History Programme
Theme of the year 2016/17 »Reformations – Continuities and Breaches«
The History Programme of the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften has chosen its thematic focus for the year 2016/17 to honour the approaching five hundredth anniversary of the publication of Martin Luther’s theses. The research programme designed by historian Luise Schorn-Schütte will examine the interweaving of religion and politics as well as the consequences of the reformation movements and their reception up to the present day..


Luise Schorn-Schütte at the opening celebration of this summer term (April 2016)

Luise Schorn-Schütte, professor of history of the early modern period at Goethe University and chair of the History Programme’s research project »Reformations – Continuities and Breaches», has succeeded in enlisting leading reformation scholars for this year’s programme. Experts such as Irene Dingel (Mainz), Friedrich Wilhelm Graf (München), Robert von Friedeburg (Rotterdam), Thomas Kaufmann (Göttingen), Volker Leppin (Tübingen) and many others will be examining this broad topic during research visits at the Forschungskolleg, in a series of public lectures and at a conference. They will be focussing on the following aspects:

The plural in »Reformations« clearly reveals the thesis of a close connection between religion and politics and directs our attention to a coincidence between church reforms and political reforms. Exactly how these were interconnected will be one of the most important questions of this year’s programme. This question also has relevance in the present day – Friedrich Wilhelm Graf and Horst Dreier, for example, are investigating the influence of religion in contemporary institutions. Dreier postulates that large parts of German constitutional law have been influenced by Protestant elements and thus he refutes the idea of secularism in the German Constitution.

At the same time, this year’s programme is creating space to examine the interpretations and evaluations that have come to light in the course of the early historiography of the reformatory uprising. Exposing time-bound patterns of interpretation – for example those of authority-abiding Lutherans or democracy-loving Calvinists – will help to make the core issues of the Reformation more understandable in the present day.

This, in turn, leads to historiographical questions. For a long time, the portrayal of Luther’s legacy led to the theory that a continuity existed from »Luther to Hitler«. A dispute among historians, theologians, and church historians revolves around whether it is even legitimate to speak of a legacy of Luther or whether it makes more sense to draw general lines from the Reformation to today and to what extent the Reformation can be contextualized.

Exactly this question is at the core of the debate surrounding the 2014 foundational text »Rechtfertigung und Freiheit. 500 Jahre Reformation 2017« (»Justification and Freedom. Celebrating 500 Years of the Reformation in 2017«) by the EKD (Protestant Church in Germany). This work, in which Volker Leppin and Thomas Kaufman were very involved, aroused great public interest. It is concerned with the meaning of the theology of the Reformation for our contemporary world and came up against strong criticism which asserted that the powerful relevance for the present day was not supported by sufficient historical contextualization.

(FKH - 31.05.2016)