German Peasants War : Alsace 1525

A.) Prehistory

Click here for the Table of Contents, History of the Alsace (in German : Elsass). See the chapter German Peasants War, 1524-1526.
In the early 16th century, the Alsace politically was split into numerous territories, the more important being the Princebishopric of Strassburg, the County of Upper Alsace (Sundgau), the County of Hagenau. A number of cities were immediate, the more important ones being Strassburg (in French : Strasbourg), Mülhausen (in French : Mulhouse), Schlettstadt (in French : Selestat).

B.) The Revolt

In the Alsace, the peasants were particularly furious about the established (Catholic) church; unrest began in January 1525 at Zabern (in French : Saverne), the residence of the Princebishops of Strassburg. Meanwhile, the city of Strassburg emerged as a center of the protestant reformation, with personalities such as Bucer and Capito. Among the countryside, Anabaptists were influential. In April the rebellion began; first, single monasteries and castles were attacked. The rebellion spread into the Upper Alsace, the Sundgau, into the County of Montbeliard On May 13th the rebels (20,000 men) took Zabern, on the next day a column of peasants headed by Erasmus Gerber failed to take Strassburg by surprise. The Alsatian peasants adopted 12 Articles said to be more radical than those adopted by their Swabian follows. The peasants, at their height 35,000 strong (c. 10 % of the population of the Alsace), elected Erasmus Gerber their commander.
Duke Antoine of Lorraine had assembled a force of knights, 30,000 strong, and lead the expedition against the Alsatian peasants; on May 16th, the city of Zabern, besieged by Duke Antoine, surrendered conditionally. 18,000 peasants left the city; the Duke broke his promise and had them killed. The Duke pacified the entire Alsace except for the Sundgau, where a truce was signed in June. It was to end the revolt, but when a number of preachers and rebel leaders, in violation of the truce, were hanged (Ittel Jörg in Strassburg, June 23rd), the peasants rebelled again. The Offenburg Agreement of September 18th 1525 was to finally end the rebellion; by November,peace was restored everywhere in the Alsace.

In the Alsace the suppression of the rebellion was special in character, as Duke Antoine of Lorraine, while a prince of the Holy Roman Empire, spoke French and felt limited compassion for German speaking peasants he regarded heretics. Many knights who had joined his force were French, Savoyard etc. Thus the extraordinary brutality with which the peasants were treated.

Friedrich Engels, The German Peasants' War : Thuringia, Alsace, Austria, from Our History, leftist view
The German Peasants' Revolt, by Christopher Handisides
Peasants' War, from Wikipedia
Bauernkrieg 1525, from Tabellarische Geschichte Elsass-Lothringens, in German
Heinz Moog, 1525 - Selbst beim allgemeinen Aufstand Vertrauen gegenuber der geistlichen Herrschaft, from Eschringen, in German, on the Battle of Zabern
Histoire de Fegersheim, in French
1525 le Duc Antoine repousse les Rustauds, from Histoire de la Haute Meurthe, in French
DOCUMENTS Mathis Nithard and 8 of his followers were expelled from the city of Basel, after having sworn never to set foot in the city again, April 26 1526, posted by Philippe Nithard, site in French; doc available as facsimile, printed text in 16th century German, in modern French translation
REFERENCE Mark Greengrass, The Longman Companion to the European Reformation c.1500-1618, Harlow (Essex): Longman 1998, pp.75-81, KMLA Lib.Sign. 274.06 GB 121
Armies of the German Peasants' War 1524-1526, from Osprey men-at-arms

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 24th 2004, last revised on November 17th 2004

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