How Luther's quest for education changed German economic history: 9+5 theses on the effects of the Protestant Reformation

Sascha O. Becker, Ludger Woessmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Five hundred years ago, according to legend, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the castle church of Wittenberg—and changed the course of history. Cliometric research over the past years has generated several new insights about the consequences of the Protestant Reformation. One can observe a veritable digitization boom which changed the way researchers approached the analysis of economic history. This boost in historical research with econometric methods has also contributed to the recent growth in research on the economics of religion (see Iyer 2016). Research into the long-run effects of the Reformation benefited particularly from the fact that—in the heartland of the Reformation—the Prussian Statistical Office, and later the Statistical Office of the German Empire, collected vast amounts of census data, ever since the first population census in 1816 (see Becker et al. 2014). Most of this is at the level of counties, some at the more disaggregated city level and some at the more aggregated province level. Using this newly digitized data, researchers have uncovered new insights or given statistical grounding to proposed relationships about the influence Luther had on the course of German economic history.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in the Economics of Religion
EditorsJean-Paul Carvalho, Sriya Iyer, Jared Rubin
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9783319988481
ISBN (Print)9783319993362
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameInternational Economic Association Series

Cite this