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The Political Impact of Protestant Reformation

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Throughout Europe, political impact of Protestant Reformation had been so deep that it even led to the exile of Catholic Queen Mary of England.  T.A. Morris said, “Knox preaching in Edinburgh in 1559 was so forceful that the French regent was force to flee her capital” (p. 83).  Morris further said, “Queen Mary’s refusal to accept the currents of events led to her deposition and eventual exile in 1567” (p.83).  This impact of Protestant Reformation was so strong in Europe covering not only the religious life of the European society but also the political, economic, social and all the moral fabric of the society.

            Daniel Judah Eleazar noted that England was largely won by the Protestant Reformation.  Protestant theology had been deeply planted in the Scottish religious life.  Eleazar noted, “…for subsequent centuries until the present day, the covenant culture, its ideas, and its pattern of behavior has had its influence on the Scott” (p. 289).  Although, during this time, there were two major Protestant groups: the Lutheran of Martin Luther and Calvinism of John Calvin.  Nevertheless, both had worked so well that they won key cities throughout Europe; Germany of course under Lutheranism and Switzerland to Calvinism.  But political impact of Protestant Reformation in England was more intriguing as there was a seesaw of power between Protestants and Catholic Monarch.

            Due to Counter Reformation movement, threatening the English nation, there was clamor to the House of Commons to maintain Elizabethan pattern of Reformation.  Jonathan Scott said, “Accordingly, the pressure to maintain an Elizabethan pattern of English Reformation military intervention was maintained from outside the country as well as inside it” (p. 91).  During this time,  the religious life of the English people was dependent on who is sitting on the throne.

            The Protestant Reformation had its impact in the political system of Europe and the many countries of the world.  It basically paved the way to the onset of Democracy.  Huntington explained that upon the advent of Protestant Reformation, “a notable expansion of the proportion of youth in western countries coincides with the Age of Democratic Revolution in the last decades of the 18th century (as cited by Wiggin and Bonner, p. 196).

Huntington in follow up to that idea also explained that Reformation is “an example of one of the outstanding youth movements in history” (William and Bonner, p. 196).  The authors quoted these statements to emphasize the remarkable impact of Reformation to the political development of the world.  As pointed out by Carl Becker, Protestant Reformation in its political aspects “enhanced the powers of kings and princess by subjecting the church to the secular state (cited in Johnson, p. 18).

            Reformation in England seemed to have taken its footstool prior to reformation in Europe.  Reformation had already penetrated the high places in England, and monarchy had already chosen which sided to embrace.  King Henry VIII for instance was a Protestant and was brave enough to break relation with Rome.  But his daughter who was next in line to the throne was a hard line Catholic.  Thus, when King Henry VIII died, there was a reversal of government policies.  Roman Catholic Church’s tradition and practices were restored and Protestantism was subjected to persecution and martyrdom to some of the faithful.  But with the ascension of Queen Elizabeth to the throne, Protestantism was again restored.

With the death of King Henry VIII, the Reformist group was already taking control and with the support of some key persons such as the Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Warwick, Protestantism has become official religion and Protestant policies were enforced.  But, a popular rebellion halted some of these policies as Mary Tudor was proclaimed Queen in several countries.  Ethan Shagan in the conclusion of his book described Queen Mary’s reign as a restoration of Roman Catholicism and persecution for Protestantism (Shagan, p. 305).

            Basically, England’s political condition during this time was critical and considered unstable; yet, the protestant reformation had caused political development in this nation; according to Robert Tittler, “the Reformation proved a watershed in the town’s constitutional and political development” (p. 160).  The reformation brought the country many political changes under the rule of Elizabeth as Queen of England.

            The political impact of Protestant Reformation in Europe also penetrated deeply into every fabric of many European societies.  John Headly, Hans Joachim, Hiller Brand and Anthony Jay noted that the Protestant Confessionalization Paradigm is “a fundamental social transformation that includes ecclesiastical religious and psychological-cultural changes as well as political and social ones” (p. 4).

They pointed out that this Confessionlization has become a “fundamental social process which largely coincided, but sometimes conflicted with the formation of the early modern state and the shaping of its modern, disciplined society of subjects” (p. 4).  They further added that “the process also ran parallel to the vise of the modern capitalist economy, which deeply transformed with public and private life” (p. 4).

            The political impact of the Reformation in Europe also included health care and services.  Ole Peter Grell and Dr. Andrew Cunningham revealed that in Northern Europe from 1570 to 1585, “health care provision and poor relief in all these countries, particularly issues such as medical care have received only scant attention…” (p. 2).  The Protestant Reformation addressed this problem by calling for a renewed “emphasis is on the significance of the Protestant Reformation for the speed and thoroughness of the reforms in health care and poor relief in early modern Europe…” (p. 2).  Thus, the reformation agenda was included a medical mission treatment.  Grell and Cunningham said, “Furthermore, medical treatment and care was not restricted to inmates of poor houses and hospitals, but was available to those supported at home” (p. 2).

            Generally, the impact of Protestant Reformation in Europe is clearly seen on the social, economic and political structure of the society.  G.R. Ettan said, “where as in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Britain, we can observe the impact of reformative ideas on societies which were already enjoying the benefits of strong monarchy… and society was no longer based on an adscript service rendering peasantry” (p. 198).  All throughout the countries of Europe including Poland, Bohemia and Hungary, Protestant Reformation had registered tremendous impact as most of these countries were ripe for the reformation.  G.R. Ettan says, “The church in Poland was at the beginning of the 16th century ripe for reformation as any in Europe” (p. 198).

            Thus, the impact of Protestant Reformation covers all aspect of the society: political, cultural, economic, health education and so forth; no wonder that Protestant Reformation was generally accepted with open arms by most countries of Europe as the Protestant laid significant role in the rebuilding of the economic, political, and social condition of the society.

Work Cited

Elazar, Daniel Judah (1996) Covenant and Common Wealth: From Christian Separation through the Reformation vol 2.  New Jersey: Transaction Publisher


Etton, G.R. (1990) The New Cambridge Modern History.  Cambridge University Press


Grell, Ole Peter (1997) Health Care and Poor Relief in Protestant Europe 1500-1700. London:  Routledge


Headley, John, et al (2004) Confessionalization in Europe, 1555- 1700 Essays in Honor and Memory of Bado Nischar. England: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd

Johnson, Thomas Herbert (1944) Return to Freedom: The Affair of our Time and their Impact upon Youth. USA: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Morris, T.A. (1998) Europe and England in the Sixteenth Century.  Routledge

Scott, Jonathan (2000) England’s Troubles: Seventeenth Century English Political Instability in European Context.  Cambridge University Press.

Wiggin, Addison and Bonner, William (2005). Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of the 21st Century. Canada: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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