. Under the mantle of the assassination of the Huguenot nobility, the idea that assassination was the method of dealing with political or social disagreement was given added support.

In fact, this was a relatively small massacre compared to today’s standards, but it entered Protestant legend, (as did the Duke of Alba), and Catherine d’ Medici has had a very bad press ever since. This is unjustified; she had a real political problem on her hands, which she solved, but solved badly. She was now the prisoner of the Catholic faction, and this caused the desperate Huguenots to restart the civil war. History has proved Catharine’s first course-the edict of religious toleration- to be correct; in the end, Henry IV did settle the religious wars on that basis. National unity was now the most important thing to enhance and protect; Henry IV saw himself as defending France against outside interests. One party had gained steadily: the party who put the nation above religious differences: They were hated by Catholics and Protestants alike. They were identified by a “bad word” taken from Machiavelli: Politicians. The consequence of the victory of that party was a new theory on the authority of the state, which endowed the state with the highest authority and laid the theoretical foundation for the absolute state of the 17th century.

The man who formulated this theory was Jean Bodin, a high official of the crown. Typically enough Bodin, who indifferent towards religion (his father was a Jew, his mother a Protestant-he had also written a tract about the nonsense of witchcraft), became the theoretician of politique. His idea is very simple (to you, Mosse addresses his students, it will seem commonplace): there must be somewhere in the state where a supreme authority must have the power to both give and administer laws. We must think back now to what has been said before: In the Middle Ages this was unknown; there was a system of hereditary rights and duties, and therefore there could never be a supreme authority. Law was never “made” it was intended to be a simple clarification of what had existed for time immemorial. Bodin said that this must stop: in every state, there must be an authority that has supreme power. He still thought in terms of law, therefore he stressed that laws must be centralized in the same hands. And yet, there are still medieval elements in Bodin, for no law could break a contract: As in the feudal ideal, property could not be taken without consent, certainly from the lord, but also from the peasant. But these medieval features were weakened, because according to Bodin, in an emergency (which only the sovereign could declare) the sovereign could do anything he wanted.

What Bodin was really saying was that before the sovereign, all individual rights must give way, including man’s conscience and man’s property. If you look at this within the context of the Henry IV settlement of the religious wars, you can see this reflected very easily: Henry was the first king to address all of his subjects as Frenchmen. For the Edict of Nantes, which tolerated both religions, he did this by proclaiming again that “you are all Frenchmen”, and in effect established the absolute monarchy in France. The Edict basically declared France to be a Catholic country, and you may remember the saying that “Paris was well worth a mass.” Henry himself converted to Catholicism.

Calvinism is not related to capitalism: this can again be seen by the fact that Paris, the commercial center of France, was tenaciously Catholic. Henry’s conversion is due to the fact that he had to convert to take Paris. But Henry’s attitude towards Catholicism was close to the concept of “the state church.” Henry immediately asserted his power over the Catholic Church in France. The French king had always had some power over the church. The “Gallical Liberties of the French Church” were liberties employed by the monarch to control the Church, as had been done since the middle ages. This was one reason why Francis I had driven the Protestants and other radicals out of France. Henry IV reasserted his control over the Catholic Church. He, like James I of England, instituted an oath of allegiance by which Catholic priests and bishops had to swear loyalty first to the king, above any loyalty to the pope. This put political loyalty by the Catholic Church above religious loyalty to a universal church. (England and other Protestant countries already had outright state churches). But Catholic rulers like Henry IV attempted with some success to turn the Catholic Church into a state church. Henry IV was eventually assassinated by a monk, who believed that the sword should be in the people’s hand if the ruler became a tyrant, and by controlling the church, Henry had become a tyrant. Henry not only asserted control over the French Catholic Church, he left the Huguenots alone and believed in two religions existing side by side in France under his control.

The politiques had made another contribution; in addition to the theory of sovereignty, they had elaborated against both Catholics and Calvinists the theory of the divine right of the king. The Calvinists with their theory of resistance against authority denied authority to the king. (The king had to fulfill his duties like a lawyer, or the inferior authorities had the right to throw him out.) The Catholics in the religious wars proceeded very similarly. The theory of the divine right of kings declared that kings are fleshly gods. Typical is a painting by Rubens, in which Charles I had his father painted as touching God. The divine right of kings came to the rescue, and absolutism entered western civilization.

The denial that sovereignty could be divided goes back to Roman law. With it comes a change of metaphors: medieval rulers had called themselves the shepherds (i. e. the protectors) of their people. They are his children. Mosse to the students: “I wasn’t applying this to you [laughter], except perhaps by implication.” From the 16th century on, they use a different metaphor: they call themselves the fathers of their people. These were not fathers of the 20th century variety, not American suburban fathers. In this case, the family was bound together by Roman law; nobody had rights or property of any kind but the father. No woman had a career. (It was through Calvinism that women received a different status). In contrast, the shepherd has a very limited authority over the sheep.

The danger with this was that while it solved the problems in France-for a while, there was a different situation in England. Yet Queen Elizabeth had a great advantage: neither Catholics nor the more radical Protestants in England could find a noble faction to ally with: this was primarily due to almost a century of Tudor rule. Yet Elizabeth had one problem that Catherine did not have, an institution that was equal to her in many ways: Parliament. In Parliament, in effect Elizabeth faced an important rival. Therefore, the theory of sovereignty is a little different in England: those who believed in it thought it must be jointly exercised by crown and parliament. How? This would become a bone of contention, because the English crown wanted the whole sovereignty. (James I thought of himself as divine, and Parliament also thought itself divine).

The conflict over sovereign power that now followed was partly due to the issues that the religious conflicts had raised. (The 17th century is not only the age of absolutism but also of revolutions: it saw no less than seven major revolutions). At the same time there were peasant uprisings in every decade in England and even a larger number in France, where they took place almost every year. They would start as protests against royal taxes, centralization, and again, and the nobility was still always trying to regain its power. Nor is the religious question dead: in Scotland, John Knox tried to strengthen Calvinist rule, and Calvinist ideas were used as ideas of resistance in Bohemia and in the Palatinate. (Mosse to the students: “Yes, you look so vacuous because you haven’t looked at your map: You probably have no idea whatsoever where Bohemia and the Palatinate are. But it would be wise if you did look at the map”). In the Palatinate and in Bohemia, Calvinism was used as a doctrine of resistance, for Calvinism had made great headway in the Empire. In the Peace of Augsburg, Calvinism was excluded; only Catholicism and Lutheranism were allowed. The reaction to this in Bohemia and the Palatinate was delayed; therefore, the crisis of the Empire came later there, and when it came, it burst the Piece of Augsburg wide open. In 1618, central Europe would go into a religious war, which lasted 30 years. The issues here were slightly different, largely because of its geographical situation. In France, Spain and Geneva would interfere. Everything that went on in the Empire also touched Hungary, Scandinavia, and Poland, so that in fact the religious wars in central Europe would become miniature world wars: the religious wars in the western part of Europe would be relatively isolated from the rest of Europe.

In these last lectures, we have dealt with political history. This political history and even geographical features could determine the movements in Europe. Yet, it is a mistake to treat political history separately form economic and cultural history. Remember from your own personality that people’s responses are highly complex, and the political, religious, and other spheres cannot be divorced form each other. Never forget to make the connection between the levels in which history operates. Everything you study leads to something in the end. In our enthusiasm for pop culture, for ideas, we must not underplay the fact that politics in a way can rule itself.

Lecture #11 - The Thirty Year's War

Lecture #11 - The Thirty Year's War - 44:37 (mp3)
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As Mosse said last time, thanks to the Thirty Years’ War, and to the chaos in central Europe, Paris became the center of the Universe for most of Europe, and France became the dominant power in the 17th and 18th century. Its influence on the politics and mind of Europe was all-important up until the French Revolution and Napoleon. It is Henry IV- the victor in a sense of the wars of religions- who laid the groundwork for this greatness. France was to be a divine-right monarchy. The monarch would see to it that religious wars and noble factions would no longer arise. It has been quite well expressed that absolutism became a kind of religion. The rulers stressed this kind of divinity, maintaining that they were indeed fleshly gods. It had great advantages politically, working as a defense against dissension, and being a divine himself justified the king in controlling the church. We must not be deceived by thinking that the aura of divinity was not real; it was extremely real. But it did not pertain to France alone: it was also a matter of propaganda abroad. For instance, the tapestries of the seasons in Versailles-each of which glorifies the King-were distributed throughout Europe. There was a great deal of propaganda that went hand in hand with the divine right of kings both as a matter of internal control, and foreign propaganda.

Yet in a religious age, the divine right of kings was still had a moral check; kings believed in hell and did not want to go there: they believed that they were the “father” of their subjects. More than any other, there was one man who made the theory of the divine right of kings come true: Cardinal Richelieu. He had a good inheritance: rivals to the king were the estates general, the French parliament, and the nobility. From the kings’ point of view, these were disruptive forces within the monarchy. These disruptive forces had gotten control of parliament and the estates in France as well. But in 1614 (the last meeting of the estates before the French Revolution) it happened that the estates were split: as a result, the estates actually asked the king to arbitrate between them. The estates before 1614 had been the last obstruction to absolute power before the reign of Louis XIV. Two problems faced Richelieu now: how to put the nobles in their place- to centralize the monarchy, and secondly, how to reestablish France as a great power. The first problem was more important, being the first step to reach the second. Richelieu deprived the nobility of their local power, so that they had to come to the king for patronage. He did so by the so-called intendants, who were royal officials dependent only on the king. The intendants went down into the provinces and came to dominate them; through them, the local powers of the nobility were undercut: they were required to come to the king for their prestige and any power the king might give them. The second problem was the Huguenots: Richelieu made war on them. He did not deprive them of their religion, but instead of their independent status, their fortresses, their armies, etc. Only after he had done this, was France able to intervene in the Thirty Years War.

Louis finished the job that Henry IV and Richelieu had begun. In foreign policy, he reorganized the French army as a model. For the first time, an army got a professional general staff (it was not the Prussians who invented the professional general staff), and he pushed the frontiers of France to what he called the “natural frontiers”. He consolidated his rule internally through mercantilism, which meant economic autarchy and self-sufficiency. Finally, he got rid of whatever other independent forces there were in the kingdom, two above all: the Huguenots, because they maintained their religion and could thus always be a rallying point for the disaffected nobility (as Calvinists they could not believe in the divine right of Kings). The result was the repeal of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. But Louis used what you might already call “modern methods” to bring this about: the Huguenots were excluded from all jobs, and the army was quartered in their areas. The result was a brilliant success: about 60% converted to Catholicism, even before the repeal of the Edict of Nantes. These pressure methods (not, Mosse claims, unlike the methods later used by Hitler against the Jews) were such a success that the majority converted and only a minority emigrated.

But the Huguenots were not Louis’s main concern: His main concern was the Catholic Church. Though he had consolidated his control over the Church and had little trouble with the pope, he had great trouble with the Catholic religious renaissance, which spread throughout the 17th century, the result of a great outpouring of Catholic energy. One part of it (which went under the name of Jansenism) was especially troublesome. Jansenism was a Catholic revival, but a particular one: it stressed the sinfulness of man and the greatness of God, and emphasized the equality of men in sin before God. It had many Calvinist elements and was directly opposed to the “divine right of kings”. Moreover, the convent of Port Royal in Paris-the center of Jansenism-became the center of a faction of the nobility and was thus doubly dangerous. Jansenism only gave divinity to God. In the words of the greatest Jansenist, Pascal: “Man is a feeble reed, whose reason exceeds his grasp”, and this realization makes it possible to cope with our existence. Pascal is in a way the first existentialist. Jansenism’s was a pessimistic doctrine. Louis acted: the monastery of Port Royal was razed, the nuns and others driven away. The result was that Jansenism would continue as a form of pessimistic quietism which would have great importance again in the 18th century. More importantly, by squashing the Catholic revival in France, Louis helped open the door to the Enlightenment; more and more people would turn to it.

In triumphing over the Huguenots, the Jansenists, the pope, his opponents, in his success in foreign policy, what did Louis himself stress? He stressed the idea of the sun king, but also the importance of the classics. The Italian Renaissance with its classical impetus had come late to France (and then lasted longer). If the court of Louis was built on the classics, it was a continuation of the Renaissance. Already Henry IV had represented himself as Caesar, Augustus, and Apollo; the connection to the Roman Empire was clearly another attraction. Despite all the pomp of Versailles, the emphasis was on classical moderation and harmony. The palace was built upon a classical model, with harmony and proportion. Therefore, when we say that the age of Louis XIV was the age of one of the greatest literary and artistic creativity in France, what we mean is that is developed under classical auspices. Racine, Corneille, and others revived the classical stage. This was true for buildings and drama alike. The struggle against the passions is at the center in Corneille, a struggle we also have in Shakespeare. What it means concretely is that the dramatic hero is a stoic hero and this goes back to the classics. Symmetry and the classics, appealing to an idea of order, played into an idea of the order of the monarchy. This had a concrete basis: Versailles was laid out in an ideal fashion, for it was laid out in a classical fashion. (The reason for the latter, Mosse explains, was that a very small military company can shoot down these streets; you cannot build barricades on them). It was not only a love of order, but classicism also served security purposes, of which the absolute monarchy was always aware. Most towns from now on would have this “star pattern.”

All of this is important, but there is a second importance related to this which we must not omit: at the court of Versailles, there was a new atmosphere of sophistication. The nobility which assembled at the court and which the monarchy wanted to keep there (and out of mischief in their localities) went in for art and music; but it went there also to engage in the denigration of the middle classes and the rest of the country. For example, in the comedies of Moliere, the middle classes were ridiculed. This was a dangerous form of entertainment: it increasingly isolated the monarchy from the rest of the country. The court of Versailles was also an important step in what we call the history of manners. Those who performed a more intimate function for the monarch were of the high nobility. The closer someone was to the king, the more powerful he was. Etiquette developed to a fine art. With this kind of pseudo- or super-sophistication came a certain refinement of manners and taste, for all this is highly artificial and structured around the monarch. To distinguish themselves, people sought to distinguish their manners from those of the rest of the country. The change from camp life to court life made its entry into western civilization. Here,  you get the knife and the fork. One genre became highly popular: manuals of etiquette, which had not existed before. The middle class read them to be able to ape the higher classes. (Mosse reads some examples to illustrate that manners are not God-given, but historical. He then gives an example from his own life, from his time in England.) In all of this, it was the king who set the tone.

The court was here emerging from a rather primitive way of life. Tapestries were for heating. There was no sanitation; the WC was invented by Harrington in England in 1694 and not generally used. It was such a luxury that Louis’ throne was also actually a water closet. This lack of sanitation is important for our purposes. Overcrowding dominated Versailles; the average life expectancy in the age of Louis XIV was 34 years. There was a tremendous contrast between the lack of sanitation, the overcrowding, and a vitality that is foreign to us today. A look at the meals at the court and at the vast number of Louis children reveals this grandiose vitality. (Virtue subsequently becomes identified with restraint.) The culture of Louis’s court spread throughout Europe, for political and other reasons. The beginning of modern civility comes to us through this court society. Yet this sophisticated society, divided from the middle classes and the country, became isolated. Though the etiquette was necessary to keep the nobility in line, it became so fossilized that the king himself could no longer do anything against it. The nobility, in its state of powerlessness, could not allow anyone else to enter into what would soon become a foul and stinking Ghetto: It had no water for cleanliness; only perfume due to the medieval superstition that water was bad for you. All of that was a part of the picture of absolutism.

Though this was the start of modern manners, what we do not have until the evangelical religious revival in the 18th century is the history of morals. People’s behavior at that time would be extremely shocking to us.

All that we have studied so far has led to the emergence of absolute monarchy. It was introduced in two stages: the formation of the nation state, and secondly, the stress on sovereignty and political authority, which came out of the religious wars. What then is this system of absolutism? What were its limitations? First, it was even at the time called a police state; it had a standing army and a secret police. Secondly, its bureaucracy was developed and extended through the intendants, but also by the idea that the “official” is a part of the king and has to be obeyed. (This was administrative law, which gives special power to the officials of the king as his extensions). Thirdly, the idea of sovereignty, making the king both the lawmaker and the judge, entailed an ever-greater acceptance of the maxim of Justinian: what pleases the king has the power of law. Yet because of their limitations, these kings were no despots. One limitation is obvious: regionalism. Difficulties of transportation and communication (nobody could hear the voice of the king on the radio) made it impossible to use the prime means of modern despotism, the aroused masses. The only way to play on fears and prejudices was the printed word, which at that time came into wide use: the pamphlet. In two years, around 20,000 pamphlets were issued during the English Revolution. This was possible for the first time in the 17th century, thanks to improved methods and cheapening of paper processing in Holland. You could arouse the masses by pamphlets, but obviously, it was difficult to do so. For true mass mobilization, you need to speak to the masses, give them ideas, and ideals, get them out there. (Mosse remarks to his students-it is the year 1969- “Oh boy, if I joined you, I could begin a movement… but what I would do would probably be more like a Fascist movement.”) The only method then was the printed word, both for the monarchs and those who opposed them. Without an extreme situation, it was nearly impossible to organize mass parties. Secondly, the idea of divine right of kings was itself a limitation, including as it did belief in hell and in paternalism. Kings were not bound up with the rich, who were opposed to them. The third limitation is perhaps the most important: Traditional Privileges and vested interest, for some traditional privileges remained, and all offices tended to become hereditary. A new hereditary nobility was built up, the nobility of the robe.

Lecture #12 - Louis XIV

Lecture #12 - Louis XIV - 46:34 (mp3)
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Thanks to the Thirty Years war and the chaos in Central Europe, France was able to become the dominant power of the 17th and 18th centuries. Politically a divine-right monarchy, absolutism became a new faith. Thus, Professor Mosse sets the scene for his lecture on Louis XIV, who inherited the France built by Henri IV and Cardinal Richelieu. It was, argues Mosse, their job that Louis XIV completed by reorganizing the army and creating a professional general staff. The monarch pushed the frontiers of France to its natural border and consolidated his rule at home through mercantilist policy. Further, he rid himself and France of independent factions. This included the persecution of the Huguenots and repealing the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Further, the Catholic revival movement known as Jansenism was quieted.

Mosse then turns to the cultural world at the court of Versailles. Those familiar with Mosse’s later work on 19th century manners and Sittlichkeit will find this section of his lecture particularly interesting. In discussing the refinement of manners and the development of modern civility, Mosse notes how this growth in courtly etiquette deepened the gulf between king and people. Furthermore, this system of etiquette was prone to fossilization and the social system at court prevented mobility. Mosse paints a bleak portrait of the nobility at Versailles: sophisticated, yet bored, they were housed in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

Finally, Mosse sums up the defining characteristics of the system of absolutism, and also most importantly discusses its limitations. To the former, he stresses that the absolutist state was in fact a police state with a standing army and secret police. It had a well-developed and extended bureaucracy with a system of law that applied to royal officials. The king was lawmaker and judge, according to the theory of sovereignty. Yet, the limitations were also worth noting: regionalism made all the more apparent by poor transportation and communications meant that the ruler could not reach the masses or organize public opinion. Also, the bureaucracy over time became hereditary, dubbed the nobility of the robe.

Lecture #13 - The System of Absolution

Lecture #13 - The System of Absolution - 40:07 (mp3)
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Picking up on what he had begun in the previous lecture, Professor Mosse continues a description of the system of absolutism. Beyond a mere description of the essential characteristics of this political system, Mosse discusses its philosophical and ideological underpinnings, best seen in the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Concerned with preventing religious conflicts like the wars of the English Revolution, Hobbes posited a that a sovereign not be limited by any outside force. This sovereign, empowered by physical force, was to be a peacekeeper, an impartial force that uses power to maintain order. Taking a dim view of human nature, Hobbes believed that only by giving up individual power in favor of the sovereign could peace be maintained. After all, man’s passions needed to be curbed; the poor had to be protected. In exchange, individuals could enjoy their possessions, their individualism. The “social contract,” so to speak, that Hobbes suggested was based not on divine law but on convenience. This pragmatism was linked, as Mosse continues, to the growing anti-Christian movement among intellectuals.

Yet, as Mosse repeatedly points out in a number of his lectures, history moves dialectally. While absolutism, liberalism and secularism grew in certain circles, alternately there were continued threats and challenges to absolutist power on the part of peasants and nobles. Religious revival movements, such as Jansenism and Puritanism, continued apocalyptic and millenarian ideas. In highlighting these potential threats to absolutism, Mosse foreshadows the English Revolution – the first modern revolution, both nation-wide and consistent in its scale and scope.

Lecture #14 - England Before the Revolution

Lecture #14 - England Before the Revolution - 41:34 (mp3)
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While the absolutist monarchy in 17th century France had been the political model for Europe, England followed a different course. To explain this divide, Professor Mosse discusses what made the English case unique. He begins by discussing the Puritan movement, which had its stronghold in Norfolk. The Puritans were later able to harness the forces of the common people in support of the revolution by bringing them into the fold of their armies as field soldiers. Another aspect in England’s unique road was the weakening of the king’s power in favor of Parliament (quite in opposition to the case of France) thanks to economic challenges that left the king reliant on Parliament. Further, the English Reformation and the gradual emergence of the Church of England left open many religious issues, including the nature of English Protestant theology (which was characterized by its ambiguity under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I). The conflict between Catholics and Protestants both at home and internationally, created tensions, notably among those who wanted a real protestant church for England (i.e. the Puritans). At the time only a loosely associated group of people, the Puritans lacked a theology but brought to the political and religious scene Calvinist attitudes, including a belief that their vocation was to radically change of English society.

It was this group of Protestants who were able, according to Mosse, to progressively take over the House of Commons. By the time of James I, the power of Parliament had increased significantly, as seen in the text of the ‘Apology of 1604’ issued by Parliament. A concluding phrase – “The voice of the people, in the things of their knowledge, is said to be as the voice of God” – openly pitted, as Mosse suggests, the divine right of Parliament against the divine right of the King. Convinced that he had come to a unified nation where he could be a divine-right king, James I pushed England in the direction of revolution. The situation he inherited and thus also bequeathed to his son included a Parliament strengthened by previous rulers and now controlled by a revolutionary elite; a Church of England still unsettled and lacking a major theological base; an economic situation that was going from ‘bad to worse’; and finally an armada that settled nothing on the international scene.

Lecture #15 - The English Revolution Part 1

Lecture #15 - The English Revolution Part 1 - 48:36 (mp3)
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Professor Mosse picks up where he left off in his last lecture. We are reminded how James I had laid the foundations for the later revolution by forcing the crucial issues, which Elizabeth I had left (as Mosse described them) vague and undefined. The issue that crystallized the division between James and Parliament was that of foreign policy, namely England’s involvement in the Thirty Years War. Parliament desired to interfere on behalf of the Protestants, but James I saw this as a grave mistake. Instead, he believed that he could mediate the war and felt that his relations with Spain were good enough to play this role. Disagreeing with James’ diplomatic policy and believing him to be actually a Catholic, Parliament chose to block his actions. James responded by continually dissolving Parliament.

James’ son, Charles I, inherited this tense situation and further tried to maintain a more absolutist hold on power by avoiding as much as possible any call to assemble Parliament. This policy succeeded at first, but as Mosse reminds us, the problem of Scotland emerged. While James I had been both King of Scotland and the King of England and had generally left the Scots alone to their own system of government and religion (Presbyterianism), Charles I tried to force the Anglican Church upon them and to tame the Scotch nobility. With the Scottish revolt, Charles I was naturally forced to call Parliament in order to raise funds to put down the revolt.

Charles I, however, did not anticipate what came next: the Scots joined forces with the Puritan leadership in Parliament and civil war ensued. The alliance with the Scots had provoked a defining of Puritanism, which until then had remained amorphous and thereafter adopted religious discipline along Calvinist lines. By joining together with the Presbyterian Scots, the Puritans had agreed to a future vision of England: religiously, Presbyterian, and politically, a Constitutional Monarchy. Nevertheless, this vision never materialized.

Among the armies that were raised the most effective of these came from the Puritan base of Norfolk. Commanded by Oliver Cromwell, the first revolutionary army governed England after Parliament was dismissed. Yet, Mosse, focusing on the religious components of the civil war, notes that the doctrine of election, which was so important to Calvinist Protestantism, was dangerous for it in encouraged radicalism. This included voices calling for individualism (which went so far as to urge universal suffrage); a belief in natural rights, which included freedom of conscience; and a belief in fundamental law in the form of a written constitution.

Lecture #16 - The English Revolution Part 2

Lecture #16 - The English Revolution Part 2 - 37:10 (mp3)
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Professor Mosse devotes a great deal of attention at the beginning of this second lecture on the English Revolution to the radical groups in the revolution, including the ‘levelers’, the ‘fifth monarchy men’,  the ‘communitarians’ and the ‘soul sleepers’. The ‘communitarians’ argued for equality, the end of private property, and above all, in the midst of Christian tradition of equality and private property, they made a link between political liberty and economic equality, though they remained Christian in their religious outlook. The ‘soul-sleepers’ were more radical; they believed that God had withdrawn from this world. Mosse cites this group as marking the beginning of modern materialism. Yet, all of these radical strands were suppressed and persecuted by Cromwell.

Cromwell’s rule did not last; the army intervened again and restored Charles II to power in 1660. Yet, he returned as a ‘creature of Parliament’. His income became dependent on Parliament and the Anglican Church was restored. In 1688, England experienced a second revolution when, among other acts, James II tried to abrogate leniency on issues of faith. The revolution was quick and successful. Despite this, it would take about another century for the transfer of executive power from the king to Parliament to take hold.

Mosse summarizes the consequences of the revolution thusly: first, democratic ideas were expressed for the first time explicitly and as the program of a political party; secondly, there was for the first time explicit recognition of the connection between politics and economics; thirdly, Puritanism was not tolerated immediately after 1660, though this did not last. After 1700, dissenters existed and they did experience persecution (for instance, universities and government jobs were closed to those who were not members of Church of England), but they became an important element of the population and through their emphasis on inner-piety, they injected a certain culture, and way of life into England. The 18th century religious revival in England fastened on to dissent and changed attitudes. Fourthly and finally, power was transferred into the hands of the merchant and gentry classes.

Lecture #17 - The Mercantilist System

Lecture #17 - The Mercantilist System - 38:50 (mp3)
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Mercantilism was the dominant economic system of the 17th century and can be seen as the economic counterpart to absolute monarchy. Just as the monarchy believed that politics should serve the dynastic interest, so too was economic policy to be based on the needs of the dynasty. The underlying notion was to keep as much gold in the country as possible; concretely this meant more exports than imports. With the greater supply of money coming into Europe, the greater wealth provided a stimulus to the accumulation of capital. Additionally, the ever-greater needs of monarchs at a time of inflation and increased bureaucratic expenses meant that many monarchs were borrowing money on interest. In its attempts to create national unification, the monarchy required money and engaged in the exploitation of raw materials and in manufacture, in part to fund their needs. Yet, this was not done in the same way in each country.

Mosse, thus, provides two examples, that of France and of England. In France, the government directly became a controlling partner in such industries, preventing private capital accumulation in France. In England, the monopolies were granted to private merchants and were regulated by government charters, so capital accumulated more quickly into private hands. Furthermore, a new idea of economic organization amongst the merchants in England emerged: the joint stock company.

At this point in the lecture, class is interrupted by a protest, but the speaker is not recorded on the microphone so we only hear dull mumblings.

Without missing a beat, Mosse continues to explain the joint stock company and the founding of the Bank of England in 1694. He then continues to discuss the beginning of capitalism. Mosse stresses that its origins do not lie in free enterprise but in the mercantilist economy – regulated through monopolies, protective tariffs (balance of money), and the navigation acts. Mercantilism thus spurred on innovation in several ways: it played an important role in scientific developments. The tenure of life changed through the introduction of public utilities, such as water works, which regulated water supplies and ultimately prolonged life.

Lecture #18 - The Rise of Russia

Lecture #18 - The Rise of Russia - 38:35 (mp3)
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In this lecture, Professor Mosse clearly presents Russia as a unique case in the European context. With no regional or provincial authorities and no corporate cities, the tsar, according to Mosse, ruled immediately. This immediacy, combined with control over the Church, meant, again according to Mosse, that intermediate authorities never come to the fore, nor do any theories of resistance to authority arise. The only counterweight to the tsar came from the boyars, but here too Ivan IV was successfully able to establish limits to their power through executions and the redistribution of land.

Lacking any institutions that could guarantee stability, Russia fell into a form of chaos in the 17th century. In the backdrop of this instability and provincialism, Peter the Great (1689-1725) the second great ‘maker of Russia’, became tsar. Peter desired to bring European developments to Russia. While his campaign of Westernization did concern dress and manners, did so in an attempt to control the nobility. Nevertheless, his major interest was in Western technology, most importantly as it could be applied to the army and navy. Finally, his Westernizing reforms also included economic reforms in the form of mercantilism and the beginning of a civil service. Peter was eventually followed in the rise of Russia by Catherine II, a German princess whose lasting reform was the codification of law.

Mosse makes clear that Peter and Catherine’s rules were major points in the rise of Russia for their military and political successes. Under Peter, Russia successfully challenged Sweden and gained access to the Baltic. Under Catherine Russia pushed further west, participating in the partitions of Poland. The next thrust of Russian expansion came again under Catherine. In a conflict with the Ottoman Empire, Russia was able to annex the Crimea (in 1783) and had access to the Bosporus Straits. This success in the Balkans would have eventual consequences for the national movements in the peninsula.

Mosse ends with a brief explanation of Russia’s advantages in the “great power game.” These included its geographical position, which was logistically important. Its political structure – Russian absolutism, after all, could be coordinated for action with a good monarch. Finally, the West needed Russia for food; the Crimea especially provided significant amounts of grain.

Lecture #19 - The Rise of Prussia

Lecture #19 - The Rise of Prussia - 39:50 (mp3)
(Save As or file will load and play in the page, load time depends on connection speed) In the previous lecture, Professor Mosse detailed the rise of Russia. Here, he moves further West and examines the rise of Prussia. Composed of three main territorial units, East Prussia, Brandenburg, and parts of the Rhine, Prussia’s history was shaped by three factors: its lack of natural frontiers, its geopolitical position as a frontier state against Eastern Europe with, therefore, expansionist ambitions directed eastward, and finally its lack natural resources. To explain the rise of Prussia as a great power in light of these aforementioned challenges, Mosse points to the rule of three men: the Great Elector (1640-1688), Frederick William I (1713-1740) and Frederick the Great (1740-1786).

The Great Elector brought Prussia into prominence at end of Thirty Year War and set the main aspects of Prussian policy including a strong emphasis on military strength, centralization and the founding of an efficient civil service. Frederick William I became the archetype of “Prussianism”. His capital was the garrison town of Potsdam, demonstrating his commitment to the military. Nevertheless, he was also concerned with the founding and strengthening of a sound economy. Offering religious tolerance in exchange for economic investments, Frederick William I invited Huguenots and Jews to settle in Prussia. He was not irreligious, though, and desired to make a state church that was broad and attractive. The Church of Prussian Union offered thus a mixture of Lutheranism and Calvinism. Yet, this prevented the creation of dissenting Protestant sects, a force that Mosse connects to liberalism. Lacking a tradition of religious dissent, Mosse suggests that political liberalism in Prussia was hampered. Finally, Frederick William I integrated the nobility into the army, giving rise to a nobility of services, the Junkers. As a result, Frederick the Great was able to put all of his father’s achievements into practice and was responsible for Prussia’s emergence as a great power in Europe.

Prussia’s importance, Mosse explains by means of a conclusion, can be seen in how it upset the balance of power in Europe. As a new great power, it created a diplomatic revolution that threw the Habsburg Empire into the arms of the French. Eventually, Prussia was to become two-thirds of Germany and the Prussian army became German army. Finally, Prussian ideals tended to become German ideals and these included an overriding duty of all social classes to the state; a sense of discipline combined with austerity, though one that not incidentally shared no irrational enthusiasm and thus was ill disposed to mass movements, including democracy; an urge toward eastward expansion; and finally, militarism. Many of these characteristics clearly and obviously held resonance historically and for Mosse for a significantly later era.

Lecture #20 - The Rise of Science

Lecture #20 - The Rise of Science - 37:12 (mp3)
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Professor Mosse begins the lecture by placing the rise of science into the context of three central movements that formed the ‘Western mind’: the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment. As a conscious attempt to throw away old ideas and traditions, and to substitute Christian theology with a critical mind, the Enlightenment was linked to the rise of science. Yet, the latter began as early as during the Renaissance. In the 17th century, however, scientific inquiry gains significant momentum.

After delineating the essentials of the scientific method, Mosse analyses the shift in models for the universe that results in the move from a Platonic and not Aristotelian worldview. The static universe is replaced with a dynamic, non-hierarchical one. Also, this philosophical paradigm is accompanied by real discoveries that further give credence to Plato’s dynamic universe. Not only did this challenge the dominant Christian understanding of the universe; now the universe was understandable through math, and not scripture. Yet, these early scientists, among them Galileo, did not discard all previous assumptions of the universe. While rejecting the immutable universe, his alternative vision still centered on the belief in perfection. Thus, while his universe was infinite, this infinity was to be seen as harmonious. Descartes, too, as Mosse reminds us, did not remove God from his theories on truth and free inquiry. God, for Descartes, remained in the form of the God of reason. Cartesian theory had several consequences: first, theology is rejected in favor of deism; with right use of reason, man is a rational creature and, therefore, if all man is rational because God and universe are rational, then it follows that all men must be equal since all men are equal in capacity. This equality and goodness of men further questioned the doctrine of original sin. This last step opened the door to religious toleration. To illustrate this shift in mindset, Mosse then tells a fairytale, the tale of ‘The Ring’, featured in Lessing’s play ‘Nathan the Wise’.

Mosse concludes by discussing the Enlightenment as an intellectual and elitist doctrine. He argues that the 18th century saw a bifurcation between the intellectuals who believed in the Enlightenment and tried to spread it, and the masses of the population who supported the great Christian and emotional revival of the century. Henceforth, the history of intellectuals diverges from that of the masses.

Lecture #21 - The Enlightenment

Lecture #21 - The Enlightenment - 39:10 (mp3)
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For Professor Mosse, Voltaire is the great popularizer of the Enlightenment and it is through this philosophe that Mosse explores the subject. He begins his discussion by examining the issue of toleration and its limits. After all, while the Enlightenment championed religious toleration, Voltaire’s violent anti-Jewishness is hard to overlook. Politically, Voltaire was no democrat and believed in a hierarchy of intellects, with those who had freed themselves of prejudice being superior to those who had not. Certainly, the Enlightenment more generally was linked to Enlightened Despotism, a form of monarchy that rejects divine-right kings but do rule to enforce a war against superstition. Religiously, Voltaire and the philosophes were deists and their polemical action included that against Christian institutions. As is thus clear through this description, the philosophes were establishment intellectuals who were concerned above all with changing the power structure, and thus were totally dependent upon the despots.

Yet, their legacy could be felt among other social classes. For the bourgeoisie, they brought a new attitude and set of goals. Other consequences of the Enlightenment included the emancipation of minorities, such as the Jews, the abolition of serfdom, and the codification of law that included a concept of equality before the law. Moreover, the Enlightenment led support to the American and French revolutions and helped bring an end to absolutism. Finally, the belief that natural law governs all things resulted in the growth of economic liberalism and the disintegration of mercantilism.

Lecture #22 - Rousseau

Lecture #22 - Rousseau - 42:06 (mp3)
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For Professor Mosse, Rousseau was without question a man of the Enlightenment but went beyond it; for unlike Enlightenment thinkers Rousseau believed that the totality of man included not only his capacity for reason but also his passions. As a result, much of this lecture subtly delves into the unintended consequences and (mis)-interpretations of Rousseau’s writings by the Romantic thinkers. As a lecture against a Romantic reading of Rousseau, Mosse concentrates his discussion on the ‘genuine’, nature, and, most importantly for Mosse, Rousseau’s political theories as expressed in his Social Contract.

In general, Rousseau believed that truth was to be found in the ‘genuine’ – in other words in that which is closest to human nature and the least intellectualized. While Mosse admits that there exists in Rousseau a certain exaltation of primitive, he argues that nature is genuine only in contrast to what man has made of himself. Thus, nature should be seen in Rousseau’s thoughts as the foil to man. As further evidence to Mosse’s argument, he reminds his listener that Rousseau posited that man is man only in society, thereby putting into doubt the complete exaltation of the primitive one could read into Rousseau’s writings.

Mosse goes to great length to discuss Rousseau the political thinker, both in terms of the content of Rousseau’s writings as well as the consequences of them. First, Mosse considers Rousseau’s Social Contract. According to this text, all men should govern each other by common consent. Ideally, the general would govern and this in turn would lead to consensus. The perfectibility of man would realize itself and an ordered and disciplined society based on direct democracy and popular sovereignty would be achieved. He further suggested public festivals for the uplift of public and private morals and as a means to rejuvenate virtue. Yet, as Mosse hints at historical developments to come, the institution of the public festival was harnessed later as a tool of social control and to manipulate public opinion. By pointing to mass politics, Mosse sets the stage for the French Revolution.

Lecture #23 - The Social Science

Lecture #23 - The Social Science - 40:08 (mp3)
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Reminiscent of the first lecture in this series, Professor Mosse aims here to give a survey of the European social world just prior to the French Revolution. Beginning with the peasants, we are reminded that this social group was a conservative element and even during the French Revolution remained largely pro-monarchist in its political outlook. The agricultural market was based largely on subsistence farming. Nobles and clergy still exercised a semi-feudal authority over the peasantry but there was a growing tendency towards absentee land owning. In areas where land was increasingly scarce, many peasants became sharecroppers or workers. As land gained in value, it became an object for investment on the part of the richer, urban classes, notably as country homes.

The city experienced a major architectural shift resulting from the Enlightenment. City planning developed and the center of the city shifted from the Church to the site of political authority (for instance, the palace of an absolute monarch). The population remained divided into rigid classes, which expressed their distinction through dress. In this caste-like society, its own structure was enforced through regulations on dress that included restrictions on luxurious dress for certain classes. While luxury grew in this era, progress in matters of sanitation lagged behind. The death rate remained very high and the average life span was about 31 years.

Yet a particularly fascinating development in the social world was also underway. Progressively life was becoming more public and this was best seen in the institutions of the coffeehouse and the club. As male gathering places where newspapers could be found in plentiful number, coffeehouses emerged as political institutions. In England, the club became the institution of public debate and the home for political parties. By the nineteenth century, the social basis of these institutions extended to include the middle classes.

Finally, the late eighteenth century witnessed a dramatic shift in morality. This alteration, connected with Evangelical and pietistic movements, could be seen in new ideas on shame, sex and nudity, and were further expressed in a new view on women. Henceforth, they were to be respectable and sheltered.

Lecture #24 - The French Revolution

Lecture #24 - The French Revolution - 37:13 (mp3)
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Professor Mosse stresses that this lecture does not aim to be a thorough explanation and analysis of the French Revolution. Thanks to the detailed readings he has assigned, this lecture remarks only on specific aspects of the French Revolution. Given that the lecture was given in 1969 and in consideration of Professor Mosse’s personal background, it is of particular interest that the three main topics that he chooses to address in this lecture are: first, the role of the mob and crowds in the Revolution; secondly, the need to control these crowds through despotism; and thirdly and tangentially, the use of images and festivals to assert control and to foster unity.

On the subject of mobs, Mosse notes the part played by the mob in the storming of the Bastille. Yet he very quickly makes it clear that the storming of the Bastille had been organized by outside forces. The crowd had no organizational framework of its own. However, once engaged, how were the organizers of this revolt to control the mob? The mob, after all, had been roused and wanted change but the institutions of monarchical France were gone. Mosse rhetorically suggests that Robespierre could have created a mass, democratic government but argues that this kind of program was impossible because the crowds were fickle and unstable and, moreover, there were the many enemies of the revolution who placed the new revolutionary government at great risk.

It is in this context that Robespierre argues that the will of the people must be enforced against the enemies of the people, thereby suggesting the need for a dictatorship to preserve the Revolution against its enemies. This despotism of liberty, as Mosse reminds the listener, went well beyond its original intent. The committee of public safety saw enemies everywhere and urged conformity in the name of the general will, a conformity enforced by the police. Conformity came to be expressed in a uniformity of dress, morals, and outward showing that one was one with the people.

To further this sense of uniformity and unity, the committee of public safety organized festivals and introduced new symbolism intended to replace Christian symbols. Even the guillotine came to be used as a public and edifying service, replacing religious acts. In the end, however, new symbols had not replaced old; the fickle crowd grew bored of the guillotine.

Mosse concludes this lecture with a review of the legacy of the Revolution. While the Jacobin dictatorship collapsed, it did so not before leaving a deep mark on history. The Revolution raised the problem of the crowd, force and revolution. It focused the loyalty of the individual on the people as a whole and not on kings and dynasties. This required a new set of symbols, such as anthems and flags. Further, national unity was aided by universal military service. Finally, the basis to the Republican tradition had been set, offering an alternative to the monarchies of Europe, which increasingly became associated with social reaction.

Lecture #25 - Napoleon

Lecture #25 - Napoleon - 38:08 (mp3)
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This lecture takes a look at the contributions and consequences of the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte in France and across Europe. Professor Mosse takes care to place Napoleon in the context of two conflicting revolutionary traditions – the moderate tradition of 1791 (the era of constitutional monarchy) and the later, less moderate, Jacobin tradition. Since, as Mosse argues, Napoleon came to the helm of the Revolution in flurry of accusations that Revolution had been betrayed, the later Emperor was forced to reconcile the two aforementioned traditions. Napoleon reorganized the French administration and ended regionalism, created an ordered and efficient police (and especially secret police). Thus, when he entered the European stage he did so as a revolutionary hero, as a liberator of the rest of Europe. Old regimes fell; feudalism ended; the Code Napoleon separated State and Church. Yet, the liberating forces, in staying, became oppressors. The unintended consequence of this oppression became the creation of national sentiments among the people he conquered. Italy was administered as a whole for the first time since the Roman Empire. And at the Battle of the Peoples in Leipzig, all Germans fought side by side against a common identity.

Yet, not only did liberators became oppressors, the revolutionary hero himself underwent a change in title. In 1804, Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor and his brothers became princes. Mosse argues that there were political reasons for this change in role, namely, that it was better to negotiate with the Emperors of Austria and Russia as an Emperor and not merely as an ‘adventurer’. Nonetheless, Mosse goes to length to note that political realism alone did not account for this decision on Napoleon’s part. Rather, Napoleon became a victim of his own delusions evidenced not only by his self-coronation but also by his attempt to invade Russia.

Mosse ends the lecture with a lengthy and politically relevant (notably to Mosse’s own biography) discussion of Napoleon’s role and legacy as a popular dictator. Pointing to Napoleon’s need to capture and hold the public imagination, Mosse explores the dynamics of modern political leadership, notably under dictatorship. He further stresses the new role ideology takes in military struggles. The ideological thrust to the revolutionary wars meant that limited warfare was no longer possible. Instead, unconditional surrender to the revolution became the only outcome possible. While the Congress of Vienna established a balance of power that lasted at least until 1870, the French Revolution set the standard for revolutionary activity until the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918.