Christine Binzel, Andreas Link, Rajesh Ramachandran, 24 December 2020

The use of a language in written and formal contexts that is distinct from the languages used in everyday communication – such as Latin in early modern Europe and Standard Arabic in the Arabic-speaking world, both past and present – comes with benefits, but also with costs. Drawing on publishing data from early modern Europe, this column shows that the Protestant Reformation led to a sudden and sharp rise in vernacular printing, such that by the end of the 16th century, the majority of works were printed in spoken tongues rather than in Latin. This transformation allowed broader segments of society to access knowledge. It also diversified the composition of authors and book content and had long-term consequences for economic development.

Sascha O. Becker, Yuan Hsiao, Steven Pfaff, Jared Rubin, 27 November 2020

The Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther, was one of the most transformative periods of European (if not world) history in the second millennium. How did this movement succeed? This column offers a theory that combines relational diffusion (via Luther’s network ties) with spatial diffusion (via trade routes in the Holy Roman Empire), and substantiates this theory using data on Luther’s letters, travels, and students. Luther’s network alone does not explain the success of the Reformation, but his network in combination with the pre-existing ties created by trade routes explains much of its success.

Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar, Noam Yuchtman, 31 October 2017

Five hundred years ago today, Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the Wittenberg Castle church door critiquing Catholic Church corruption, setting off the Protestant Reformation. This column argues that the Reformation not only transformed Western Europe's religious landscape, but also led to an immediate and large secularisation of Europe’s political economy.

Stelios Michalopoulos, Elias Papaioannou, 08 March 2017

Over the past decades, economists working on growth have ‘rediscovered’ the importance of history, leading to the emergence of a vibrant, far-reaching inter-disciplinary stream of work. This column introduces the third and final eBook in our three-part series which examines key themes in this emergent literature and discusses the impact they have on our understanding of the long-run influence of historical events on current economics. This volume focuses on the Americas and Europe and examines how events from history have helped shape their post-war economic identities.

Jeremiah Dittmar, Ralf R Meisenzahl, 26 April 2016

Throughout history, most states have functioned as kleptocracies and not as providers of public goods. This column analyses the diffusion of legal institutions that established Europe’s first large-scale experiments in mass public education. These institutions originated in Germany during the Protestant Reformation due to popular political mobilisation, but only in around half of Protestant cities. Cities that formalised these institutions grew faster over the next 200 years, both by attracting and by producing more highly skilled residents.

Jeremiah Dittmar, Skipper Seabold, 19 August 2015

Internet-based communications technologies appear to be integral to the diffusion of social movements today. This column looks back at the Protestant Reformation – the first mass movement to use the new technology of the printing press to drive social change. It argues that diffusion of the Reformation was not driven by technology alone. Competition and openness in the media were also crucial, and delivered their biggest effects in cities where political freedom was most limited.

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