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The Reformation:

Questions for Thought

  1. What were some of the signs of disorder within the early 16th century church? What impact did church wealth have on the condition of the church?
  2. What were some of the signs of religious vitality in 15th and early 16th century society?
  3. What circumstances prompted Luther to post his 95 Theses? Why was he criticizing the practice of selling indulgences? What authority did he question? On what basis?
  4. What were Luther's positions on major theological issues? How were they different from those of the Roman church?
  5. What did Luther consider the proper relationship of church, state, and individual? What consequences did these ideas have in Germany?
  6. Luther's religious rebellion didn't come out of nowhere,but started against a backdrop of problems. What were the intellectual, social, political, and economic factors that led Luther to challenge the church and help explain the rapid spread of his beliefs?
  7. Although the Protestant Reformation is usually interpreted as a religious movement, it had a profound impact on every aspect of European civilization. Discuss the political, social and economic consequences of the Reformation. How did it affect women?
  8. The response of the Catholic church to the Protestant Reformation had two primary components: the Catholic Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. Describe each of these components and how they overlapped. What efforts were made to incorporate the Protestant leadership into the process? What role did the Jesuits play? Ultimately, how successful were the Catholic Reformation and the Counter-Reformation at achieving their goals?
  9. According to the text, Luther did not ask new questions, but offered new answers to old questions. What were these questions? What were Luther's answers, and how did they contradict Catholic answers?
  10. Calvinism quickly became the most dynamic Protestant movement. How can we account for this success? Why was it more threatening to established European authorities than the Lutheran reforms?
  11. According to the text, the English Reformation was an act of state, initiated by the king's emotional life and political concerns. Is this a complete explanation? Describe the ecents that culminated in the separation of the English Church from Rome. Were there any reformist elements in England before this? What were the long-term consequences of the English Reformation?
  12. Some scholars argue that the Protestant Reformation was an extreme example of the ongoing reforming nature of the Christian church. On what do they base their argument? How do events after 1521 support or weaken their argument? If they're right, why and how did Luther's 95 Theses create such turmoil?
  13. How do the actions of both Protestant and Catholic leades exemplify the basic political creed of uniformity prevalent in Europe in the 16th century?
  14. What were the factors leading to the European exploration and expansion that began in the mid-15th century? What were the motives of the explorers?
  15. The 16th and 17th centuries were characterized by long violent wars, including the revolt of the Netherlands, the War of the Three Henrys, and the Thirty Years' War. What were the common characteristics­of causes, tactics, ideologies, doplomacy, and results­of these three conflicts? What was distinctive?
  16. The revolt of the Netherlands had a profound impact not only on the Low Countries and Spain but also on England. Discuss the changes in these countries that resulted from the Netherlands' conflict.
  17. The situation of upper-class women in Europe changed dramatically as a result of the Reformation. Discuss these changes. How did the situation of these women compare to that of lower-class women at the time?
  18. The European witch hunt is one of the more bizarre and troubling episodes in Western history. How do historians explain the witch craze? How did this phenomenon reflect European attitudes, anxieties, and understanding of the universe in the 16th and 17th centuries?
  19. The 500th anniversary in 1992 of Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the Americas aroused much debate about the impact of Columbus on the history of the world. What are the facts about the role of Columbus in the European incursion into the Americas? What sources have historians used to ascertain the motives and actions of Columbus? How do they interpret his role? Was Columbus a typical European explorer? In what ways does his own description help us to understand Columbus and his own understanding of his achievements? How would you interpret Columbus and his actions?
  20. What was the impact of European expansion on both the indigenous peoples of the Americas and on European civilization? Explain.

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