Reformation Pathfinder

Introduction and Overview

The Reformation is a large topic and can easily be approached more narrowly according to some major subdivisions to the topic: the Lutheran Reformation, the Swiss (Reformed) Reformation, the Radical Reformation (Anabaptists), the English Reformation, the Catholic Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation. The literature on these is vast, so a thematic approach according to one of these divisions, or by personality, or by doctrine, is advised. Detailed primary-source research can be difficult without a knowledge of German and Latin.

This pathfinder is intended to be a broad, but academic, introduction to research in Reformation studies and is intended for use by both undergraduate and graduate students seeking an introduction to the field.


Finding Resources from this Pathfinder

Links in this pathfinder correspond to item records in a number of catalogs. Take special note of the links to WorldCat as this will provide with the library closest to your postal zip code with at least one copy of that book.

The call numbers, where provided, are listed for library of the Oklahoma Baptist Univeristy.

You may also wish to search the catalogs of other libraries near you or with which OBU has reciprocal borrowing arrangements, though the WorldCat catalog will provide that information for you. For example, the OBU library participates in the regional consortium of academic libraries (OCALD) and has an agreement with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, as well.

Topic Overviews

MacCulloch’s treatment of the Reformation is simultaneously through, scholarly, and readable. His easy writing style and the organization of the volume render it easily accessible even to the unitiated. MacCulloch is a recognized scholar (faculty, Oxford University) in the history of the Reformation.

Now a standard text for introductory courses to Reformation personalities and theologies, this book gives a uniquely helpful synthesis of biography and theology. An evangelical theologian, Timothy George is a recognized scholar in the field (ThD, Harvard).


This volume’s approach is helpful for its largely geographical approach to treating the topic. Lindberg’s argument is that the Reformation was in effect several different Reformations, and so his approach in this book is to treat — as much as possible — geographically. Lindberg teaches at Boston University.

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Locating Books

Subject Headings

The following Library of Congress subject headings may be useful, many of which may be further subdivided geographically:

Church History — 16th Century.
Europe — History — 1517-1648.
Radical Reformation.
Reformatted 0. Possibly helpful subheadings include: — Bibliography; — Biography; — Causes; — Controversial Literature; — Dictionaries; — Encyclopedias; — Historiography.

Call Numbers to Browse

Dewey Decimal: 270.6; 940.23 (European History); 943.03 (German History)
Library of Congress: BR300 – BR420

Guides to the Literature

Church history
James E. Bradley; Eerdmans 1995

 This is an indispensable to research in the field written by two church historians. Muller is a recognized authority on post-Reformation Reformed dogmatics. The bibliography, “Selected Aids to the Study of Church History and Historical Theology,” is thorough and well-organized by material type.

Ozment, Stephen, ed. Reformation Europe: A Guide to Research. St. Louis: Center for Reformation Research, 1982.  This work can be a bit disjointed and lack continuity between chapters in its attempt at breadth of coverage, but the individual chapters stand well on their own merits. Luther receives his own chapter, but the rest of the Reformers are not individually addressed. A particular strength of this work is its inclusion of social history topics. The chapter authors are recognized scholars.

Whitford, David M. Reformation and Early Modern Europe: A Guide to Research. Kirksville, Mo: Truman State University Press, 2008. The most substantive and current guide to the literature presently available. This volume is published by the same University Press that publishes the “Sixteenth Century Journal,” a recognized and respected journal in the discipline. Indexed, noted, and with full references, this guide is the place to start.

Maltby, W. S. (1992). Reformation Europe: A guide to research. St. Louis: Center for Reformation Research.

Moncure, J. A. (1992). Research guide to European historical biography, 1450-present. Washington, D.C: Beacham Pub.

Whitford, D. M. (2008). Reformation and early modern Europe: A guide to research. Kirksville, Mo: Truman State University Press.

Research Guide Subject Headings

Church history — Study and teaching.
Church history — Historiography.
Reformation — Research.

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Reference Works and Bibliographies

This is the most comprehensive reference work on the topic. Topical categories of coverage include sites, regions, and polities; historical events; religious groups and movements; ecclesiastical institutions; creeds, confessions, and texts; theology; social history; and popular religion, as well as biographies and Reformation studies. Includes matters of social and intellectual history. Contributors are scholars on those particular entries. These four volumes are well-indexed in volume four, so do not neglect to make use of the index. Entries are also cross-referenced. Weakness: in need of updating. Bibliographies are no longer current.

Charles S Anderson; Augsburg Pub. House 1967

 The indexes in this volume, both the plate index and the text index, should be used instead of the Table of Contents for more efficient access. The TOC is inadequate for efficient use. Somewhat dated, this volume remains the most authoritative historical atlas for the Reformation currently available. Also available as an ebook for the Kindle.

McKim, Donald K., ed. Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith. Louisville: Westminster, John Knox, 1992. Intended primarily as a reference for the the development and current state of the Reformed branch of the Reformation (Presbyterianism, Calvinistic influences, etc.), this volume remains helpful for investigating the historical foundations. Not particularly helpful for social history, an increasingly popular field of Reformation research.

Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte, Beiheft: Literaturbericht/Archive for Reformation History. Supplement: Literature Review. St. Louis, MO: American Society for Reformation Research; Gutersloh: Gutersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Moh, 1972-. Annual annotated index to articles, books, and dissertations.

Bainton, Roland H. Bibliography of the Continental Reformation: Materials Available in English. Chicago: The American Society of Church History. 2nd ed., rev., enlarged by Bainton and Eric W. Gritsch. Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1972. Roland Bainton is one of the foremost scholars on Martin Luther.  This bibliography is now somewhat dated but should certainly be consulted.   It lists most helpfully primary source materials available in English, that is the writings of Reformers that have been translated.  A vast corpus of material still remains untranslated even today so this should not be considered a comprehensive bibliography of Reformation writings.

Kepple, Robert J., and John R. Muether. Reference Works for Theological Research. Lanham: University Press of America, 1992. This is John Muether’s helpful update to a previous edition. Muether is head librarian at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. This volume is in need of another update to reflect literature from the last eighteen years, but many of the resources listed herein remain authoritative.

Petersen, Paul D. Luther and Lutheranism: A Bibliography Selected from the ATLA Religion Database. [Chicago, Ill.]: American Theological Library Association, 1985. Extremely dated, but the only bibliography on the topic produced by ATLA in the last twenty-five years. Accessible by PDF, but not hyperlinked.


Calvin Theological Journal:

No. 2 of each year contains the annual “Calvin Bibliography.”

Reference Work Subject Headings

Reformation — Encyclopedias.
Reformation — Biography — Encyclopedias.
Theology, Doctrinal — Europe — History — 16th century — Encyclopedias.

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Carney, Jo Eldridge. Renaissance and Reformation, 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. The great cultural eras of the Western world. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2001. Technically a reference work, this biographical dictionary is helpful for identifying biographies of individual Reformers.

Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Paw Prints, 2008. This is probably the most authoritative and most frequently cited biography of Martin Luther, the German Augustinian monk whose posting of his ninety-five theses against indulgences on the Wittenberg chapel door on October 31, 1517, is considered to be the symbolic genesis of the Protestant Reformation.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Thomas Cranmer: A Life. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996. Written by one of the foremost historians on the English Reformation, this work is scholarly yet readable.

Marshall, Rosalind Kay. John Knox. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2000.

Selderhuis, H. J. John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2009. Selderhuis is a Dutch theologian/historian who penned this sympathetic work in honor of the 2009 celebration of the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth.  It has received positive reviews, with only one review indicating much reservation at all.  Indexed.  A colorful read.

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The following journals are but a few of the recognized authoritative journals in the field of Reformation studies and may prove to helpful sources of serial literature.


The ATLA Religion Database. [Proprietary] The ATLA Religion Database is an essential tool for the study of religion. It is the premier index to journal articles, book reviews, and collections of essays in all fields of religion. Journals representing all the major religious faiths, major denominations, and numerous language groups are included. ATLA’s indexing of multi-author works, such as Festschriften and conference proceedings, is unique among religion databases. Unlike indexes that catalog books of essays as a single entry, ATLA indexes each individual essay in such works.

Academic Search Premier. [Proprietary] A major proprietary academic database from EBSCO. Best results are obtained through the Advanced Search with subject headings and keywords.


Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte:

 Contains a years volume of abstracts of Reformation studies. 1903 — An international journal which publishes articles relating to aspects of early modern European religious life and thought that touch on the Reformation and Catholic/Counter Reformation movements and is published under the auspices of the Verein für Reformationsgeschichte and the Society for Reformation Research.

Catholic Historical Review. 1915 to date. Available also on microfilm.

Church History. 1889 to date.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History. 1950 to date.

Journal of Religious History. Sydney, 1960 to date. Semiannual.

Sixteenth Century Journal:

Each issue includes the “Bibliography of American Periodical Literature.”

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Government Sources

A Brief Survey of Swiss History  From the Swiss Federation’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, this brief timeline illustrates those events in Swiss history, including Reformation events, which the Swiss themselves consider important to their heritage.

Government sources are not typically very useful sources of information on the Reformation as they typically relate to tourism.
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Dr. Timothy George is the author of many works on the Reformation, and this lecture on the five revolutions of the Reformation is quite helpful. The information contained in this lecture is an example of scholarly synthesis rather than mere informational narrative.

Several other documentary-type videos are publicly available, including a six-part series on the English Reformation by historian Simon Schama which examines primarily the Henrician Reformation. View Part 1 here:

Martin Luther has been the subject of some historically-based feature films, including these:

  1. Harrison, Cassian, Timothy West, Liam Neeson, and Nick Powell. Martin Luther. [Alexandria, Va.]: PBS DVD Video, 2003.
  2. Till, Eric, Joseph Fiennes, Alfred Molina, Jonathan Firth, Claire Cox, Peter Ustinov, Robert Fraisse, and Richard Harvey. Luther. Los Angeles, CA: MGM Home Entertainment, 2004.

Reformed Theological Seminary iTunes U A series of Reformed Theological Seminary iTunes U audio lectures on the Reformation by Dr. Frank A. James, III, who holds a PhD from Westminster Seminary and a DPhil from Oxford University in Ecclesiastical History are freely available. These are a semester’s worth of classroom lectures. Dr. James is a good lecturer whose lectures are scholarly and well illustrated. He is presently president of Biblical Theological Semianry in Hatfield, PA.

Reformation & Modern Church History – Audio Lectures  Dr. David Calhoun, professor emeritus of Church history at Covenant Theological Seminary, presents a study of Christianity from the Reformation to the present on the development of Christian thought with application to contemporary ideas and issues. Also includes a brief overview of historic revivals and world missions.

Slideshow: The Reformation 101 The host of the popular PBS television program, “Rick Steves’ Europe,” here provides an online slide show containing graphical images related to Reformation personalities and locations. Please note that these images may be subject to copyright.

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Online and Electronic Resources

Please note that Southern Seminary’s new discovery tool, Primo, will soon search all available targets including databases and digital resources.  This will replace MetaLib which Southern Seminary students have been using for years, and though Primo claims to be better at taking advantage of the more advanced and unique functionalities of each individual database, the most accurate searches are still best performed via each database directly.

ATLA Historical Monographs Collection AD 1201-1893 Certainly encompassing a larger time period than just the 16th Century, and thus requiring some more targeted searching by limiting search criteria date ranges, this database gives researchers access to primary source material.

Early English Books Online – EEBO

Contains about 100,000 of over 125,000 titles listed in Pollard & Redgrave’s Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640) and Wing’s Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700) and their revised editions, as well as the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661) collection and the Early English Books Tract Supplement.

Calvinism Resources Database. [Free] This resource searches the holdings of the Meeter Center for Calvin Studies, a research center that seeks to hold in print a copy of every possible piece of research, published or otherwise, on the Reformed branch of the Reformation, but they also collect materials more broadly related to the Reformation.  Search results yield location and call numbers related to their particular collection.  Resources are not available digitally.  This database is best viewed, therefore, as a searchable bibliography for the identification of resources to then be obtained through other means.

Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation:

The complete four-volume reference work mentioned elsewhere in this pathfinder is here available online.  Article bibliographies are included.  Cross-references are hyperlinked.  Only keyword searching is possible.

Post-Reformation Digital Library  The Post-Reformation Digital Library (PRDL), hosted by the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, is a select bibliography of digital resources from digital libraries in Europe and North America. A very helpful metaguide, though it requires a healthy measure of prior knowledge to navigate the collection effectively. Use the sidebar index for quick access.

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Research Centers

Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies. The Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (CRRS) is a research and teaching centre at the University of Toronto with a library devoted to the study of the period from approximately 1350 to 1700.

The H. H. Meeter Center for Calvin Studies. The H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies is a research center specializing in John Calvin and Calvinism that opened in 1981 and is located at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

The Society for Reformation ResearchFounded in 1947, the Society for Reformation Research (SRR) is a North-American scholarly organization with a long and distinguished record of promoting research, writing, and dialogue on all aspects related to the Protestant and Catholic Reformations and other aspects of religious life in the early modern era. The SRR currently sponsors a variety of sessions each year at both the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference and the International Congress on Medieval Studies. Together with the Verein für Reformationsgeschichte, the SRR sponsors the Archive for Reformation Research.

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Research Help

Online chat with a university librarian is available during normal hours. For access to the chat and a schedule of hours for Oklahoma Baptist University:

  • Skype (VoIP): theologylibrarian
  • Email paul.roberts[at]

For additional help, please contact me.

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