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Erasmus of Rotterdam and His Influence on the Development of the Protestant Reformation in the Southern Netherlands

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Erasmus of Rotterdam Birthday Lecture 2013

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A number of Protestants and their adversaries produced striking testimonies to the influence which Erasmus exercised on Protestant-minded people in the sixteenth-century Southern Netherlands. Yet Erasmus’ impact on the break-through and the further development of the Protestant reform movements is more complex than these testimonies seem to suggest. The first part of this article tries to probe Erasmus’ influence by using the evidence from the printing press. Data about book production, book ownership, and the index of forbidden books point to a strong distribution of Erasmus’ work even in the vernacular. The second part of the article highlights how a number of rhetoricians active in Brabant and Flanders assimilated and adapted Erasmus’ ideas for a broader vernacular audience. The printing press, the activities of the rhetoricians, and schooling were interconnected agents of cultural and intellectual life which reinforced each other. They created in any case a fertile soil for religious change.

Affiliations: 1: University of Antwerp


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