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Printing and protestants: an empirical test of the role of printing in the Reformation

Rubin, Jared (2011): Printing and protestants: an empirical test of the role of printing in the Reformation.

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Abstract

The causes of the Protestant Reformation have long been debated. This paper attempts to revive and econometrically test the theory that the spread of the Reformation is linked to the spread of the printing press. I test this theory by analyzing data on the spread of the press and the Reformation at the city level. An econometric analysis which instruments for omitted variable bias with a city’s distance from Mainz, the birthplace of printing, suggests that cities with at least one printing press by 1500 were 52.1 percentage points more likely to be Protestant by 1530. This economically and statistically significant effect lasted through 1600, though it weakened throughout the century.

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