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Thomas Max Safley (Hg.): Ad historiam humanam. Aufsätze für Hans-Christoph Rublack, Epfendorf: bibliotheca academica 2005, 225 S., ISBN 978-3-928471-65-7, EUR 49,00
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Rezension von:
Susan R. Boettcher
Department of History, University of Texas at Austin
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Ute Lotz-Heumann
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Susan R. Boettcher: Rezension von: Thomas Max Safley (Hg.): Ad historiam humanam. Aufsätze für Hans-Christoph Rublack, Epfendorf: bibliotheca academica 2005, in: sehepunkte 7 (2007), Nr. 2 [15.02.2007], URL:

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Thomas Max Safley (Hg.): Ad historiam humanam

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This collection of fourteen essays in honor of the late Hans-Christoph Rublack, one of the most influential Reformation historians of the postwar twentieth century in Germany, particularly in his effect on Anglophone researchers, is not a Festschrift - Rublack was honored with one of those back in 1992. [1] It is constructed rather as a sort of Gedenkschrift, an anthology of contributions that call to mind themes in Rublack's work that have been particularly inspiring to the authors. This approach frees the editors to include pieces that capitalize on the vignette approach so often used in Festschrift contributions - providing a compact version of one's best work - without insisting that every essay represent original research. Indeed, five of the twelve essays dealing with the authors' own research have been or will be published elsewhere. Regardless of the amount of "new" content, however, an anthology always stands or falls on its answer to the "value added" question: is the whole more than the sum of its parts? One valuable aspect here is the connections that the book's juxtapositions reproduce in the reader's mind: the inclusion of a piece by Berndt Hamm elaborating on his concept of "normative centering" in the urban context recalls the influential atmosphere of Tübingen's Sonderforschungsbereich "Spätmittelalter und Reformation" in the 1970s, for example.

At the beginning of the collection, a perspective on Rublack's oeuvre as a whole is offered in two essays by Lee Palmer Wandel and Thomas A. Brady, Jr. Wandel uses this perspective to explain how the essays included in the volume relate to Rublack's work, stressing Rublack's cultivation of the tense and contingent moments of the Reformation, and even its failures, as the basis for his influence on the last generations of historiography. Brady strikes a similar note with his emphasis, in discussing Rublack's occupation with the urban Reformation(s), on the ways in which Rublack's understanding of the social elements of burgher religion prepared the way for the confessions. Both of these essays will have the effect of refreshing awareness of Rublack's work on the south German imperial cities for any readers who, like me, are more familiar with his later essays on Lutheran confessionalization.

The remainder of the essays is less directly occupied with Rublack's contributions than with individual research projects. Rublack's influence was felt most directly on researchers concerned with southern Germany, as is clear from the majority of these pieces. Rolf Kießling stresses the social aspects of the religious topography of Augsburg in his "sketch of a research project." J. Jeffery Tyler underlines similar themes in his discussion of the ways in which the pre-Reformation communities of Augsburg and Constance (temporarily) expelled their bishops, in a reprisal of his 1999 monograph on the topic. The vignette approach is exploited to its full potential in works by Gabriele Haug-Moritz on media presentations of Moritz of Saxony's activities as a warrior prince and by Wolfgang Zimmermann on the "Spanish Storm" of Constance in 1548, both of which consider the varying instrumentalization and reception of a particular event from news event to propaganda to myth. Haug-Moritz sketches in briefest detail the publicistic problems involved in depicting such a prominent (anti-)hero given the soteriological templates that colored contemporaries' perception of news, before providing a valuable list of relevant sixteenth-century imprints dealing with the theme.

The subsequent essays remind readers of Rublack's concern with the "common man." Ernst Koch uses a particular sermon to illuminate the problem of the interaction between members of the congregation and the worship services performed to edify them and move them toward salvation. Koch depicts in entertaining terms the tendency of Thuringians to either sleep or chat their way through services and diagnoses a long-term continuity in this behavior with patterns in medieval church attendance. In connection with her recent monograph, Witch Craze, [2] Lyndal Roper treats a number of multi-faceted cases of children accused of witchcraft, highlighted by several memorably and enjoyably blasphemous or scatological verses recited by children. Roper interprets these as a witness to children's resistance to the period's social hierarchies, a stance that intersected riskily with the period's cultural assumptions about the ambivalent roles of children in the Devil's plan for dominance of the worldly sphere. Sabine Holtz and Thomas Max Safley both discuss the preacher's position in context: Holtz from the perspective of a pastor dealing with the intractability of his congregation in sermons, and Safley from the point of view of a pastor who used his sermons to express his problems with the Peace of Westphalia and thus challenge the city's political equilibrium; one pastor's sermons fell on deaf ears while the other's quickly found both receptive and rejecting audiences.

The remaining contributions are not easily classified: Michael G. Baylor analyzes Thomas Müntzer's leadership as a factor in the peasants' willingness to continue supporting him; Norbert Haag considers the continuity of rural popular piety in twentieth-century Herrenburg with early modern practices; and Jörn Sieglerschmidt offers a highly theoretical argument for the influence of local landscapes and nature upon the character and culture of their inhabitants in a way that intersects interestingly with some of Tom Scott's recent observations on the character of southern German regionalism.

Some readers or libraries will be reluctant to purchase a volume that includes so much material that has appeared or will appear elsewhere. The way in which the book's essays point out new paths is largely implicit, but I found, for example, the recurring usage of the often neglected genre of the sermon as a source, combined with Rublack's maxim of studying the individual in a particular local context, to provide an intriguing hint about sermons as the basis for a new sort of detailed, local microhistory. This impression is strengthened by the tendency of these authors to point toward continuities rather than changes in local popular pieties. And from another perspective, the repeated material will enhance the book's value to future researchers because, as Wandel reminds us in her essay, there is no "Rublack school." Thus the decisive answer to the problem of "value added" is this: the collection will serve as an essential index to the domestic and transatlantic influence of a researcher whose preference for studying the effect of larger developments on the individual in his or her context over the postulation of overarching theories and paradigms nonetheless exercised a substantial influence on the historiography of the Reformation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


[1] Monika Hagenmeier and Sabine Holtz, eds.: Krisenbewußtsein und Krisenbewältigung in der frühen Neuzeit (Frankfurt/Main, 1992).

[2] Lyndal Roper: Witch Craze. Terror and fantasy in baroque Germany, London 2004.

Susan R. Boettcher