Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Consequences of One Simple Invention

It's an odd piece of civilization history....where one simple creation....broadens out over decades....invokes serious consequences....and sets up monumental changes for all of society.  So, this is the story.

In 1450, life was simple.  Very few people had the ability to read....with the only learning establishments in existence being the Catholic Church.  Naturally....their chief book for reading purposes...was the Bible.  It would be painfully copied over....by hand.  Monks and priests would spend their entire lives....as copiers.

The public?  They had no necessity to read, and there was no value added to the ability....if you did spend the time to learn the "art" of reading.

So, in 1450...came along this German creator and inventor....Gutenberg (Johannes).  He made a simple printing process, and created a method where a number of books...could be created in a matter of days.  In the beginning, there were bugs, and revisions to the printing press.  It took around five years for him to come to a full-up operational version.

No one says much over the choice of the first publication....the Bible.  Maybe he was a bit devious, with some motive....but we will never know that part of the story.  There were no copyright organizations in those days, and Gutenberg probably benefited from that fact.

The first batch of produced Bibles went well...but because of loan issues and sponsorship problems.....Gutenberg got into some legal trouble.  He ended up moving out of the deal....leaving the old press to the guy who'd loaned him money.  Perhaps anticipating eventual problems....he had a second press....moved to Bamberg, Germany in 1459....and began edition two of his Bible project.  The original press in the other guy's hands?  It continued on.....printing Bible copies as well.

It's an odd thing.....there's political intrigue with the Catholic Church in the region around this era, and this Bible printing stuff is bothering some folks.  Three years after moving....in 1462....Gutenberg gets kicked out of the region.  The general interpretation is that he riled up folks with these copies of the Bible flowing out and cutting into the business traffic of the Catholic Church.  Cheaper than the Church?  Well...that's a debatable issue.  No one generally says the cost of a hand-written Bible by the monks or priests.....but it has to be a fair sum to pay for it.

Over the next couple of decades....these printing press Bibles are continually published and sold.  A strange change comes to society.  There's now a desire to teach reading.  Naturally, there's only one publication that is generally used in most small villages and towns for teaching reading....the Bible.  Over the decades.....more and more people are capable of reading.  People are now quoting the Bible....as if it was an actual human being.

Somewhere in the 1520s of Germany....there's trouble brewing.  Evolution of society has taken place and there's revolution in the hearts of people who feel oppressed.  The reading skills and understanding of the Bible at work?  To some degree.....yes.  The door has been opened for interpretation.

Around 1525.....a massive peasant rebellion is taking place throughout the 300-odd cities and city-states of Germany.  It's the peasants versus the ruling class.  It's the Catholic Church domination versus the free-thinkers.

Over the course of one single year (1525).....thousands would be dead.  Some changes to society would occur, but there was still some of the old structure left in place.

Roughly a hundred years would pass....more Bibles would be printed....more people would be educated....and a newer threat of sorts would emerge by 1620s.  The Thirty-Years War....was a series of conflicts which historians for some odd reason have determined that they all fit neatly into one war....not five separate wars.

One of these separate conflicts....involves this odd growth of religions and prophets.  Out of Germany and Switzerland....there are now dozens of pop-up groups, who've found some guy who says he's the prophet and hears God talking to him.  As long as it's just local church meetings or discussions....no one much cares.  At some point....the prophets get peppy, and create various problems....and a major confrontation is brewing through most of central Germany.

The cause for prophets and odd-ball religious groups?  Gutenberg's Bible.  Now that the pubic has their own copy....they sit around at night and discuss what they think John the Baptist really said, and the topics mentioned in the chapter of Luke.  Under the old era....the priest, bishops and monks held tight control over discussions, and the public worried about the weather, the crops, and the neighbor's behavior.  Now?  The Bible was quoted on a daily basis, and needed clarification.

Tens of thousands would die in the Thirty Years War.

The Gutenberg printing press?  It would be the starting point for both major conflicts, the death of thousands, and evolution of society.  It would lead onto splinter religious groups, and tens of thousands of different interpretations of the Bible.

Nothing was ever the same.

It's an odd consequence.  You couldn't predict it.  You couldn't guess the various problems that it'd bring on and dump on the doorstep of every single person of Europe at the time.  And to some degree, we are still living in the consequence era today.