REASSESSING THE POLISH BRETHREN ON MAGISTRACY, PACIFISM, AND WARFARE IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

Francesco Quatrini

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Abstract

The Polish Brethren, usually known as Socinians, were perhaps the most infamous Christian sect belonging to the so-called 'Radical Reformation'. Renowned for their anti-Trinitarian beliefs and their rationalistic approach towards religion, the Brethren also discussed theological-political concepts such as the legitimacy of magistracy and warfare. Relevant literature on the Brethren's socio-political views underestimates their participation in contemporary debates on the ius belli, describing them as pacifists who generally opposed politics and violence until the 1650s, when some of them began defending a more conventional approach towards magistracy and warfare. This article proves that this shift toward a more standard Protestant position occurred as early as the 1620s, when Johannes Crell and Jonas Szlichtyng, two of the most prominent spokespersons among the Brethren, reconciled politics and the Brethren's faith in their writings. The article highlights how the historical situation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth urged them to revise their views on magistracy and warfare, and it argues that they were assisted in this by their education in European universities, especially the Lutheran Academy of Altdorf near Nuremberg, which provided them with different perspectives on the legitimacy of defensive warfare.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalHistorical Journal
Early online date19 Nov 2020
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 19 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Socinianism
  • Just war theory
  • Pacifism
  • Early Modern History
  • Radical Reformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

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