It’s rare that I write about medieval history twice in a week, but… in the very first issue of TiB
back in February 2018, I mentioned that one day I’d like to write about the parallels between the Reformation and the emergence of Bitcoin. I never got round to it, but Tuur Demeester, an early cryptocurrency investor, did and published one this week
(full document here
). Demeester argues that there were four conditions for the Reformation, and that we stand in a similar situation today.
The four are (1) an unpopular monopoly service provider (the Catholic Church/the international monetary and banking system); (2) a technological catalyst (the printing press/computation and related advances); (3) a new economic class (the merchants/millennials[!]); and (4) credible “defence and exit strategies” for rebels (emigration/cryptography). The implications seem a little arbitrary, but it’s a fun read (Equally, how many times were these conditions met and no revolution followed? Many, I suspect).
My own favourite question about similarities between the Reformation and today is, what might play the same role as the controversy over Indulgences
? Indulgences were a common practice that everyone knew about but largely tolerated… and then blew up into one of the core complaints that sparked the Reformation. It seems a classic example of an availability cascade
: widespread beliefs can be suppressed for a long time until it suddenly becomes acceptable to express them. #MeToo was a powerful example; I am sure there will be others.