The Protestant Revolution

Episode one – The Politics Of Belief

In the series opener, historian Tristram Hunt uncovers how a debate about religion in 16th-century Germany sparked a political revolution. From the bloody battlefields of medieval Germany, to the civil wars of the 1640s in Britain, Protestantism unleashed a series of revolutions and wars that rippled across Europe.

And the reverberations of the Reformation continue to this day. The programme explores how the role of Protestantism has influenced the current conflict in the Middle East and the foreign policy of George W Bush.

Protestantism inspired a new way of thinking; a challenge to authority that has crossed centuries and continents. Martin Luther's challenge to the Pope in the 16th century inspired conservatives and radicals alike, and its history is one of conflict, challenge and rebellion – from the early religious radicals in Germany, to the founding of the British Labour Party and the Civil Rights movement in Fifties America.

The Protestant Revolution unravels how a breakaway form of Christianity has come to shape the political landscape of the modern world.

Episode two – The Godly Family

The Protestant Revolution transformed people's experiences of sex, love, family life and the relationship between men and women.

In the second episode, Tristram uncovers how Protestantism replaced the Catholic veneration of celibacy with a devotion to family life. The programme shows how Luther became the loving husband and father, and how the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury gave us our modern idea of marriage.

The programme traces the contradictory legacy of Protestantism – on the one hand sexual equality, while, on the other, virulent patriarchy. Viewers meet the austere Puritan preacher who met his soul mate, and the programme also investigates radical, free-loving 17th-century sects as well as discovering how straight-laced Victorian mothers became the sexually liberated women of today.

In gay and lesbian churches, and in conservative Christian communities today, we can see the continuing impact of Protestantism. Gay bishops, gay marriages and abortions dominate debate, and now, ironically, threaten the world's largest Protestant communion, the Anglican Church.

Episode three – A Reformation Of The Mind

Tristram explores how Protestantism has come to shape modern western art, literature and science, in the penultimate episode of Protestant Revolution.

In 16th-century Britain, radical Protestants triggered one of the greatest acts of vandalism in British history, wiping out Catholic monasteries, churches and artwork. But the cultural revolution inspired by this religious movement went far further than the shattered statues of 16th-century Britain.

The legacy of the Protestant Revolution lies unseen around us. Tristram follows a trail that leads from the monasteries of Catholic England to modern art galleries and explores how Protestantism lay at the heart of one of our greatest art forms – the novel.

Tristram also uncovers how a Protestant culture of inquiry and discovery drove on a new scientific age that spanned from the discovery of gravity to the Industrial Revolution.

And now, as new scientific frontiers are broken, Tristram reveals how religion lies at the heart of some of our most significant scientific discoveries. In the process, he discovers how Protestantism has helped to create the modern secular world.

Episode four – No Rest For The Wicked

Capitalism and an increasingly active anti-global movement are two of the most powerful forces on the planet, and Tristram reveals how both phenomena developed out of Protestantism, in the final episode of The Protestant Revolution.

The journey begins with Jean Calvin who, desperate for a sign of God's favour, found it in the world of work and money. Tristram explores how Puritans, anxious to worship God at every opportunity, introduced the world of the ticking clock and shaped the architecture of the working week.

Puritans on both sides of the Atlantic developed modern work and business practices, and provided the intellectual and financial impetus to launch the Industrial Revolution.

The push for profit could go too far, however. The sugar plantations of the Caribbean divided the Protestant church, giving rise to an anti-capitalist voice that campaigned first against slavery and then against the excesses of factory labour.

Today, capitalism is triumphant, but the anti-capitalist movement is also gathering force, and the two great opposing legacies of Protestantism continue to battle it out.

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