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The Münster Rising, Memories of Violence, and Perceptions of Dissent in Restoration England

Crome, Andrew (2021) The Münster Rising, Memories of Violence, and Perceptions of Dissent in Restoration England. The Historical Journal. ISSN 0018-246X (In Press)

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Abstract

This article examines the ways in which the violent Anabaptist rising at Münster in 1533-5 was reinterpreted in Restoration England. Historians have often recognized that the incident was used to attack English Baptists in the seventeenth century, but there has been little systematic exploration of the processes behind this. This article suggests that recollections of Münster in later seventeenth-century England were a species of ‘cosmopolitan memory’ – an internationally shared memory of trauma put to distinctive local uses. References to Münster served as ways for English writers to tie nonconformists to specific acts of religious violence in England, including the Civil Wars and Thomas Venner’s 1661 rising in London, without directly recalling these events. Historical discussions of the Münster rising therefore often directly transformed German Anabaptists into Quakers or Fifth Monarchists. Condemnations of the violence in the German city were also used by Congregationalists and Presbyterians to differentiate themselves from Baptists and Quakers and to emphasize their orthodoxy. Some Baptist writers responded by disclaiming their links to continental Anabaptists, while others moved to question the established historiography around the Münster rising. This article demonstrates these points through a range of sources, including sermons, letters, commentaries, controversial literature and almanacs.

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