Peasants, Wars, and Evil Coins. Toward a ‘Monetary Turn’ in Explaining the ‘Revolution of 1525’

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Abstract

What can one say about the ‘Revolution 1525’ that is new (Blickle)? In a recent paper Schwerhoff (2023) invoked several cultural turns of the last few decades as possible new ways of understanding the Great German Peasants’ War of 1524-5 (aka Blickle’s ‘Revolution 1525’ or the Marxists’ Early Bourgeois Revolution) but calling, more or less, an end to the ‘big narratives’ on the topic. Older structuralist (non-Marxist historical materialism à la Annales-Bielefeld, West) and historical-materialist models (Marxist theory; East) have waned, as though there was little they could tell the modern historian about this war that was new. But even among the material socio-economic factors common in earlier grand narratives on the war (let alone more recent interpretations which have tended to either ‘regionalise’ the peasant wars or break them down to the individual actor/agency level) one aspect has been completely omitted: money. Yet monetary issues were a proven and frequent item on the peasant agenda featuring in most known regional grievances (Gravamina) and complaints, from the 1460s to the Peasants’ War proper (1524-5), including empire-wide discourses on good governance and imperial reform. The present paper thus suggests how a “monetary turn” could help us situate the Peasants’ War in space and historical time, and a return to, that is reconsideration of, the material(ist) “hard” economic components as major factors explaining medieval social unrest.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGerman History
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Jan 2024

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