The Historical Context and Nature of Luther’s Protest

Martin Luther statue, Berlin. Source: author’s personal collection.

In the spring of 2017,  I was invited to give a lecture about the historical context and nature of Luther’s protest. The video of my  “Taste of Reformation” lecture from April 3, 2017, can be seen here. This printed version includes the images adds a little more detail on the Cranach painting “The Vineyard of the Lord.”

A Taste of Reformation: The Historical Context and Nature of Luther’s Protest

By Kyle Jantzen, Ambrose University

As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, it is fitting that we look back on the event—both to understand something of what happened back in 1517, and to reflect on what it might mean for Christians and churches today. That is the purpose of tonight’s lecture and discussion. In that spirit, I’d like to start things off with a few thoughts about the historical context in which the Reformation took place. After that, I’ll describe the process by which various late medieval grievances expressed by Luther and many others evolved into a fundamental ecclesiastical break between Luther and his followers and the Church of Rome. Finally, I’d like to identify some of the key themes in the early phase of the Reformation. Continue reading


Yes, You Can: Studying History and Finding a Career

Twice each year, at our Ambrose University Open House days for prospective students and their parents, I know I will have several conversations about the economic value of a history degree. Almost without fail, parents ask this question–and quite rightly, since they are usually the ones investing tens of thousands of dollars into their children’s education. They want to know that they’re making a good buy and that their kids won’t end up under-employed. Continue reading

Life Interrupted: History and the Possibility of Life Lessons

The other day, I was working with students to analyze a series of primary historical documents. It’s something we do often in history classes, but as we were discussing Jewish responses to the Holocaust at the end of the war, a different conversation started up inside my head. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the way that tragedy impacts us, and how we recover.

The context was a discussion of texts from the pre-publication version of a new reader on Jewish responses to the Holocaust, which scholars from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are soon bringing to press. The document in question was a polite but determined letter written in uneven English by a young Polish Jew named Julius Lewy. Composed at the end of May 1945, it begins “Dear Liberators” Continue reading

Local History Research in and by the Community

Over the past year, members of the Ambrose University history program have been working on a local history research project: “Placing Memory in High River’s Built Environment.” The project explores the connections between physical places and the sense of community identity and collective memory in the town of High River. It’s been a great opportunity for our Ambrose history students to get hands-on experience with real world research, as they have traveled to High River to interview members of the community. Now, back at Ambrose, they’re working together to interpret the interview transcripts, looking for historical themes and key places in High River.

Ambrose history students interviewing a local volunteer at the Museum of the Highwood, High River.
Ambrose history students interviewing a local volunteer in High River.

One of the exciting parts of the project has been working with our partners. The Museum of the Highwood has supported us with background information, archival photos, and other research resources. The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation has funded our project to the tune of almost $12000. And the High River Library has given us meeting space and promotion in the community. Once we’re done the project, we’ll deposit the digital audio files of our oral history interviews with the Museum of the Highwood, to replenish their supply of oral history material that was lost in the flood of 2013. Continue reading

On the Dark Art of Marking

While marking papers towards the end of last semester, I promised myself I would soon write about the thought processes that go into creating an assignment, establishing a marking rubric, and grading a research paper. Since the new semester is about to start, perhaps now is a good time to pull back the curtain just a little on the dark art of marking. We could call it the “How to Get Inside the Brain of Your History Prof as He’s Reading Your Paper” post, but that’s too wordy for a title. Continue reading

Anti-Judaism vs Antisemitism: Which is the Right Term?

One of the challenges in teaching about the history of antisemitism and the Holocaust, as I am right now in my HI 368 course of the same name, is how to describe ancient, early Christian, medieval, and Reformation-era forms of hostility towards Jews. Much of this hostility (and its associated violence) issued out of the Christian Church. For that reason, it has often been called “anti-Judaism.” But anti-Judaism has generally meant religiously based hostility or hatred, and these conflicts were seldom only religious in nature. For that reason, many scholars simply use “antisemitism” (a modern concept) to cover all forms of Jew-hatred: religious, social, cultural, economic, national, and racial (yes, there are that many forms of this plague!). Recently, I wrote a short note about a debate concerning these terms, Continue reading

Encountering the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial and Museum

My main reason for being in Berlin this past week has been to work on some new research relating to genocide, memory, and place. The roots of the project are in my own questions about the power of places like concentration camp sites–the scenes of so much suffering, death, and evil–and in my search for richer language with which to describe and assess genocide in the classroom, for students who are responding intellectually, but also morally and emotionally, to what they’re learning.

imageSo off I went to the site of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, along with my dear wife Colleen, who periodically pays a price for being married to a historian of Nazism and genocide. In terms of my project on “Evil Places as Sacred Spaces,” what I’m trying to understand is the layers of meaning at a place like Sachsenhausen, through an understanding of the events, landscape, ruins, memories, memorials, rituals, emotions, and the ways people make and/or consider the space to be sacred in some way or other.

During our visit on Friday, I took all kinds of field notes about the impressions the camp made on me, Continue reading