Friendship in Catholic Reformation Eichstätt

  • Jonathan Durrant


The context for this chapter on friendship in the small Franconian prince-bishopric of Eichstätt is perhaps the least likely. It is the brutal imposition of Catholic reform at a time of demographic pressure and acute agrarian crisis with all the attendant consequences of those phenomena: high inflation, epidemic disease, vagrancy and increased criminal activity. These problems characterised late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Europe generally, but were compounded in the Holy Roman Empire by the very real threat of a war which was finally to engulf Germany in 1618 and much of the rest of the Continent over the next thirty years. Religious reform, agrarian crisis and warfare have all been cited by historians as contributing to an increase in social tension around 1600 which led ultimately to the destruction of inherently unstable communities which were unable to share declining resources among increasing populations. The rise of individualism has been regarded as both a product of this tension and an accelerant of the processes of social transformation, and the attempts to regulate welfare provision and scapegoat witches are frequently given as the symptoms of this decline in medieval communal life.1 In this programmatic history, accounts of witchcraft can only be interpreted negatively and a great deal that these witchcraft narratives might otherwise tell us about the communities which suffered persecutions is lost, just as that same programmatic history has obscured from view the ritualised kinships that Alan Bray sought to recover in The Friend.2


Good Neighbour Communal Gathering Late Sixteenth Programmatic History Noble Family 
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  1. 1.
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© Jonathan Durrant 2005

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  • Jonathan Durrant

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