Gerhart Ladner and The Idea of Reform. A Modern Historian’s Quest for Ancient and Medieval Truth

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This is the first study to tap the deep archival reservoirs of Gerhart Ladner’s personal correspondence in an effort to reveal not only Ladner’s valuable intellectual treasures but also the evolution of his groundbreaking research into the history of reform which led to his seminal work The Idea of Reform.
This book examines the lifework of Gerhart Ladner (1905-1993). Winner of the American Historical Association’s Lifetime Award for Scholarly Distinction in 1991, he received the Homer Haskins Medal in 1961 for his seminal work on The Idea of Reform: Its Impact on Christian Thought and Action in the Age of the Fathers.


“What is so exciting about this book of Field’s is that it helps explore the evolution of Ladner’s idea of an idea, and to range widely as we do so. Even better, it starts laying out the routes that idea would have followed in penetrating later periods, in reducing them to rational order.”
- Professor Jeremy du Quesnay Adams,
Southern Methodist University

“Field is the first to do the archival research to document the genesis of the ideas of The Idea of Reform.”
-Professor John Howe,
Department of History,
Texas Tech University

“This manuscript traces convincingly and in meticulous detail the intellectual journey of Gerhart Ladner which led to his groundbreaking studies on the idea of reform. The breadth and depth of the author’s erudition are highly impressive. Field’s research into the influences on Ladner and his influences on others based on careful biographical and historiographic research is a major contribution to scholarship.”
-Professor Phillip H. Stump, Emeritus,
Lynchburg College

Table of Contents

Foreword by Jeremy du Quesnay Adams
Author’s Preface /Abbreviations
PART I: Ladner’s Life and Initial Engagement with the History of Reform
Historiographical Need, Modern Discovery, and Methodological Boundaries
A Life Learning History and Ideas as Art
The Emeritus’ Assistant: Insights in Hindsight
The idea of Reform as History and as Ladner’s lifework
I: Initial Problems and Receptions
Ladner’s Letter to Erik Peterson
Historigraphical Consensus and Critical Differences
Reform: Idea, Word, or Topic?
Reformatio as Topos?
Philological History, Phenomenology, and Positivism
II: “Objectivity” and Historical Knowledge
Reform and Other Ideas as “Objective” and Historical
“Empirical History” as Psychologism: “Empirical Reality” as Oxymoron
“Universal” Past and Historical “Progress?” The Medieval Invention of “World History” and “Modernity”
PART II: Historical Reality and the History of ideas as Linguistic Phenomena
III: Histories as Mythic Truths or Narrative Realities
“Ideology” and Philology
Historicism and Positivism as Reductionism
Reform and Other ideas as Linguistically Extant Past
IV: The Reality of History and the History of Reality
Contextualizing Renewal and Reform as Historically Real: Theology, Anthropology, or Politics?
“Historical Reality”
The History of Reality
V: Past Presence: Reform and Other Historical Ideas on the Phenomenological or Philological “Middle Ground”
The Philological or Phenomenological “Middle Ground”
Memory, Reform, and the “Memory Boom:
Moderate Realism
History of Reform: between Verba and Res
Past Language as Symbol and Reality
Geistesgeschichte and the “History of Ideas”
PART III: The History of Reform and Other Events
VI: The Historicity of Reform and the Origins of Late Antiquity
The Historicity of Reform
Late Antiquity and Postmodernity
VII: “Personal” Reform, Reformatio, and Greek “Reform”
“Personal” Reform and “Church” Reform
Ladner’s Notion of the “Personal” and Medieval Reform
Augustinian Reform and Greek Concepts
Latin Reform and Greek “Reform”
“Reform” After Ladner’s Idea of Reform
Premodern “Revolution” and Other Anachronisms
Reform, Reformatio, and “Reforms”

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