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The Sociology of Swabian Anabaptism*

  • Claus-Peter Clasen (a1)

Extract

We are better informed about the outlawed Anabaptist sect than any other religious movement of the sixteenth century. While there is a wealth of material on Luther, we badly lack records of the common people who accepted his doctrines. Paradoxically enough, the richness of Anabaptist sources is due to the very fact that Lutheran, Zwinglian, and Catholic authorities did their utmost to suppress the movement.

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1. We are basing out study on the Quellen zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer, Vol. I: Herzogtum Württemberg, edited by Bossert, Gustav (Leipzig, 1930), and on unpublished material on the Anabaptist movement in the Herrschaft Hohenberg and the imperial cities in Southwest Germany.

2. “Abred der Diener und Aeltesten aus vielen Orten in der Versammlung zu Strassburg im Jahre 1568…,” edited by Bender, Harold S., Mennonite Quarterly Review, I, (Goshen, Ind.), 1927, Art. 19.

3. Die älteste Chronik der hutterischen Brüder, edited by Zieglschmid, A. J. F. (Ithaca, N. Y., 1943), p. 422.

4. Ernst Kretschmar, Weitbrecht, and Kleister. See Hermelink, Heinrich, Geschichte der evangelischen Kirche in Württemberg von der Reformation bis zur Gegenwart (Stuttgart, 1949), pp. 206207.

5. It is this lack of definite data and the limitation to the period from 1529 to 1540 that constitute the weak points in Peachey's study of the social origin of the Swiss Anabaptists. Peachey, Paul, Die Soziale Herkunft der Schweizer Täufer in der Reformationszeit (Zürich, 1954).

6. We are basing our analysis on the registers of the “Türkenschatzung” of 1544 in the dukedom of Württemberg (Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart) and on the “Beetbücher” of the imperial city of Heilbronn (Stadtarchiv Heilbronn).

7. Reublin, Sattler, and Freisleben, who brought Anabaptism to Württemberg, were highly educated intellectuals. But none of them had joined the Anabaptists in Württemberg. Reublin and Sattler had been converted in Switzerland, Freishleben in Linz. Therefore, they cannot really be counted among the Swabian Anabaptists. Their role in Swabian Anabaptism was also very short. Sattler was executed in May, 1527; Reublin and Freisleben left in the course of 1527.

8. Erasmus, , The Praise of Folly. Translated by Dean, Leonhard F. (Chicago, 1946), p. 101.

9. We are limiting ourselves to statistical analyses of the economic status of the Anabaptists in the dukedom of Württemberg only because there are not enough exact data on the social position of the Anabaptists in the imperial cities.

10. Peachey, Paul, “Social Background and Social Philosophy of the Swiss Anabaptists, 1525–1540,” Mennonite Quarterly Review (Goshen, Ind.), 04, 1954, pp. 115116.

11. G. Bossert op. cit., pp. 1055, 17–21; 1054, 1–3.

12. Naujoks, E., Obrigkeitsgedanke, Zunftverfassung und Reformation (Stuttgart, 1958), pp. 3738.

13. Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart, ad Büschel 36, 169–174, Bl. 64.

14. H. Hermelink, op. cit., p. 7.

15. The Anabaptists attracted at most 200 persons out of a population of 8000.

16. Weber, Max, Wirtschaft and Gesellschaft (Tübingen, 1922), vol. 2.

17. For example, Mesner Schenck's letter to L. Lutz, March 8, 1928. Reutlinger Wiedertäuferakten, Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe.

18. There are exceptions. In Heilbronn, for example, the early Anabaptist group around 1528 consisted of Journeymen. In the course of twenty years, however, Anabaptism spread to the middle and finally the upper class of the city. it was probably through Anabaptist refuggees who worked as servants in Heilbronn that Anabaptist ideas spread in the houses of the rich.

19. On the Frequent changes of ministers, see Böhringer, W., Aus der Vergangenheit von Urbach (Schorndorf, 1958), pp. 6272.

20. G. Bossert, op. cit., p. 747.

21. Ibid., pp. 743; 748.

22. Ibid., pp. 734.

23. Ibid., pp. 747–748.

24. Anabaptists in Urbach: 1570–1579: 33 and 2 sunpects. 1580–1589: 2 and 2 suspects. 1590–1599: 63 and 20 suspects. 1600–1609: 20 1609–1620: 14

25. G. Bossert, op. cit. pp. 744; 740.

26. Ibid., pp. 431–432; 584–585; 586–587; 1109, etc.

27. Ibid., pp. 687–688.

28. Ibid., pp. 483; 367–369.

29. Ibid., pp. 483; 803–804.

30. Ibid., pp. 445–446; 472.

31. Ibid., p. 746.

32. Ibid., pp. 295–334; 1020–1021.

33. Ibid., pp. 684–687; 693.

34. Ibid., pp. 523–524; 526; 643. Also Staatsarchiv Ludwigsburg, A 282, 3094 c, L 1–20, Aussage Bichel.

35. Ibid., pp. 278; 406–407; 431; 447–448; 562; 569.

36. Ibid., pp. 385; 406–407.

37. Ibid., pp. 377–378; 422; 463.

38. Ibid., pp. 277–278.

39. Ibid., p. 510.

40. Ibid., pp. 438–440; 475–476.

41. Ibid., pp. 485–486; 611; 636.

42. Ibid., p. 445.

43. Ibid., p. 614.

44. Ibid., p. 263–269: Wiedertäuferkalender of December 4, 1571.

45. See the Gespräch zwischen aim Edelman und seinem Knecht, vom Apostolischen Tauff, und die gehorsam der Oberkait belangend” (Augsburg, about 1531).

46. G. Bossert, op. cit., p. 350.

47. For example, the Marxist historian Zschäbitz, G. in Zur mitteldeutschen Wiedertäuferbewegung nach dem grossen Bauernkrieg (Berlin, 1958), p. 160.

48. On the spread of Protestantism in the Stift Speyer, see Bossert, G., “Beiträge zur badisch-pfälzischen Reformations-geschichte,” Zeitschrift für Geschichte des Oberrheins (Karlsruhe, 19021905).

49. Niebuhr, H. R., The Social Sources of Denominationalism (New York, 1929), p. 30.

50. Bossert, G., Quellen zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer, Vol. I: Herzogtum Württemberg (Leipzig 1930), pp. 475; 732.

51. Ibid., pp. 397; 416; 417; 661; 673; 882; 907; 1104, etc.

52. The growth of population is reflected in the growth of villages in the Remstal, for example. In 1477 the village of Hebsack consisted of twelve houses, in 1525 of twenty eight, in 1618 of fifty six. In Winterbach ninety houses were counted in 1477, 157 in 1525, 306 in 1618. Grombach had fifty houses in 1477, 132 in 1618. These figures are based on muster rolls of 1477, on tax lists of 1525, and on a seventeenth century statistical survey. (Hauptstaats-archiv Stuttgart and Staatsarchiv Ludwigsburg).

53. Elsass, M. J., Umriss einer Geschichte der Löhne und Preise (3 volumes, Leiden, 1936-1950). vol. I, pp. 39; 69; 75. Vol. II, pp. 551–553. Vol. III, p. 25.

54. Tomi Actorum, vol. 7 and 8. Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart.

55. Ulmer Wiedertäuferakten, 05 27, 1587. Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe.

56. G. Bossert, op. cit., p. 376.

57. Ibid., pp. 689; 851; 855.

58. M. J. Elsass, op. cit., vol. I, p. 595.

59. Die älteste Chronik der hutterischen Brüder, edited by Zieglschmid, A. J. F. (Ithaca, N. Y., 1943), pp. 548549; 578.

60. Ibid., p. 625.

61. G. Bossert, op. cit., pp. 186.

62. Ibid., p. 662.

63. Wunder, G., Die Bürgerschaft der Reichsstadt Schwäbisch Hall von 1395 bis 1600 (Stuttgart, 1956), p. 56; Jos Lackhorn. Also G. Bossert, op. cit., p. 1085.

64. G. Bossert, op. cit., pp. 432; 606.

65. Ibid., pp. 431; 842; 863.

66. Curiously enough, in one case village people explained the conversion of one of their neighbors to Anabaptism by his sexual impotence. G. Bossert, op. cit., p. 215.

* This essay summarizes about one-third of a doctoral thesis, “Die Wiedertäufer in Württemburg: Eine Untersuchung zur Geschichte, Geisteswelt und Soziologie des Sektenwesens im 16. Jahrhundert,” presented to the Freie Universität in Berlin in 1962.

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