Topic: The German Reformation and Charles V

Topic: The German Reformation and the rule of Charles V

Which of the following was of greater importance in the survival of Lutheranism in the period 1517-1530?

  • The printing press
  • The support of the German princes

Explain your answer with reference to both (i) and (ii). (12 points/marks)

High level Student Response: (Exceeds the Standard)

The development of the printing press was very important in not just the survival, but also the spread, of Luther’s ideas. It enabled his ideas to reach a much larger audience and over a much wider area than if the material had been copied by hand. The output from the presses was huge, with over 300,000 of his works printed between 1517 and 1520 and these works would have been read and then passed on, reaching even more people. The printing press was also important because it produced copies of illustrative woodcuts which could spread Luther’s message to those who could not read and this meant that the printing press allowed his message to reach both the literate and illiterate. The presses supplied copies of the Bible in German and also the pamphlets, such as ‘On the Babylonish Captivity of the Church’. This appealed to many as it argued that all Christians were equal, putting forward the idea of the Priesthood of all Believers. The presses also printed The Address to the Christian Nobility which appealed to the princes in Germany as it encouraged them to take control of religion in their lands. The printing press therefore allowed Luther’s message to reach all classes, which helped its survival.

The support of the German princes was vital. This was particularly true at the start of the period as it was Frederick the Wise who protected Luther after the edict of Worms and prevented him from being arrested. Without this act Luther would have been arrested and his ideas would not have been spread. He also refused to take action against Luther until a General Council of the Church was called and this also gave Luther more time to spread his ideas. However, it was not just in the immediate term that the princes were crucial. During the 1520s a number of princes took up the Lutheran cause, including Albrecht of Hohenzollern and Philip of Hesse. In taking up the Lutheran cause they ensured its survival as not only did Lutheranism gain territory, but these princes were able to delay imperial deliberations about Luther and prevent concerted action being taken against him. The support Luther gained from the princes meant that the movement could be destroyed only by civil war and the Emperor Charles had other more pressing concerns, such as the Turks, which meant it was even harder for him to deal with the problem.

Both factors were important in the survival of Lutheranism, but it was the support of the princes, particularly the Elector, which allowed it to survive. Without his protection Lutheranism would have been defeated almost before it began. It was only Frederick’s protection at Wartburg Castle which gave Luther the time to produce his writings which would widen the appeal and allow Lutheranism not just to survive but grow.

Teacher Comments: This student earned 12 out of 12 points/marks

  • The significance of the two factors is clearly explained.
  • There is linkage made between the two factors.
  • The judgment is developed and supported so that it is more than assertion.
  • The two factors are analyzed and their importance explained.

Medium Level Student answer (Meets the Standard)

The printing press helped Luther’s message to spread. Before the invention of the printing press books and pamphlets had to be written by hand, which made the process of spreading ideas much slower as it took a long time to copy out a book or pamphlet. The invention meant that things could be produced more cheaply and spread around the country more quickly. Without the printing press Luther’s ideas would not have reached as many people. Luther wrote pamphlets which because of the printing press spread his ideas round the country. Large numbers of these were printed and therefore his ideas reached lots of people.

The princes were also important in the survival of Lutheranism. Frederick the Wise protected Luther and helped promote his ideas. Luther was outlawed at Worms and it was Frederick who protected him after that and took him to a castle. Frederick was an important man as he was an elector and therefore the Emperor Charles could not afford to annoy him and Frederick would also not submit to the Pope and continued to protect Luther. The letters that attempted to punish Luther by the Pope were not allowed into Frederick’s lands and later he prevented the edict from being enforced in his lands. This all helped Luther to survive the early years and develop and spread his ideas.

Without Frederick’s protection Luther would have been arrested and his ideas would not have got very fare, therefore Frederick was more important.

Teacher Comments: This student earned 6 out of 12 points/marks

  • The two factors are explained, but there is also much description of the factors.
  • The knowledge is quite general and in dealing with the second factor the answer is limited to one Prince.
  • There is a judgment, but it is not developed and the argument as to why it is more important is limited.
  • The analysis is not developed and the support for the argument is general.