1st Edition

Johann Sleidan and the Protestant Vision of History

By Alexandra Kess Copyright 2008

    One of the major challenges faced by the emergent Protestant faith was how to establish itself in a hitherto Catholic world. A key way it found to achieve this was to create a common identity through the fashioning of history, emphasising Protestantism's legitimacy and authority. In this study, the life and works of one of the earliest and most influential Protestant historians, Johann Sleidan (1506-1556) are explored to reveal how history could be used to consolidate the new confession and the states which adopted it. Sleidan was commissioned by leading intellectuals from the Schmalkadic League to write the official history of the German Protestant movement, resulting in the publication in 1555 of De statu religionis et reipublicae, Carolo Quinto, Caesare, Commentarii. Overnight his work became the standard account of the early Reformation, referenced by Catholics and Protestants alike in subsequent histories and polemical debates for the next three centuries. Providing the first comprehensive account of Sleidan's life, based almost entirely on primary sources, this book offers a convincing background and context for his writings. It also shows how Sleidan's political role as a diplomat impacted on his work as a historian, and how in turn his monumental work influenced political debate in France and Germany. As a moderate who sought to promote accommodation between the rival confessions, Sleidan provides a fascinating subject of study for modern historians seeking to better understand the complex and multi-faceted nature of the early Reformation.

    Contents: Introduction; The making of a historian - Sleidan in France; Historian of the Schmalkaldic League; In the service of Strasbourg; Sleidan's De statu religionis et reipublicae, Carolo Quinto, Caesare, Commentarii - an official Protestant view of history?; Sleidan and the German historians; Sleidan's reception in France; Conclusion; Appendix; Select bibliography; Index.


    Alexandra Kess is an editor of the correspondence of Heinrich Bullinger at the Institute for Swiss Reformation History at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

    ’... this book is now the best available on this unjustly forgotten figure and will be an important resource for anyone interested in early Reformation historiography.’ Catholic Historical Review ’Altogether, Alexandra Kess has delivered a most comprehensive biography of Sleidan, as well as an analysis of the Commentarii with many interesting aspects, especially on their diffusion and reception.’ German History ’By way of a nuanced exercise in historical reconstruction, Alexandra Kess has provided Reformation historians with a book that sheds light on Sleidan as well as the composition of the Commentaries and its later reception.’ Bulletin of the German Historical Institute ’... Kess’s volume offers important contributions to both our understanding of the biography of an important and undervalued scholar of history in the early modern world, and to the study of the historiography of the early moderns themselves.’ Religious Studies Review ’... this book makes a substantial contribution to current research on the Reformation and its earliest historians.’ Sixteenth Century Journal ’Finally, we have a comprehensive and detailed biography of the ’father of Reformation history’, making full use of the secondary and primary sources, including the extensive published correspondence and some manuscripts.’ English Historical Review 'Alexandra Kess's achievement is an impressive one, in no way limited to the fleshing out of Sleidan's biography... There is much to gain from this work beyond its seemingly narrow focus.' Renaissance Studies