Die doppelte Konfessionalisierung in Irland [Duel Confessionalisation in Ireland]

Published in Book Reviews, Early Modern History (1500–1700), Issue 2 (Summer 2002), Reviews, Volume 10

Ute Lotz-Heumann

(Mohr Siebeck, DM198)
ISBN 3161474295

In 1605 Landgrave Maurice of Hesse-Kassel converted to Calvinism. This act, initially based on the landgrave’s private faith, had far-reaching consequences for his territory, which thirteen years later became entangled in the Thirty Years War, and for his traditionally Lutheran subjects. In a series of ordinances Maurice tried to enforce substantial changes to Hesse’s church. They affected not only the religious, but also the more general social life of his subjects, who were expected to adopt the faith of their ruler. Maurice’s attempt to impose his religion on his subjects was common practice in early modern German territories and was legally based on the Treaty of Augsburg (1555), whose slogan, cuius regio, eius religio, granted the German princes the right to determine the religion of their subjects. In Hesse-Kassel this policy was not accepted without dissent. It led to a massive exodus of Lutheran professors, who left Marburg University for the nearby town of Giessen, where Maurice’s Lutheran cousin, Landgrave Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt, offered them an intellectual refuge in the newly established University of Giessen. It also led to the rise of a new bureaucratic elite recruited from Calvinist ministers and other trained professionals.
This process of confessionalisation—a concept developed some fifteen year ago by Heinz Schilling and Wolfgang Reinhard—which links state formation and the rise of princely power to the development of distinct confessional identities and their impact on social and political changes, has long been an important field of historical research on early modern Germany. More recently, German scholars have begun to explore the possibilities of confessionalisation theory in respect of societies outside Germany, including Ireland. Karin Schüller has discussed Hiberno-Spanish relations, focusing on the impact of confessional affiliation for the conduct of international affairs [see Reviews, History Ireland 9.3, Autumn 2001]. Now Ute Lotz-Heumann has offered an imaginative application of confessionalisation theory to the conduct of politics and society in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Ireland. This book, based on her doctoral dissertation, is much more than a mere rehearsal of the theory in an Irish context, however:  it uses Ireland as a case study to challenge what have become orthodoxies of the confessionalisation paradigm, questioning in particular the assumed balance between the twin processes of state formation and confessionalisation. Lotz-Heumann systematically explores key aspects of confessionalisation theory, such as education, church discipline, historiography and propaganda and their agents, as they applied to the Reformation in Ireland. For Lotz-Heumann, confessionalisation in Ireland manifested itself as a two-level process: on the surface was the attempt of the official Protestant church, with the support of (English) state power, to capture the hearts and minds of the people; working against this was the underground Catholic movement, which became the focus of anti-English policy in Ireland. This Irish case study thus offers an important addition to our understanding of the relationship between secular and ecclesiastical authorities in regard to the emergence of the early modern state: it demonstrates that the success of the confessionalisation process depended heavily on centralised secular institutions in order to put down firm roots in all parts of society. The situation was further complicated in Ireland by the fact that the English authorities lost political ground with the onset of the Reformation. Accordingly, the Reformation in Ireland proved a failure, because it was unable to profit from the established networks of state power. By contrast, in England Protestantisation ‘from above’ was successful because the Tudor state underwent decisive changes well before the onset of the Reformation. Historians working in the context of German historiography will profit greatly from this painstaking and long-needed overview of early modern Ireland and of the vexed debates by its historians on the topic. Although the primary source material deployed here may be largely familiar to Irish historians, the study also assembles and exploits an impressive range of Irish, British and German secondary literature. The results will certainly stimulate further debate on the ‘confessionalisation-package’ in German historiography. They may also help to place the discussions of Irish historians on the development of early modern Ireland into a broader, European perspective.
Raingard Esser


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