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Module HTH-2112:
Reformation & Counter-Reforma.

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Tony Claydon

Overall aims and purpose

The sixteenth century saw significant changes in European history, as large parts of the continent broke away from the Roman catholic religion, and as the catholic church responded to this challenge with religious reforms of its own. This course aims to introduce students to the history of these changes, as well as to equip them to assess the debates surrouniding their origins, progress and consequences. As both the reformation and counter-reformation were political and social events as well as religious ones, the course will challenge students to assess the role of faith in European culture and to reflect on the relationship between ecclesiastical history and other branches of the discipline.

Course content

The nature of the late medieval region; Luther's teaching; the early spread of the Reformation in town; the Peasants war; radical reformation and protestant divisions; the reformation in kingdoms and principalities; Calvinism and its association with revolt; the origins and nature of the counter-reformation; comparison of sixteenth century protestantism and catholicism.

Assessment Criteria


Good students (B- to B+) will demonstrate a solid level of achievement and depth of knowledge in all the criteria in the C- to C+ range, and will in addition exhibit constructive engagement with different types of historical writing and historiographical interpretation. Ideas will be communicated effectively and written work will include a good range of sources/reading and demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues and of the existing interpretations expressed in a well-structured, relevant, and focused argument. Students at the top end of this band will engage with and critique the ideas that they come across, and synthesise the various interpretations they find to reach their own considered conclusions. Written work will be correctly presented with references and bibliography where appropriate.


Threshold students (D- and D) will have done only a minimum of reading, and their work will often be based partly on lecture notes and/or basic textbooks. They will demonstrate in their written assessments some knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partially-successful attempts to frame an argument which engages with historical controversies, but they will fail to discuss some large and vital aspects of a topic; and/or deploy only some relevant material but partly fail to combine it into a coherent whole; and/or deploy some evidence to support individual points but often fail to do so and/or show difficulty weighing evidence (thereby relying on unsuitable or irrelevant evidence when making a point). Alternatively or additionally, the presentation of the work might also be poor, with bad grammar and/or punctuation, careless typos and spelling errors, and a lack of effective and correct referencing. Students in this band (C- to C+) will demonstrate a satisfactory range of achievement or depth of knowledge of most parts of the module, and will make successful, if occasionally inconsistent, attempts to develop those skills appropriate to the study of History at undergraduate level. In the case of the written assessments, the answers will attempt to focus on the question, although might drift into narrative, and will show some evidence of solid reading and research. The argument might lose direction and might not be adequately clear at the bottom of this category. Written work will be presented reasonably well with only limited errors in grammar, punctuation, and referencing, and not to the extent that they obscure meaning.


Excellent students (A- and above) will show strong achievement across all the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis. In written work, they will support their arguments with a wealth of relevant detail/examples. They will also demonstrate an acute awareness of the relevant historiography and give an account of why the conclusions reached are important within a particular historical debate. They may show a particularly subtle approach to possible objections, nuancing their argument in the light of counter-examples, or producing an interesting synthesis of various contrasting positions. Overall, the standards of content, argument, and analysis expected will be consistently superior to top upper-second work. Standards of presentation will also be high.

Learning outcomes

  1. Relate religious history to social, cultural and political history.

  2. Present clear historical arguments, and back these with appropriate evidence.

  3. Judge between historical arguments about sixteenth century religion (including current historiographic positions).

  4. Demonstrate an in depth knowledge of key aspects of the European reformation and the catholic response.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

An essay on an aspect of the origins and early course of Luther's reformation

EXAM Exam - with questions seen beforehand

Two questions seen before hand, in two hours, covering the later consequences of the reformation, and the catholic response


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Private study guided by lectures and course bibliography


Eight hour long seminars to discuss the debates surrounding the religious history of the sixteenth century


16 hour long lectures to outlline the main events of the reformation and counter-reformation, and to introduce the key historiographic debates


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • demonstrating an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations


Reading list

R.MacKenney, Sixteenth century Europe: expansion and conflict (1991) Dairmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s house divided, 1490-1700 (2004 – Penguin ed) Euan Cameron: The European reformation (1991) C. Scott Dixon, The reformation in Germany (2002) Carter Lindberg, The European reformations (1996) Andrew Pettegree ed., The refomation world (2000)

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: