The Tactics of Toleration: A Refugee Community in the Age of Religious Wars

Cover: The Tactics of Toleration: A Refugee Community in the Age of Religious Wars
Jesse Spohnholz

December 2010 • ISBN 978-1-64453-150-1 • $102.95

December 2010 • ISBN 978-1-64453-151-8 • $49.00

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The Tactics of Toleration examines the preconditions and limits of toleration during an age in which Europe was sharply divided along religious lines. During the Age of Religious Wars, refugee communities in borderland towns like the Rhineland city of Wesel were remarkably religiously diverse and culturally heterogeneous places. Examining religious life from the perspective of Calvinists, Lutherans, Mennonites, and Catholics, this book examines how residents dealt with pluralism during an age of deep religious conflict and intolerance. Based on sources that range from theological treatises to financial records and from marriage registries to testimonies before secular and ecclesiastical courts, this project offers new insights into the strategies that ordinary people developed for managing religious pluralism during the Age of Religious Wars.

Historians have tended to emphasize the ways in which people of different faiths created and reinforced religious differences in the generations after the Reformation’s break-up of Christianity, usually in terms of long-term historical narratives associated with modernization, including state building, confessionalization, and the subsequent rise of religious toleration after a century of religious wars. In contrast, Jesse Spohnholz demonstrates that although this was a time when Christians were engaged in a series of brutal religious wars against one another, many were also learning more immediate and short-term strategies to live alongside one another. This book considers these “tactics for toleration” from the vantage point of religious immigrants and their hosts, who learned to coexist despite differences in language, culture, and religion. It demands that scholars reconsider toleration, not only as an intellectual construct that emerged out of the Enlightenment, but also as a dynamic set of short-term and often informal negotiations between ordinary people, regulating the limits of acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

About the Author

Jesse Spohnholz is Director of The Roots of Contemporary Issues World History Program and Professor of History at Washington State University.

Reviews of 'The Tactics of Toleration: A Refugee Community in the Age of Religious Wars'

[…] a highly informative study of the ways that human beings learned to cope in the face of deep divisions with their neighbors. […] a methodically researched, comprehensively evidenced, and deeply interesting demonstration of how confes-sionally distinct early modern Europeans were able to find peaceful coexistence in a world where religion was still foundational to society.
- German Studies Review
This fine book should immediately find its place on any reading list devoted to the religious wars, confessionalization, religious toleration, and the social history of Germany in the later sixteenth century. Spohnholz describes a state of affairs that does not fit into any of the categories so far used by historians: it is a superb work of empirical history.
- The Journal of Modern History
This is a cogently argued book that deserves a wide readership.
- Journal of Ecclesiastical History