Sunday, 27 July 2014

'My Lord Katie'

I was scrolling back through previous articles on this blog (as you do) and, as someone who’s recently been getting really into all this Reformation stuff, E.C’s post from April on Martin Luther caught my eye. I thought I’d throw in my twopence too.
I could sit here and type out the key elements of Lutheranism (original Lutheranism, I mean – it’s changed a bit since Luther’s day) but something else caught my eye, and that was a short post I found on the women of the Reformation, featuring none other than Luther’s wife, Katharina von Bora.

(Before I start, if anyone needs a quick introduction to Luther, this song by the History Teachers does the trick.)

Katharina (or Katherine) von Bora was sent by her father to a Benedictine abbey, aged just five, to receive an education, but was transferred four years later to a Cistercian chapter near Grimma, where she took her vows and became a nun in 1515.
However, Katharina’s religious life was about to be shaken up a whole lot more than merely by a change in chapter. Luther had nailed his theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, and before long, religious reform in Germany was underway. This young Cistercian nun got wind of these evangelical ideas and became dissatisfied with life in the abbey. She and eleven other nuns, having sought help from Luther and his fellow reformers beforehand, managed to escape in secrecy, hiding in a fish-filled wagon. (Also, it’s worth noting that smuggling nuns was a capital offence, so hats off to the wagon driver, Leonhard Koppe.)

Because it was against canon law for their families to take these nuns back, Luther had to find jobs or husbands for all of them. He managed that for everyone except Katharina. Determined to set an example of clerical marriage, he married the last runaway nun left.
Luther and Katharina were married at some point in 1525, which definitely raised eyebrows. He hadn’t told his friends that he had planned to marry her.

Luther being Luther, by marrying, had broken the Roman Catholic rule of clerical celebacy. Some priests had – and continued to - marry in secret (perhaps one of the most obvious examples being Thomas Cranmer in 1532) but Luther didn’t. Their original, private wedding ceremony was followed by a much more public one. This was a pretty big deal: one of Luther’s contemporaries, Philipp Melanchthon, saw it as an ‘unlucky deed’ which would bring about the downfall of the Reformation (though he might have just been miffed because he wasn’t invited to the wedding).

Katharina von Bora, painted by Lucas
Cranach the Elder, 1526

Also, as clerical marriage was almost unprecedented, Katharina effectively had to answer one big question: What were clerics’ wives supposed to do?
The answer, it turns out, was an awful lot.
It was said that Martin Luther knew next to nothing about how to run a household - presumably monks didn’t need these skills – so the task fell to his new wife. Katharina was, in essence, the perfect housewife. As well as supporting her husband in the Reformation, she managed to:
  • Raise ten children (six of her own, one of her nephews and three others)
  • Run the household, including looking after all those theologians and students Luther kept bringing into the house.
  • Look after the gardens and livestock.
  • Run the brewery. (Monasteries were allowed to brew beer, and Luther House was an old Augustinian cloister. Katharina used this to her advantage.)
Following Luther’s death in 1546, his widow fought tooth and nail for her lands, property and her family. They were a tight unit, and when Chancellor Brück was adamant that her sons should be properly educated away from home, Katharina was having none of it. Brück was eventually forced to give up, and the boys stayed where they were.

What was worse, the remaining Luthers no longer had the money to maintain their house. They were allowed to keep it, and were given money and a farm by the Elector, but with the outbreak of the Schmalkaldic War, the family had to flee. They later returned to find that their farm had been used by the two armies: the buildings had been burnt down and the animals had gone. They wound up in debt, and Katharina had to take in students from Wittenberg University to make more money.
Perhaps, in light of what other women have done, Katharina Luther doesn’t stand out as the perfect role model, or someone who deserves extra praise, but what she did was nevertheless admirable, and her influence in the Reformation regarding the argument against clerical celibacy was very significant. The Luthers were a high profile couple, and Katharina was held in high esteem by her husband, who called her ‘my lord Katie’ and ‘the boss of Zulsdorf’ (Zulsdorf being the name of their farm). Sexual freedom for the clergy was an important aspect of the Reformation, and it was Martin and Katharina Luther who led the way.


(Oh, and a final piece of trivia for you: Martin and Katharina’s line still continues today through their daughter, Margarete. One of their descendants was the German president, Paul von Hindenburg.)

Monday, 21 July 2014

Summer Reading 2014

The Summer Holidays are nearly here so there may be a little time over the next few weeks for some summer reading. We have created some specific reading lists on Historical Fiction which you may find of interest. They are not complete, and need your input! If you have read any great books on any period of history, please let us know, and we will include them. Here are the current pages...

Historical Fiction: Key Stage 3
20th Century Historical Fiction: Years 9-11
Sixth Form Historical Fiction: Wars of the Roses and the Tudors

If you are in the Sixth Form and considering History at University, here are a few ideas...

David Aaronovitch of The Times has helpfully made some recommendations, which include "The Ascent of Money" by Niall Ferguson, which looks at the global history of finance and "The Birth of the Modern World 1788-1800" by Jay Winik, which considers the connections between the momentous political events of the late 18th Century. Both books would obviously provide helpful parallels with our current political and economic problems.

Tudor Historians may find "Mary Tudor:England's First Queen" of interest as it takes quite a sympathetic view of her and David Starkey's "Henry-The Virtuous Prince" looks closely at the often neglected early years of Henry VIII's life. Here is a further selection of Tudor History books and here is a guide from to useful authors.

EH Carr's "What is History" is the classic introduction to the nature of the subject and some ideas of historiography. Although it was published 48 years ago, it still contains many stimulating ideas to get the historian thinking. Other books that follow similar ideas, often written in response to Carr, include Geoffrey Elton's "The Practice of History, Richard Evans' "In Defence of History" and John Tosh's "The Pursuit of History". More information about these ideas can be seen at the Institute of History's special section on "What is History" here and in the Open University's website here.

If you are looking for further inspiration on what to read, check the "History Reviews" sections of the newspapers. Here are links to the The Guardian'sand The Telegraph's history books sections. The Institute of Historical Research also has an extensive Reviews Section

The history section of course has a vast range of books and is worth checking for the latest to be published.

Please pass on any recommendations for books you have enjoyed, and happy reading!

PS: Here is a list of books and articles recommended for old AEA course (for A Level Students who wanted to stretch themselves further) which are worth considering.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Football Through Time

In honour of the World Cup Semi Finals this Tuesday, I thought I would give you all a quick lesson on the history of organised football!

There is evidence that ball games have been played since 300 BC, with FIFA (the Federation Internationale de Football Association) claiming the ancient game of “cuju” to be the first official football-type sport.
“Cuju” was a militaristic game played in 2nd Century BC China, with very different rules to modern football but a similar player formation and crescent-shaped goals creating a pitch.
This game has since evolved worldwide, and today has many different variations across the globe.
The UK variation became popular in the Middle Ages. This new “football” game may be familiar with some of you already – called “mob football” and played between villages, a pig’s bladder was inflated and used as a ball. Played to celebrate occasions such as Christmas, it was very popular with communities.

Historians are not sure whether or not the ball was kicked at this stage, as although the game was known as “foot” ball, accounts describe players hitting and throwing the ball rather than just kicking it.
Over time, the “mob” element of British football was eliminated and through the English Private School system, football became an organised team sport.
Modern football was established around 1519, with more defined rules than previous variations, although still constantly changing, with the first offside rule introduced in the late 1700’s.
Schoolchildren were still at the forefront of developing modern football, as 1780 marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the UK, and with most adults working full time, only children at school could play lengthy sports. However, the Industrial Revolution brought benefits for children in other ways too, inter-school competitions occurred more often as rail travel had improved making it easier for matches between schools to occur.

The first official organised Football Association was formed in 1888, the Football League. Teams in England were officially documented and football became a more professional sport.
In 1922, the top 22 clubs in the Football League split to form the Premier League, the most renowned football competition in the UK. It is currently the most watched league in the world, and broadcast in 212 countries.

FIFA was founded in 1904 to bring the world together to play football in one “World Cup”. This idea was well received and in 1930, the first world cup was held in Uruguay.
As the organiser of the world championships, FIFA reserves the right to change or pass judgement on the modern football rules and regulations. When world football was suggested, all the different variations of the sport had to be taken into account to create one ultimate football game. The current game is based quite heavily on the old English football rules, established at Cambridge University in 1862, which in turn evolved from medieval football, however there are still elements of the game from other world cultures.

I hope you enjoyed this (slightly longer than I intended) history of football, so now go and enjoy the World Cup!  

K. Z.