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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 July 2014
The “age of religious wars” usually serves as the main interpretive framework for students of late sixteenth-century European history. This period is often conceptualized as just preceding the establishment of a secularized, politique-based state system that provided domestic tranquility as welcome relief from extended, highly partisan warfare. It is true that religious sentiments ran high among certain Protestants and Catholics who believed millions of souls were at stake, and that passionate defenses of doctrinal purity, to the point of taking up arms, characterize a good deal of the polemic of the age. Consequently, since prominent clerics were most vocal and influential in stirring up pious fervor for holy causes, many historians have focused on clerical martial rhetoric and found in it the ideological basis for the “religious wars” that ensued. Unfortunately, a hint of teleology informs much of the historical narrative that then follows, as if confessional devotion were synonymous with volatile, even bellicose calls for godly reform. A broader, more nuanced look at some of the pertinent sources, however, suggests that in many, perhaps even the majority, of cases, newly energized evangelicals found holy causes abhorrent and contrary to the gospel message.
I would like to thank Janelle Greenberg and Linda Levy Peck for offering helpful suggestions on an earlier version of this article.
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62 Ibid., p. 83.
63 Ibid., pp. 282-86.
64 Ibid., p. 257.
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79 Ibid., p. 644.
80 Ibid., pp. 644-46.
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