Twitter Revolutions, Reformation Style

So, a couple of weeks ago, the Economist ran an interesting article on Martin Luther and the Reformation, arguing that the social media of the day (inexpensive mass production of pamphlets) played a crucial role in fueling the spread of Luther’s ideas. It’s a fun read, full of interesting history, with parallels drawn to the Arab Spring revolutions throughout. It is also interesting how the tone of much of the discussion has not changed so much:

Sylvester Mazzolini defended the pope against Luther in his “Dialogue Against the Presumptuous Theses of Martin Luther”. He called Luther “a leper with a brain of brass and a nose of iron” and dismissed his arguments on the basis of papal infallibility. Luther, who refused to let any challenge go unanswered, took a mere two days to produce his own pamphlet in response, giving as good as he got. “I am sorry now that I despised Tetzel,” he wrote. “Ridiculous as he was, he was more acute than you. You cite no scripture. You give no reasons.”


Also circulated at the time was this political cartoon on the origin of monks, created and circulated by the pro-Lutherans. Spoiler alert: they were crapped out by demons.

Over at The Renaissance Mathematicus, Thony Christie has an interesting follow-up post on the topic. He points out that the role of cheap mass production of pamphlets in driving the Reformation is academically well established. He also makes interesting points about the role of the new printing technology in spreading the astronomical ideas of Copernicus and Kepler, as these sort-of hitchhiked on astrological pamphlets.

Also, he calls me a sick warped bastard, but in a good way.

My recommendation: go read both!

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