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The second generation of the Reformation was dominated by the followers of John Calvin. Calvin, to be sure, was but one of a number of theologians who provided intellectual leadership to the new type of Protestantism that emerged in these years. And he built upon a base that had already been constructed by Huldreich Zwingli in Zurich, Martin Bucer in Strasburg, and others. But he achieved such prominence within the movement, both among its advocates and its opponents, that it can fairly be called Calvinist. This new type of Protestantism was created in a number of free cities in what is now southern Germany and Switzerland, and continued to bear traces of its civic origins. It developed institutions that were able to penetrate into hostile parts of Europe outside of the Holy Roman Empire, and thus came to be the form of Protestantism most common in areas outside the German heartland of the movement. And it also tended to become particularly militant, not hesitating to mobilise political and military forces in order to win its way. This militant posture made it necessary for Calvinists to develop theories in justification of political resistance: they did develop such theories, some being both subtle and influential.
In the development of Calvinist resistance theory, Calvin himself played a role which was seminal but not major. For the greatest political challenges to his movement developed after his death. Calvin first won intellectual prominence in 1536, with the publication of the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, but he did not win institutional prominence until 1555, the year his supporters won control of the city of Geneva, and he did not gain an international role until the 1560s, when his followers took the leadership in promoting militant movements in his native France, in the Netherlands, in Britain, and in parts of Germany.