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The Early Reformation on the Continent$
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Owen Chadwick

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198269021

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198269021.001.0001

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The Early Reformation on the Continent

Owen Chadwick (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The invention of printing in fifteenth‐century Germany transformed the religious and intellectual history of Christendom. Printed books spread information and misinformation rapidly and increased the excitement surrounding new learning. Authors were attracted by the clarity and ease of reproduction of the printed word, and while censorship could be fierce, it was also difficult, and the trade in books across frontiers was impossible to control, which worked to the advantage of Reformed writers. Literacy rates were low, but rose during the sixteenth century, while group reading allowed pamphlet literature with a religious content, vehemently expressed, to pass on knowledge or alleged knowledge to the common people, equalling or surpassing the power of the spoken word as expressed in sermons.

Keywords:   censorship, literacy, printing

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