Life After the Reformation & Protestant Influence on Society

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  • 0:05 The Protestant Reformation
  • 1:09 Social Changes
  • 2:21 Family Life
  • 2:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Elam Miller

Jessica has taught college History and has a Master of Arts in History

The Protestant Reformation was a huge movement that led to many Christians splitting from the Catholic Church. This lesson explores the after effects on families, education and social life.

The Protestant Reformation

In the 16th century, a German monk named Martin Luther became very dissatisfied with some of the actions and teachings of the Catholic Church. He started a movement that would explode in popularity and spread throughout Europe. This movement came to be known as the Protestant Reformation. Protestants believed the clergy should not hold authority over the laypeople in regards to their religion and that each person should be allowed to govern his own religious beliefs.

Luther started the Protestant Reformation
Martin Luther Closeup

Catholicism was the dominant religion before the Reformation. National churches all answered to the same person: the pope. Clergy were responsible for interpreting the Bible and dictating the practices of its laypeople. This authority often led to abuse of power and finances.

As the Reformation grew to an uncontrollable size, Catholic reformers also called for modifications within the Catholic Church. The Council of Trent was held in 1545 to address these concerns and make definitive decrees regarding the Catholics' stance.

Social Changes after the Reformation

As the Reformation progressed, changes in power occurred. While the clergy began to lose authority, the local rulers and nobles collected it for themselves. Peasants became resentful and revolted, but their actions were condemned by Luther. Their attempts to gain freedom from oppression ended in stricter oppression and even death for some. The Reformation seemed to lessen the opportunity for peasants to challenge their place in the class structure.

The Council of Trent held in 1545 addressed Reformation concerns
Council of Tent

Middle class members were more able to challenge the authority of the church; they took Luther's ideas of free-thinking and grasped the opportunity to have more control over their religious practices. Women also gained the ability to divorce and remarry.

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