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Protestant Reformation Promotion of 16th Century Social Roles Essay

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Updated: Jan 12th, 2022

Protestant reforms brought about turmoil in the 16th century that accelerated changes in Europe. These changes paved way for modern movements, values and institutions that emerged from capitalism that introduced new attitudes towards profit and money in the society. The new perspectives provided Europe a new place in the world as an age of exploration and innovation arose in the society. Innovations that changed the social order of European society were like the printing press, improved sailing ships, gunpowder and navigation techniques, which enabled people to travel further and explore more (Butler 1). The changes in social order seen in Western Europe will be discussed in terms of the expectations of the nobles and peasants.

After Martin Luther and protestant reformers denounced and broke away from the wealth and corruption of the Catholic Church, Western Europe awoke to a new social order. Nobles, who had enjoyed privileges of their high social class, saw a decline in position. Nobles like the king’s knights who enjoyed supremacy due to their armor and skills faced challenges from the rise of peasant pikemen, who were armed with gunpowder, longbows and cannon fire (Butler 1). Cannons and gunpowder was accessible to the lower classes from China, as they were able to explore distant lands with the use of improved navigational charts and better sailing ships.

Social changes also occurred in terms of a total decline in the Nobles’ status and power. This is because, reformers brought about the need for the abandonment of wealth and corruption (Geoffrey 10). This meant that reformers sought social, economic and religious freedom for peasants away from the dictatorship and corruption of the nobles. This implied that peasants were able to buy their freedom and own land like their Nobles did. Nobles’ economic and social status declined in the process, since peasants began paying for fixed rents of land rather than labor. This meant a decline of income for nobles as the fixed rents were lower in value than labor. Additionally, Europe saw increased economic power of the lower social classes, as they received increased income from the produce obtained from working on their land, rather than working for landlords (Butler 1). As nobles declined in economic power, they lost the ability to manage their lands. In the process, many Nobles lost property to wealthier lower class citizens who arose to become the new influential middle classes.

Protestant reformations also introduced the need for the bible to be placed in the hands of the lower classes and for religious teachings to abandon Latin instruction (Geoffrey 12). In the process, the social position of peasants increased as they learnt to read and write. This achievement was heightened by the arrival of printing press which made it possible for large volumes of bibles and reading media to be produced (Butler 1). The social position of lower classes increased as they gained knowledge and skills from interaction with new societies they met and from the experience of migration. This was made possible by improved navigational charts and skills coupled with better sailing ships, which made it possible for peasant dissenters from Holland and Britain to migrate to regions like America and the Far East.

In conclusion, protestant reforms made it possible for European lower classes to enjoy increased economic and social power as the Nobles declined in their social status. Lower social classes gained this new position from freedom to own land, economic resources from farm produce and trade with distant traders and increased knowledge from reading and writing. These changes arose from innovations and technology like printing press, navigational charts and better sailing ships that made it possible for Europeans to explore regions like the Far East and America.

Works Cited

Butler, Chris. “The Economic Recovery of Europe.” The Flow of History, 2007. Web.

Geoffrey, Blainey. A Very Short History of the World. London: Penguin Books, 2004. Print.

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