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not  entirely  exact;  when  you  count  among  your  ‘proletarians’  the
weavers, whose significance you picture very correctly, you may rightly
do  so,  only  beginning  from  that  epoch  when  the  déclassé  non-guild
journeyman  weavers  made  their  appearance  and  only  in  so  far  as  the
latter were in existence. Much work is still required in this connection.
“(2)  You  have  not  sufficiently  taken  into  account  the  situation  of  the
world market, in so far as one could speak of such a market at that time,
and  the  international  economic  situation  of  Germany  at  the  end  of  the
Fifteenth  Century.  However,  only  this  situation  explains  why  the
bourgeois-plebeian  movement  under  a  religious  cloak,  having  suffered
defeat  in  England,  the  Netherlands  and  Bohemia,  could  achieve  a
measure of success in Germany in the Sixteenth Century. This was due
to its religious cloak, whereas the success of its bourgeois contents was
reserved  for  the  following  century  and  for  the  countries  which  had
utilized  the  development  of  the  world  market  that  had  in  the  meantime
taken  another  direction,  namely,  Holland  and  England.  It  is  a  great
subject, which I hope to be able to treat briefly in the Peasant War, if I
only succeed in taking it up!”
Death  –  Engels  died  several  days  after  the  writing  of  this  letter  (August  5,  1895)  –
prevented him from completing this work.
Moscow, July 1925
The Peasant War in Germany
– 98 –

Facsimile of opening pages

from the 1870 edition

The Peasant War in Germany
– 99 –


First appended to the Russian edition of 1926


Wilhelm  Zimmermann

 –  German  historian  and  poet.  Born  January  2,  1807,  in
Stuttgart,  in  the  family  of  an  artisan.  Graduated  gymnasium  in  Stuttgart,  studied  in  the
University  of  Tuebingen  together  with  F.  Strauss.  Was  first  pastor,  then  professor  in  the
Polytechnic  School  of  Stuttgart,  occupying  the  chair  of  history,  German  language  and
literature.  On  April  23,  1848,  be  was  elected  representative  of  the  National  Assembly
(Frankfurt). In St. Paul’s Cathedral he joined the extreme left group of representatives. In
1850,  he  was  deprived  of  the  University  chair  for  actively  participating  in  the  March
revolution. In 1854, he renewed his activities as pastor in Zabergau. He died September 22,
As a historian, Wilhelm Zimmermann is known by his book, The History of the Great
Peasant War (1841, 2nd ed., 1856, 3rd ed., 1891). Zimmermann left a series of works on
history, history of literature, and poetry: The History of the Hohenstaufens (2nd ed., 1865),
Illustrated History of the German People, History of Poetry of All Nations (1947), etc.
The History of the Great Peasant War, Zimmermann’s chief historic work, was written
with  astonishing  mastery  and  objectivity.  The  author  utilised  documents  and  materials
mainly  of  the  Stuttgart  archive.  Generally  speaking,  Zimmermann’s  work  remains  the
fullest  presentation  of  the  facts  relating  to  the  Peasant  War.  The  objectivity  of  his
presentation and “the revolutionary instinct which makes him an advocate of the oppressed
classes”  gives  the  book  a  special  interest.  But  even  in  this  book  the  radical  bourgeois
makes  himself  felt.  Zimmermann’s  negative  attitude  toward  socialism  and  communism
does  not  allow  him  correctly  to  appreciate  the  conflict  of  classes  in  the  history  of  the
peasant wars.
Kautsky’s  book,  Forerunners  of  Socialism,  supplements  that  of  Engels  and  corrects
some  inaccuracies  in  his  presentation.  The  excerpts  from  Muenzer’s  speech  which  are
quoted  by  Engels  as  parts  of  the  sermon  given  before  the  princes  of  Saxony  after  the
destruction by the people of St. Mary’s Chapel in Moellerbach, were written by Muenzer
on an entirely different occasion in a polemic work against Luther. Engels here depends on
Kautsky  corrected  Zimmermann  in  another  more  important  question.  Zimmermann
depicts  Muenzer  as  a  man  towering  above  his  epoch.  In  his  book,  Kautsky  proved  this
standpoint to be unfounded:
“Muenzer  was  superior  to  his  communist  followers,  not  by  philosophical  gifts  and
The Peasant War in Germany
– 100 –

organisational talents, but by his revolutionary energy, and, first of all, by his statesmanlike
Even  some  of  the  facts  in  the  history  of  Muenzer’s  dictatorship  in  Muehlhausen,  as
given  by  Engels,  need  correction  in  some  details.  Muenzer  was  not  at  the  head  of  the
Muehlhausen  council.  Pfeifer  was  not  his  disciple,  but  a  representative  of  a  middle-class

Louis  XI

 –  King  of  France,  son  of  Charles  VII.  Born  1423,  reigned  1461–1483.  He
founded  the  absolute  monarchy  on  the  ruins  of  feudalism  in  France,  and  extended  the
boundaries of his country to the Jura, the Alps, and the Pyrenees. In his youth, as dauphin,
Louis participated in the uprising of the nobility against Charles VII. Having ascended the
throne  after  the  death  of  his  father,  he  started  a  fight  against  the  feudal  lords  but  was
opposed  by  the  Common  Welfare  League  which  united  the  big  and  small  feudal  lords  of
France. In his wars against the League, Louis, instead of using the crude methods of feudal
policies,  practised  not  only  force  but  cunning,  a  diplomatic  system  of  lies,  deception  and
caution. Louis XI was defeated and compelled to sign a peace pact with the feudal lords on
October  29,  1461.  But  peace  with  the  feudal  lords  was  not  achieved.  Aided  by  the
commercial  class,  he  started  a  new  war  in  November,  1470.  All  of  western  France  rose
against  him,  but  this  time  he  was  victorious.  In  order  to  be  able  more  successfully  to
oppose  the  feudal  lords,  Louis  XI  decided  to  reform  the  army  by  freeing  the  cities  from
military duties, and to create an army of 50,000. His infantry consisted of Swiss hirelings.
In  1481,  he  added  Provence  and  Liége  to  his  domains  and  subdued  the  whole  of  France
outside  of  Navarre  and  the  duchy  of  Breton.  The  absolute  power  of  Louis  XI  could
establish itself in France only through the support of the commercial elements. Louis XI in
his turn protected commerce, industry and agriculture. Under his reign the old institution of
the Roman empire, the mail, was restored.


– A criminal code of the Sixteenth Century, published in 1532 under Emperor
Charles V. In the Sixteenth Century, Germany counted over 300 states, each having its own
criminal  laws  with  its  own  methods  of  cruelty.  Justice  at  that  time  aimed  at  extorting  a
confession from the prisoner by means of torture. The prevailing Roman law, in the hands
of  the  princes,  was  a  cruel  tool  for  the  exploitation  of  the  people.  The  development  of  a
money  economy,  however,  and  the  growth  of  absolutism,  demanded  a  uniform  criminal
legislation  and  a  reform  of  the  existing  laws.  Attempts  at  reform  had  been  made  in
Germany as early as the end of the Fifteenth and the beginning of the Sixteenth Century.
The Reichstag, meeting in Augsburg and Regensburg in 1532, finally adopted a draft of a
criminal  code  known  as  Carolina  (‘Emperor  Charles  V’s  and  the  Holy  Roman  Empire’s
order of Penal Law’). This code did not abolish the Roman law, but was an attempt only to
The Peasant War in Germany
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