Internet-based communications technologies appear to it is in integral come the diffusion that social movements today. This obelisk looks back at the Protestant improvement – the first mass activity to use the new technology that the printing push to drive social change. It says that diffusion the the reformation was not propelled by technology alone. Competition and also openness in the media were also crucial, and delivered your biggest results in cities whereby political freedom was many limited.

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The usage of society media and related technologies in the Arab Spring, Occupy wall Street and the so-called ‘colour revolutions’ advanced a variety of questions. Exactly how much walk the diffusion that radical concepts depend on an innovation itself? What duty do openness and also competition in media sectors play? and also how perform the implications of brand-new technologies and also of competition depend on the early institutional conditions?

Evidence native European history suggests that competition and openness in the media are crucial – and may have their biggest impacts where political flexibility is many limited.

The good news Reformation

The Protestant reformation is a canonical instance of the method that put in order media technologies may drive extensive social change.

The technology at the love of the reformation was the to press press. The improvement was the first mass activity to use the new technology and also the very first successful difficulty to the quasi-monopoly of the Catholic Church.

In 1517, martin Luther circulated his famed theses calling for reform within the Catholic Church. Nearly immediately, the ideas of the protestant Reformation started to spread in the media across cities in German-speaking Europe.

As Protestant principles spread in the media, citizens’ movements arised calling for reforms in church doctrine and also an end to various develops of corruption. These urban movements were popular and also largely center class. They developed without the assistance of local princes and challenged the government of city councils and also urban elites, v civil disobedience, preaching, marches, and street theatre (Cameron 1991).

Where the reformers won power at the municipal level, they cemented their victories in brand-new legal institutions. In Steven Ozment’s (1975) words, “The revolutionary program pertained to rest in an developed religion; the pamphlet ended up being a church ordinance... The new Protestant institutions persisted.”

It commonly said that without printing there would have actually been no Reformation. ‘No printing, no Reformation’ in Bernd Moeller’s famed aphorism (1979). However literacy prices were low also in urban – maybe 30% – leading some scholars to argue the the conventional case for the function of new media have to be qualified (Scribner 1994).

The research study challenge

No research has actually systematically recorded the diffusion of Protestant ideas in the media during the reformation in quantitative terms. This is due to the fact that the data top top the media are huge and complicated. There are thousands of publication – in historic German – by unknown authors. While about a 3rd of publication from the 1500s to be on religious topics, no present data systematically classify the contents or religious persuasion that this media.

Moreover, to study how an innovation and competition shame diffusion, us need evidence on firms and media sectors – which previously has actually not to be constructed.

Documenting the diffusion of ideas in the media – high dimensional data

In brand-new research, we construct a novel measure of spiritual content in the media (Dittmar and Seabold 2015). We research all known books and pamphlets developed in German-speaking Europe 1450-1600 – over 108,000 separation, personal, instance publications created in over 100 cities.

We build a measure of spiritual content by utilizing statistical methods for high dimensional data. A big literature provides statistical models to study sentiment and ideology in the language that twitter ‘tweets’ and also of modern-day news media (e.g., Gentzkow and Shapiro 2010, Taddy 2013). Us take these models for message data come the historical evidence from the Reformation and obtain an table of contents of content.

Figure 1 gift the huge picture native the aggregate time series. Adhering to Martin Luther’s an initial intervention in 1517, we check out a discontinuous change in the religious content that the media, away from Catholic (0) in the direction of Protestant (1). This transition is observed in both German and also Latin spiritual media. We additionally observe a sharp rise in the variety of religious publication in the vernacular – as recorded by the range of the mite in the graph.

Figure 1. Index of religious content in the media


Determinants that diffusion

There space two big arguments in the historical literature. The first is that printing was absolutely an essential to the diffusion that the Reformation. The second is that cities through constitutionally safeguarded political freedoms play a crucial role in the movement’s development. The institutional difference here is in between the two principal varieties of cities formally recognised through the structure of the holy Roman Empire. In ‘free cities’, city councils had extensive policy autonomy. In the urban that were no ‘free’, citizens and also municipal authorities fell under the legal jurisdiction the the regional feudal lord.

The present literature says that political freedom and also the push were with each other behind the Reformation. Our evidence argues a various and an ext nuanced picture, in i beg your pardon the economics of the media connected with prior political institutions.

We find that urban with much more competitive sectors saw a much better diffusion the the improvement in the media. Moreover, this competition result is even stronger in the cities that fell under the ascendancy of neighborhood lords – wherein otherwise currently institutions put the greatest obstacles before the diffusion that radical ideas and also movements.

Evidence ~ above competition and also radical ideas

Historians have argued that vain mattered. Andrew Pettegree (2000) observes that, “Where a market was controlled, the complimentary flow of innovative theological speculation was significantly inhibited.”

We check this debate by constructing data on every firm operating in central Europe. We construct the data by assessing the engravings that record the printer developing each individual book and also pamphlet in our data, and cross-check these calculation based measures against records native biographical dictionary of printers.

We then study just how city-level sector structure top top the night of the Reformation explains subsequent diffusion. We find that cities with more firms saw much more Protestant media – even controlling for the as whole size and composition of their media output prior to Reformation. We examine over 190 cities and also towns. That these, 55 had actually printing prior to 1517 and also the average city through printing on the night of the Reformation had two firms active.

We find an additional firm just prior to the improvement was connected with around a 20% rise in protestant content. Moreover, Protestant content really increases when we compare cities v two or 3 firms come cities with no to press or just a regional monopoly.

Figure 2 illustrates this point by documenting the non-linear relationship between Protestant media and the initial number of firms (here we examine residual good news media, acquisition out variation described by city size, prior spiritual output, the language composition of pre-Reformation output, and measures of neighborhood institutions).

Figure 2. Protestant concepts in the media and pre-Reformation competitors


Did sport in competition reason differences in diffusion?

The apparent question is whether cities with more competitive media markets had actually other qualities that do them receptive come reformist ideas. Maybe these urban were always much more open come innovation? Or probably these cities were experiencing brand-new forms of social and financial dynamism just prior to the reformation – inducing firms come enter and also simultaneously predisposing them in the direction of the coming religious innovations?

To isolate variations in market structure that space plausibly totally free of these creates of reverse causation we carry out two things. First, we examine variations in competition the were induced by the possibility timing that the deaths of grasp printers – which to be independent that the much more slow moving characteristics that may have made some cities much more receptive to religious innovation 보다 others.

Second, we examine variations in competition the reflect longer run distinctions in city market structure and also do not embody endogenous entry on the night of the Reformation. Ours results analyzing these 2 plausibly random resources of sport in market structure both support the view that competition to be a an essential predictor the diffusion.

Institutional change

The good news Reformation caused formal institutional change. These changes occurred very first at the city level. Wherein reformers winner power, city councils created new legal institutions, start in the 1520s. The brand-new laws reformed church governance and social welfare provision and established the most ambitious at an early stage experiments in fixed public education and learning in europe history.

Previous research study in economics has no examined these formal institutional changes. We password up i m sorry cities obtained the legitimate ordinances of the Reformation and then study the relationship in between competition, exposure come content, and also legal change.

Figure 3 mirrors that many of the legal innovation occurred before the mid-1500s. In the mid-1500s, an initial military conflict, and also then the new institutional equilibrium worked out in legislation by the tranquility of Augsburg (1555), arrested the diffusion that Protestantism.

Figure 4 maps the geography of municipal legal reform. Number 5 reflects that cities that did and also did not readjust legal institutions had similar religious media before the Reformation and that there to be no clear trends before 1517.

Figure 3. The legislations of the Reformation


Figure 4. Legit Reformation throughout Cities 1518-1554


Figure 5. Religious content for urban that do and do no pass improvement laws


Determinants the institutional change

We uncover that sports in initial compete in media markets strongly suspect legal readjust in cities that were under the jurisdiction the authoritarian feudal lords. In contrast, in the free cities, the relationship in between prior competition and also legal change is reasonably weak. This evidence strongly suggests that compete in the media mattered most where citizens and also policymakers otherwise faced the largest obstacles to mobilisation and also social change.

It is important to underline right here that the media were provided to galvanise citizens’ movements, which faced totally free rider problems and were daunting religious and also secular elites. The constituency because that reform came from citizens that were excluded from political power by oligarchic elites, frequently lesser merchants and also guild members (Ozment 1975, Schilling 1983).

Cameron (1991) observes that, “As a preeminence neither the city patricians nor the local princes showed any sympathy because that the improvement in the critical period in the so late 1520s and also early 1530s; they established themselves through the old Church pecking order and accordingly shared the unpopularity. Famous agitation top top a vast social base resulted in the formation of a ‘burgher committee’.”

This version notably qualified the reformation in that is birth ar – “It is undeniable that the Wittenberg activity was borne on a wave of renowned enthusiasm. The outran the city magistrates’ ability to regulate it, and finally required them to act even against the will certainly of the Elector , who had actually prohibited any type of innovations in church matters” (Scribner 1979; p. 53).

Why vain mattered

While producers were urged by belief, printing was a competitive organization in which religion was a dimension for product differentiation. In urban with simply a regional monopolist that press was de facto or de jure the ‘city printer’. Challenged by one adversarial monopolist, city councils can encourage a brand-new entrant. In cities v multiple printers, one printer was frequently the main city press (ratsbuchdrucker) and the remainder were not.

The fact that recognized city printers to be not early on advocates that the improvement is consistent with the view that they walk not want to endanger official work-related orders or antagonise city governments, while outsiders may not have actually been therefore constrained.

The huge picture because that economics

An prominent body the scholarship traces differences in modern-day economic performance and behaviour to historically figured out institutions or ideas (Acemoglu et al 2001, 2011; Voigtlander and also Voth 2012; Guiso et al 2003). This literary works raises the question – What describes the dynamics of fundamental institutional change?

The reformation interests us as arguably one of the many important transforms in social institutions of the last numerous centuries.

We specifically study atmospheres in which the media were used to solve complimentary rider problems and mobilise citizens’ movements that aimed come transform society institutions.

Our crucial findings imply that the diffusion of the reformation was not propelled by information modern technology acting alone. We find that compete in media industries mattered. In the cities where political flexibility was most limited – whereby the legal exclusive right of authoritarian rulers were biggest – competition and also openness in the media ceded their best effects.


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