Popular Propaganda for the German Reformation

The German Reformation was the first great age of mass propaganda. The power of the printing press for the spread of new ideas was fully tested by the flood of literature released by Reformation movements. This literature ranged from weighty works of theology, sermons or polemical tracts in Latin and German, to various kinds of popular literature such as chapbooks, broadsides and even comic strips. Probably few people were touched directly by those works from the more scholarly end of the market. Literacy was extensive only in towns, and reading ability was doubtless very mixed, in many cases consisting perhaps of the ability to stumble uneasily through a few lines. This was not necessarily a barrier to the spread of ideas through the medium of print, for reading aloud was common, as was discussion of printed works. However it does call attention to those works which tried to take account of primitive reading ability and geared their message to the illiterate and semi-literate.

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