History professor publishes sourcebook on Reformation

Dr. Michael Bruening

Dr. Michael Bruening

A Missouri University of Science and Technology history professor recently published a book intended for college-level classes on the Reformation period.

Dr. Michael Bruening, associate professor of history and political science at Missouri S&T, edited A Reformation Sourcebook: Documents from an Age of Debate. The University of Toronto Press published the 273-page reader in April 2017, during the year of the 500th anniversary of one of the most tumultuous periods in European history.

“The traditional starting point is when Martin Luther posted the Ninety-five Theses against Indulgences on Oct. 31, 1517,” says Bruening.

During the Reformation, Europeans were engaged in a debate about how to understand and practice the Christian faith that would alter the course of European history. Never before had so many people weighed in on a topic of such importance, according to Bruening.

In his book, Bruening presents the debates of the Reformation era through more than 80 primary sources, and provides an essay on how to read primary sources. Bruening even translated 14 of the source documents from Latin or French.

“The novel thing that I’ve done in this sourcebook is to present primary source texts from the Reformation in pairs or groups, so that students will be able to see at least two sides of the debates that took place during the Reformation,” he says. “So for every text from Luther, for example, there is a text from one of his Catholic or radical opponents. This way, students should be better able to understand the issues at stake during the Reformation.”

Each chapter of the book opens with a brief introduction by Bruening, and each group of primary sources is preceded by information on historical context as well as focus questions. Further readings are provided at the end of each chapter. The book also contains a map of Europe divided by religions.

“It’s also the first Reformation reader, to my knowledge, to include chapters on the cultural impact of the Reformation,” Bruening says. “Thus, it is not all about theology. The last two chapters address the impact of the Reformation on, for example, food and fasting, death and dying, sex and marriage, attitudes towards women and Jews, and ideas about religious toleration and slavery.”

The book is available through the University of Toronto Press Publishing’s website.

Bruening’s first book, Calvinism’s First Battleground: Conflict and Reform in the Pays de Vaud, 1528-1559, examines the origins of Calvinism in early modern Switzerland through the religious and political struggles between Catholics and Protestants in the region. In 2012, he published Epistolae Petri Vireti, a critical edition of the unedited correspondence of the Calvinist reformer Pierre Viret.

Bruening earned bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees from the University of Virginia. He earned a Ph.D. in late medieval and Reformation studies from the University of Arizona in 2002. Prior to joining Missouri S&T, Bruening taught at Concordia University in Irvine, California.

Besides researching and teaching Reformation-era history, Bruening also studies medieval and Renaissance history and religious history. He is a member of the American Historical Association, Sixteenth Century Society, and the Society for Reformation Research.