Religious Toleration and Social Change in Hamburg, 1529–1819 (Whaley)Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz
Our first 2021 microreview is Whaley’s classic urban case-study: Religious Toleration and Social Change in Hamburg. Over three centuries of religious life in one of the Hanse’s most important cities, he shows the key role conflict plays in urban history.
The book argues for the emergence of toleration in Hamburg from the contingencies of conflicts between its government, churches, and inhabitants, in contrast to an idea which emerged after 1785 of religious toleration as an intrinsic and ancient part of Hamburg’s social life. The book illustrates how a singe subject of conflict – religious toleration – can be approached through numerous conflict management strategies, as the issue of toleration brought Hamburg’s government into conflict both with its religious minorities and the Lutheran majority. Some minority religions approached the conflict indirectly, worshiping in nearby Altona to avoid risky confrontation. On the other hand, those with the means sometimes left the city in protest, threatening economic losses to which the city’s leaders were highly sensitive. Religious toleration wasn’t only a local issue either. Catholics could leverage the city’s diplomatic importance, gaining support from diplomats of Catholic powers who could pressure local magistrates, thus, integrating Hamburg’s conflicts into higher level politics. Thirty-five years after its publication, Religious Toleration and Social Change in Hamburg remains a good demonstration of both the plurality of conflict strategies, and the long-term effects of conflict management for shaping culture and politics. #RetroConflictsInspirations
Joachim Whaley, Religious Toleration and Social Change in Hamburg, 1529–1819, (Cambridge University Press, 1985)