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Swiss Anabaptism: The beginnings, 1523–1525

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Chapter Summary

Anabaptism began in Switzerland in January 1525, with the group around Conrad Grebel in Zurich. The revisionists began to examine Anabaptism from a wider vantage than theological ideas, paying attention to social, political and economic factors. The revisionists, building on scholarship of Swiss historian, Martin Haas, held that Swiss Anabaptism in its earliest forms was ambivalent on questions of violence and political involvement, and became solidly sectarian and separatist only following the failure of Peasants’ War at the end of 1525. While the systematic use of primary and archival sources has muted some of earlier polemical and apologetic expressions in Anabaptist studies, it has by no means led to a consensus view of origin and character of Anabaptism. This chapter describes the current state of research concerning Swiss Anabaptist origins, concentrating on pre-history of Anabaptism and events of 1525, with the historiographical debates forming the necessary backdrop to the discussion.

Keywords: Anabaptist studies; Conrad Grebel; Martin Haas; Peasants’ War; revisionists; Swiss Anabaptism



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