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Peasants' War

The Peasants' War (in German, der Deutsche Bauernkrieg) of 1524-26 in Germany consisted, like the preceding Bundschuh movement and the Hussite Wars, of a mass of economic as well as religious revolts by peasants, townsfolk and nobles. The movement possessed no common programme.

The conflict, which took place mostly in southern, western and central areas of Germany but also affected areas now in neighbouring Switzerland and Austria, involved at its height in the spring and summer of 1525 an estimated 300,000 peasant insurgents: contemporary estimates put the dead at 100,000.

The war was in part an expression of the religious upheaval known as the Reformation, during which critics of the privileges and alleged corruption of the Roman Catholic Church challenged the prevailing religious and political order.

But it also reflected deep-seated social discontents: peasant dissatisfaction with the power of local lords; the desire of city leaders for freedom from ecclesiastical or princely rulers; tensions within the towns between the masses and urban elites, and rivalries within the nobility itself.

The peasant movement ultimately failed as cities and nobles made their own peace with the princely armies which restored the old order in often still harsher form under the nominal overlordship of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, represented in German affairs by his younger brother Ferdinand.

The religious dissident Martin Luther, already condemned as a heretic by the 1521 Edict of Worms and accused at the time of fomenting the strife, rejected the demands of the insurgents and upheld the right of Germany's rulers to suppress the uprisings, but his former follower Thomas Müntzer came to the fore as a radical agitator in Thuringia.

Adapted from the German Wikipedia article.