Why Have Strategic Alliances Grown in Popularity?

Who gains from strategic alliances?
“Google and Lycos Europe Announce Strategic Alliance” (Google press center, 2003), “Bayer Healthcare and Intendis announce strategic alliance” (Wayne and Montville, 2007), “Fiat and Chrysler Announce Strategic Alliance” (Car News Gluckman and Kurcezski, 2009), “City Bank and American Express announce strategic alliance” (Dhaka, 2009). Alliances have become increasingly popular. Over the past years the number of firms forming strategic alliances has risen constantly. “According to Securities Data Corporation, the number of alliances has increased about 25% per year for the last decade.” In fact some eight out of ten electronics companies now have alliances or are negotiating new ones (Kolasky 1997). The above listed examples show that the trend of forming alliances not only concerns the electronics companies but all business sectors. This essay will critically evaluate on the basis of various examples why strategic alliances have grown in popularity and who gains. Therefore, it is necessary to understand what strategic alliances are and in which types they can appear.
A uniform definition of strategic alliances does not exist. Porter (1990, p. ???) defines strategic alliances as “long-term agreements between firms that go beyond normal market transactions but fall short of merger.” According to Dussauge and Garrette (1999, p. ???) alliances can be defined as
“a cooperative agreement or association between two or more independent enterprises, which will manage one specific project, with a determined duration … in order to improve their competences. It is constituted to allow its partners to pool resources and coordinate efforts … to achieve results that neither could obtain by acting alone. The key parameters surrounding alliances are opportunism, necessity and speed.”
All in all alliances are partnerships, in which merit is combined in order to achieve a mutual goal and to increase sales volume without bearing all the risks.
As there are many ways to define strategic alliances there are also many ways of classifying them. To tie in with Dussauge and Garrette (1999) strategic alliances can be divided into partnerships between non-competing firms and alliances between competitors, which are specified in the following. Partnerships between non-competing firms are relationships between companies from different industries, which therefore are not in direct competition with each other. They implicate international expansion joint venture, vertical partnerships and cross-industry agreements. International expansion joint venture opens a new market to the foreign partner and offers the local partner a product to distribute, e.g. Renault and Diesel Naciona, SA (DINA). Vertical partnership is collaboration at two successive working stages within the same production process, e.g. McDonald’s and Coca Cola. Cooperations between completely different industries (cross-industry agreements) aspire the diversification of the activities of companies through a leverage of their abilities, e.g. Philips and DuPont de Nemours produced surface coatings for data storage. Alliances between competitors are divided into three categories, which are shared-supply alliances, quasi-concentration alliances and complementary alliances. Within shared-supply alliances rivals come together to share elements when the display for a particular production process is much greater than for the whole product. The products remain within each company, e.g. Volkswagen and Renault produced jointly automatic gear boxes. In a quasi-concentration alliance just one common product is developed, produced and marketed by all allies, e.g. the collaboration of British Aerospace, DASA and Alenia in the case of the Tornado fighter plane. In the event of complementary alliances a product produced by one company is marketed with the help of the distribution network of another company, e.g. the distribution of Mitsubishi cars by Chrysler.

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Strategic alliances have gained popularity across many industries. The typification of alliances mentioned above show that alliances are not industry specific, but mostly cross-sectoral. They include amongst others automobile, pharmaceutical and aerospace industries. The reasons for the growing popularity of strategic alliances are quite evident. According to Segal-Horn and Faulkner (1999) one of the primary drivers of strategic alliances is the growing globalisation and regionalisation of markets. Several forces that resulted from the globalisation make the strategy of alliances very important. “The steady reduction of trade barriers has led to the dramatic growth of cross-border cooperation between companies…” (Segal-Horn and Faulkner, 1999, p. 205). The blurring of industry boundaries forces companies to face new rivals. Alliances can provide the companies with capabilities that they need to front global competitors.
“Alliances can provide firms with many benefits such as access to new knowledge, complementary resources, new markets and new technologies…to learn, exploit economies of scale and scope, share risks and outsource various activities along the value chain.” (Gulati et al. 2000 cited in Segal-Horn 2004, p. ???)
Gulati´s statement shows that strategic alliances can offer many opportunities and advantages. In respect to technology development the companies can learn from each other as there is an exchange and sharing of technologies, know-how and expertise. This expertise and technology sharing allows the companies to achieve faster the joint aims. To cite Wagonor (2001) manager of GM, “leveraging on someone who does it better allows you to get there faster.” Canon and HP shared their technologies in copier business. Canon developed the technology for toner and toner cartridges and HP developed the software and computer chips to operate the cartridges (Acredula, 2001).
Concerning the market development collaboration can facilitate international expansion and the companies can benefit from a faster entry to new markets. In the case of the alliance between Coca-Cola and Proctor and Gamble (P&G), Coca-Cola benefited from a faster entry into the snack and non-carbonated beverage market (Acredula 2001). An alliance partner can also help a company that enters a foreign market with local knowledge, logistics and domestic behaviour as well as with the governmental requirements. Another advantage that an alliance offers the companies is maintenance of the market position and production at lowest cost locations – which leads to a very important advantage, cost reduction. Allies in cooperation can for example share costs for advertising and marketing as well as the costs for research and development (R&D). In the case of failure the partners of an alliance share the risk as it is spread between all allies and can therefore minimize their damage and losses. This makes the companies more willing to take a risk as they would be alone. Finally, the shrinking product life cycle which cause growing pressure for innovation and growth has forced companies to look outside their own borders for new ideas (Bannerman, 2005). To sum up, strategic alliances allow firms to share risks and resources, gain knowledge and technology, expand the existing product base, and obtain access to new markets.
The named advantages of strategic alliances can help companies to keep pace with increasingly complex technologies and constantly changing global markets (Kolasky, 1997). Forming alliances seems to be a useful tool to adopt to the changing market conditions and to stay competitive in a global business world. According to Johnson and Scholes (2008) enterprises sometimes cannot cope with increasingly complex environments only with interior resources and competences. They may see the need to obtain materials, skills, innovation, finance or access to markets through other cooperation s. “A single firm is unlikely to possess all the resources and capabilities to achieve global competitiveness” (Dussauge and Garrette 1999, p.???). Collaboration is often necessary for the survival and growth of a company. Alliances are a useful strategy to pool competences, technology know-how, skills and resources together to create a new unit (De Wit and Meyer, 1998). Toshiba believes that “a single company cannot dominate any technology or business by itself”. That is why Toshiba chose the strategy of developing relationships with different partners (e.g. IBM, Siemens, GE, Ericsson, Microsoft, Samsung) for different technologies which helped the company to become one of the leading players in the global electronics industry. Toshiba is successful with that strategy because of a thorough alliance partner selection. Toshiba has chosen Apple Computers as a partner to develop multimedia computer. Toshiba’s manufacturing expertise combined with Apple’s software technology was an achievement because the alliance allowed both companies to gain from each others competences (Kotelnikov, 2001).
However, not only companies come off as winners from strategic alliances but also suppliers, employees, consumers, the government as well as shareholders of the allied companies. It is obvious that companies gain higher sales and therefore higher profits, e.g. the collective revenue for the partnership of the Star Alliance is at more than $63 billion. Furthermore, suppliers gain new clients. The increasing number of clients leads to more orders that in turn lead to more turnovers and more profit. The exchange of know-how and expertise mentioned before benefit the employees. The special knowledge makes them more employable and can assure a safer workplace. As companies are able to produce their products at lowest cost locations, reduce costs and diversify their product range consumers can profit from a wider range of products to more favourable prices. The increasing consumptions and more exports than imports lead to a higher Gross National Product (GNP) in the country of the producing company. As a positive side-effect the shareholders benefit from higher dividends because increased sales force leads to higher turnover and higher share prices (Acredula, 2001).
The last two paragraphs show that strategic alliances present several potentially beneficial advantages. However, alliances also have been criticised. Their high failure rates – half of the alliances fail – show the other side of the coin (Acredula, 2001 b). Some organisations may only have one option – namely going it alone. This can be in the case of “working in a field which is breaking new ground or where there are no other suitable partners available” (Johnson and Scholes, 1999, p. ???). The risk of exposing competences and technical know-how to partners who can become future competitors and disputes as well as issues that result from working with other partners, sharing of profits and advantages, less autonomy and control are also significant points that have to be considered. For example, one partner may go into an alliance for short term learning gain, whereas the other partner may see the alliance as more strategic, long term and replacing one area of its value chain. Dutch KLM and Alitalia could not avoid the failure of their full merger as partners compatibility did not exist and Alitalia did not come up with arranged expectations. Like most alliances they have failed due to differing objectives or motives of the partners (Witt and Mayer 1998).
The companies have to be aware that alliances require a clear strategy and hard work. Careful planning – like a clear definition of core competencies, goals and objectives as well as a limitation of the partner’s role and relationship and a timeline – a deal structure with an exit plan – are essential to eliminate or rather to avoid disadvantages as well as to succeed. “According to a survey of 455 CEOs, the most important factor in designing a strategic alliance is the selection of the right partner (chosen by 75% of the CEOs)” (Holohan, 1998). But one has also have to go beyond the visible peak of the iceberg and consider the main fundamentals of a successful alliance including communication, transparency and trust (Johnson, 2005). Although, alliances are often criticised for being a slower form of development and despite the high failure rate the constant growth of alliances will definitely continue in the future (Johnson and Scholes, 1999).

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Bannerman, P. (2005), `Strategic Alliances in Education and Training Services ,A Literature Review`, Joan Spiller CORDS Pty Ltd., Australian Graduate School of Management, The University of NSW and the University of Sydney , May 2005, [online] Available from URL: http://www.aei.gov.au/AEI/MIP/ItemsOfInterest/05Interest26b_pdf.pdf
Car news Gluckman, D. and Kurczewski, N. (2009), `Fiat and chrysler announce strategic alliance`, January 2009, [online] Available from URL: http://www.caranddriver.com/news/car/09q1/fiat_and_chrysler_announce_strategic_alliance-car_news, accessed on 12 November 2009.
Dhaka (2009), `City Bank and American Express announce strategic alliance`, 7 November 2009, [online] Available from URL: http://home3.americanexpress.com/corp/pc/2009/citybank.asp, accessed on 15 November 2009.
Google press center (2003), `Google and Lycos Europe Announce Strategic Alliance`, 5 June 2003, Mountain view, California/Gütersloh, Germany, [online] Available from URL: http://www.google.com/press/pressrel/lycos_de.html, accessed on 12 November 2009.
Holohan, M. Paul (1998), `Business alliances: how to find a good partner`,International Journal of Business Performance Management 1998, Vol. 1, No.1, pp.79 – 89, [online] Available from URL: http://www.inderscience.com/search/index.php?action=record&rec_id=4546&prevQuery=&ps=10&m=or
Johnson, L. C. (2005) ‘Understanding the Role of Cross-Sector Strategic Alliances in The Age of corporate social responsibility’, 12 April 2005, p47-55, [online] Available from URL: http://fletcher.tufts.edu/research/2005/Johnson.pdf, accessed on 10 November 2009
Kolasky, J., William Jr. (1997), `Antitrust enforcement guidelines for strategic alliances`, presented at the Federal Trade Commission’s, Hearings on Joint Ventures, Washington, D.C.
Kotelnikov, V. (2001) ‘Strategic Alliances: Why and how to build them’, [online] Available from URL: http://www.1000ventures.com/business_guide/strategic_alliances_main.html accessed on 10 November 2009
Wayne and Montville (2007), `Bayer healthcare and intendis announce strategic alliance to co promote yaz drospirenoneethinyl estradiol for treatment of moderate acne`, 7 May 2007, [online] Available from URL: http://www.intendis.com/scripts/pages/en/press_amp_media/news/bayer_healthcare_and_intendis_announce_strategic_alliance_to_copromote_yaz_drospirenoneethinyl_estradiol_for_treatment_of_moderate_acne.php, accessed on 12 November 2009.
Acredula (2001), Newsletter, ´Not All Strategic Alliances Are Successful´, September 2001, Vol. II No. 10, [online] Available from URL: http://www.bricker.com/publications/articles/528.pdf accessed on 14 November 2009
Cartwright, S., Cooper, C. L. (1996) Managing mergers, acquisitions and strategic alliances: integrating people, 2nd edn, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford
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Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford.
Velasquez, M. G. (2002) Business Ethics – Concepts and Cases, 5th edn, Prentice Hall, London.
Wharton@Work, University of Pennsylvania (2008) `Thought Leaders II: Collaborating To Compete: The Rise of “Coopetition” and Strategic Alliances’, March 2008, http://executiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu/ebuzz/0803/thoughtleaders2.cfm, accessed on 10 November 2009.


Impact of the Printing Press on the Popularity of Lutheranism in Germany

To what extent was the printing press responsible for the popularity of Lutheranism in Germany in the period up to 1534?

The printing press had a significant impact on the spread of ideas in Europe;[1], the creation of this media phenomenon significantly impacted Martin Luther’s ability to teach and spread his doctrine and religious beliefs. Martin Luther could only preach to a tiny portion of the population, but the printed word could spread his message to thousands more[2]. This medium led to a variety of groups being exposed to Martin Luther’s works which had begun circulating throughout Germany and the demand for the works Luther produced was immense. The thirty tracts produced by Luther between 1517 and 1520 amounted to 300,000 copies[3]. The printing press was not limited to producing texts; its adaptability enabled it to reproduce images, through the use of woodcuts. The interpretation of Luther’s works differed from person to person, which is why Luther’s popularity depended heavily on the audience receiving his work. Due to his doctrine being left to individual interpretation, a German citizen could relate to the doctrine and Luther himself, regardless of their wealth or social status. This common characteristic of his doctrine was a key factor regarding Luther’s popularity. The popularity of Lutheranism clearly relied on the people who he had influenced. The specific groups within the German kingdoms had different opinions and priorities. This makes Luther’s ability to entertain the range of beliefs held by the different groups an impressive feat which may have contributed to his popularity. Although the printing press allowed for the widespread availability of his works, in order to achieve the national presence the doctrine must have played a role. His opinions contained persuasive and provocative traits; these traits are seen within the majority of Luther’s published works. His works were the initial form of attraction, they gained the interest of the academic and began the spread of his works. However to what extent those who bought his work could fully understand his doctrine must be considered when discussing what was responsible for Luther’s popularity within Germany and to what extent the popularity stemmed from the use of the printing press.

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The content of Luther’s doctrines cannot be overlooked when considering the cause of his popularity however the extent to which the average Christian could understand the large volume of highly intellectual and complex doctrines is relatively limited. The inaccessibility of Luther’s work made a large proportion of his doctrine incomprehensible to the laity. However, the reproduction of his works was only made possible by their demand. The 95 theses swiftly grasped the attention of academics across German lands. This academic attention led to Humanists analysing his works. Martin Luther’s emphasis on sola scripture and the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church were the key motifs for the production of pamphlets. The work published by Luther in 1520, On the Liberty of a Christian contained doctrine which started the works on sola scripture. This work emphasised the importance of Justification by Faith. Luther reinterpreted a text from Romans 1:17, which stated that ‘the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith, “he who through faith is righteous shall live.”[4] Luther interpreted this to mean that God only justified, or made righteous, those who had faith, ‘Therefore it is clear that, as the soul needs only the Word of God for its life and righteousness, so it is justified by faith alone and not by any works’[5].  Luther’s doctrine of justification removed the need for the late medieval system of sacraments – there was no place in the reformed teaching for the cycle of sin, sacramental confession, priestly absolutism and ritual penance which had defined the lives of the people since the thirteenth century.[6] The doctrine was a powerful threat to the Church as it allowed the people to rid themselves of anxiety over sin and provided the assurance of salvation despite sin. Previously the Church had a monopoly over salvation but now, through faith and scripture, people could achieve salvation outside of the Church, or at least not have to resort to indulgences (which would require a large chunk of a laymen’s annual income), pilgrimages or acts of piety. This radical split from Catholic doctrine provided the laity with a solid reason to separate themselves from Catholicism and become a follower of Lutheranism. To convert to a different religion was a huge decision, which required a person to be certain of their choice and to believe that the conversion would improve their current circumstances. Luther explains why his doctrine on Justification is important, in a source from the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms:

‘It would be false to try to rule Christians by the Law, persuading them that through their own deeds and the workings of the Law they could win justification before God. For that end God has ordained the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins. And it would be equally false to try to rule the world with the Gospel, for to do that God has ordained law, rulers, power and the sword’[7]


The extract taken from Luther’s doctrine provides further evidence of opposition to Rome. In the specific extract Luther is attacking the Church’s hierarchy. The clear disapproval of the law, is an obvious example of Luther undermining the church’s authority. Despite Luther’s doctrine attracting the initial attention, evidence suggests that the doctrine was spread via sermons rather than printed works.  This factor makes it difficult to know to what extent the average farmer could fully understand the doctrine and begs the question as to what extent Luther’s doctrine led to his popularity in Germany. The evidence of low literacy and very basic theological knowledge suggests that it is unlikely that the theological doctrine produced was responsible for Luther’s widespread popularity.

His ideas gained a wide audience through the printing press – there were 390 editions of his writings published in Germany in 1523 alone whilst by 1525, three million copies of pamphlets in German surrounding the ‘Luther Affair’ had been printed.[8] Although the German kingdoms had a high literacy rate for the period[9], much of the population were illiterate. The urban literacy rate was only 20%.[10] This meant that his doctrine was rarely thought about when purchasing a reproduction of his works. This is where the belief that Luther’s popularity was a by-product of the national interest of printed documents assumes some significance. The initial appeal of Luther’s message was found primarily in the urban communities of Germany. The urban setting provided a concentrated audience, quickly accessible to preaching and pamphlets, as well as a communal structure in which civic reformers could immediately confront the political authorities as fellow citizens rather than distant lords[11]. The ‘Urban Reformation’, however, could only effect a small proportion of the people as only 10% of Germans lived in towns[12]. Many laymen still bought the works without any theological understanding. The printing press itself was an unforeseen phenomenon which transformed the way data and ideas were exchanged and shared. Luther’s ability to take advantage of the invention undoubtedly widened his audience significantly. Luther’s works such as the 95 Theses began to circulate across Germany leading to much of the population gaining access to his works. The works of Luther could be purchased in many different forms, from books to more accessible small, eighteen page pamphlets. As mentioned previously, the ability to mass produce the written word was a new phenomenon. This fact may imply that many of the people who were influenced by Luther’s works never bought his works out of academic interest but rather because of the new market for printed works that was sweeping across Europe. Andrew Pettegree believes that the popularity of Luther’s works was due to the new medium of purchasing pamphlets rather than his theological reforms. His argument provides convincing information regarding the behaviour of those who were intrigued by Martin Luther’s work. Pettegree believes the trend of purchasing pamphlets, coinciding with the circulation of Luther’s works, allowed for the creation of its own momentum. This momentum led to a surge in the purchase of Luther’s works and this surge is what made Martin Luther a household name. Luther’s doctrine provided the laymen of Germany with a fascinating and alluring new world. ‘In the case of Zomere that he was clearly an avid purchaser of pamphlets even though he did not read’.[13]Pettegree’s explanation of the popularity of Luther presents an argument that the printing press as an entity inspired interest in the source, directly referring to a well-documented baker, Zomere, who provides evidence for Pettegrees argument, making the source far more convincing. Pettegree evidently believes that the works of Luther were unavoidable which inspires the argument that the printing press is the most significant factor for the popularity of Lutheranism. Although the source is convincing it only refers to one specific example so it is impossible for Pettegree to provide an accurate argument of the behaviour of the people across the German territories.

The source strongly goes against an argument that Luther’s doctrine was influencing the population in favour of Lutheranism. Pettegree explains how many regular buyers of Luther’s works could not even read which was the case for Zomere. German literacy rates during this period were very low. This implies that many buyers of Luther’s works would not have understood the pamphlets and books.  It is made clear in the source that much of the population were buying Luther’s works due to the novelty of the medium rather than out of intellectual interest. Pettegree argues that the printing press itself created Luther’s popularity by the mass production of his works – not his new doctrinal reforms.  This view of the printed word being a medium is further pushed by the historian C. Scott Dixon. Dixon believes that the printing press allowed Luther’s work to spread across Germany due to the craze of buying pamphlets at the time. Dixon emphasises that due to widespread illiteracy, alternatives to the spoken word were only offered by visual forms of communication, such as the printed image, the pamphlet illustration or the woodcut, which the early reformers harnessed very effectively.[14]  Dixon provides a credible insight into the time of Luther. The direct reference of the term ‘medium’ clearly implies that Luther exploited the new technology to reach more people across Germany and returns to the fact that the population was uneducated and had little or no theological understanding of religion. Dixon and Pettegree’s beliefs are similar to an extent; they both arrive at the same conclusion, that the popularity of Luther’s works was most likely a medium, instead of the population being influenced by Luthers doctrinal reforms.

The new medium excited the entire population.  For the first time laymen were given a window into the educated and religious world. Woodcuts provided this bridge between the academics and the peasants. In Protestant propaganda, woodcuts were what attracted people the most.[15] Only 40 per cent of townsmen, 5 per cent of rural men and virtually no women were literate[16]. So, the pictures were much more easily accepted.  R. W. Scribner stated, “printed propaganda was addressed to the entire German people, but few of them were able to read it, for the Reformation emerged in a society with limited literacy. . . listening or looking would have been the major means of acquiring their knowledge of the Reformation”[17]. The view proposed by Scribner is like that of S.T. Chow, both historians agree on the importance of woodcuts when explaining what attracted people to Luther’s works. The creativity of woodcuts allowed for simple messages and ideologies to be portrayed using a well-produced image.


The woodcut above was created by Lucas Cranach and commissioned by Martin Luther in 1523. The woodcut was used as the cover for many pamphlets.   Cranach was a well-regarded craftsman of the time and he created many other woodcut images for Luther throughout the 1520s. The fact that he used Cranach to create these woodcuts, implies Luther was very focused on improving the accessibility of his works. Although some woodcuts were designed by leading artists such Cranach, Scribner believes that Luther valued woodcuts as homemade gin: cheap, crude and effective.[18] This argument shows that although the cost of Luther’s woodcuts varied, he understood the effectiveness of the printed image in attracting popularity for his works. The image above is portraying the Pope as a monstrous devil shown as a mutilated animal figure; the Pope’s face is represented as the bottom of the creature. The imagery used in the woodcut is intended to influence the viewer.  Due to the clear message, even those who had no theological education could understand the basic meaning. The use of woodcuts was extremely effective.  This belief is supported by S. T. Chow and R.W. Scribner and was evidently an effective method of conveying Luther’s message across the German kingdoms.

The medium provided by the printing press was extremely beneficial for the spread of Luther’s works. Furthermore the medium enabled his works and ideologies to become far more accessible through the use of woodcuts and pamphlets. By looking at the arguments from Pettegree and Chow, the printing press and the medium that was created had a significant role in the popularity of Lutheranism within Germany.  Evidently the printing press was far more responsible for Luther’s popularity than the theological doctrine.

A consensus of negativity towards the papacy had emerged before Luther began publishing his works.  These feelings were fuelled by a growing sense of German identity. The emotions of a population are powerful; Luther’s awareness of circumstances at the time allowed him to take advantage of these feelings, for his personal gain. Luther’s attempt to agree with the opinions of the German population allowed for an emotional connection to grow between his audience rather than only an intellectual agreement. An extract from the Invocavit sermons, March 1522, shows Luthers aims ‘We must first win over the hearts of the people.’[19] This quotation reveals Luthers intent to gain support from the laity via the use of persuasion and the production of works containing political beliefs rather than his doctrine. This source is very important as it came from Luther himself in a sermon. However to what extent this was his true belief or rather a phrase to attract further attention is difficult to know. Luther is now exploiting the medium provided by the printing press to build support and popularity through the communal nationalistic feelings which had been brewing in Germany in recent years. This feature of his later works adds another face to his personality, which appeals to the audiences’ emotions.

During the early 16th century, the population was influenced by young Humanists, like Erasmus, who criticised the forms and doctrine of medieval Christianity. They questioned the way in which the Roman Catholic Church controlled what people could study and followed the principle that learning should be made available to everyone, not just the elite who could use their influence and power to repress and limit the learning of others. E. Cameron argues that a generation of religious teachers refused to tolerate the Roman court’s negative response to Luther’s critique of current practice,[20] and sided with Luther as a result. This argument is supported by H. Schöffler who has a similar argument suggesting that younger Humanists followed Luther however this was due to that group having little too lose.[21] The two arguments provided disagree on why Humanists of the time took Luther’s side. Although this factor is important, both arguments agree that Humanists supported Luther as his popularity grew. With early Humanist support, his works gained academic credibility and this academic credibility gave those receiving his works confidence in the doctrine being produced. The new techniques of textual analysis provided by the Humanist movement encouraged greater uptake in religious interest amongst the common people. This was further encouraged by the emphasis put on the use of the vernacular. Frustrated by the corruption of the Church, the Humanists’ views became increasingly pro-nationalist and their works had started to circulate throughout Germany before Luther began to publish is own works. The influence of the Humanists on the population meant that there were pre-existing nationalist, anti-Papal, feelings. Luther attempted to exploit these feelings with his own works.  In some cases, his works directly preyed on these nationalistic feelings: “We must not, like these asses, ask the Latin letters, how we are to speak German, but we must ask the mother in the house, the children in the street, the common man in the market place about this, and look them in the mouth to see how they speak, and afterwards do our translating”[22] Luther’s words evidently project nationalistic feelings, the sentence is implying that Germany should not be controlled by an external force such as The Holy Roman Empire, but should lead itself. The quotation very clearly shows Luther’s disapproval of foreign influence directly referencing the German language as opposed to the ‘Latin speakers’, and how Germans should not be taught how to speak German by Rome. By proclaiming his loyalty to Germany and disapproval of foreign interference, he is appealing to those who may initially not agree with his religious doctrine. He becomes increasingly provocative and nationalistic in his writings.

The anti-papal message is constantly mention within Luther’s works. This further highlights Luther’s intent to grasp the attention of his audience. By repeatedly feeding this opinion to an audience eager for his work, it is not surprising that the pre-existing feelings of hatred towards the Pope were strengthened during a period of Luther’s works being mass produced.  In a letter to the Christian nobility, Luther openly states that the Pope is the devil and ‘anti-Christ’.

‘It must therefore have been the very prince of devils who said what is written in the canon law: If the Pope were so scandalously bad as to lead souls in crowds to the devil, yet he could not be deposed. On this accursed and devilish foundation they build at Rome, and think that we should let all the world go to the devil, rather than resist their knavery.’[23]

This source was taken from an open letter to the nobility of the German kingdoms. This method of communication suggests that Luther was trying to gain the attention of the nobility, which may have led to his beliefs being exaggerated. The style of writing is different as this is a persuasive text, an attempt at gaining support.  This letter was not for public viewing which reveals that Luther had different personas depending on who he was dealing with. This shows further evidence that Luther would manipulate different audiences to improve popularity. His portrayal of the papacy as evil was an effective way of capitalising on the anti-clergy and anti-papal feelings of the people and therefore encouraged the spread of his message at the expense of the papacy.

The printing press not only helped Luther spread his thoughts and doctrine but also allowed him to receive new information. This would include other academics publishing their thoughts and ideologies. The new medium of printed works meant that Luther was able to understand what the German population was thinking. Cameron believes that Lutheran popularity was built by Luther’s ability to ‘persuade by harnessing peoples ego’[24] through his works.  The medium allowed Luther to adapt his works in order to attract as many people as possible. Cameron argues that Luther appealed to people’s ego by judging them worthy to read and discuss the Bible for themselves. This was a huge change for the German people due to Roman Catholic doctrine only allowing the priest to read the bible. These feelings are seen in Luther’s early works. Luther’s words ‘we who have been baptised are all uniformly priests by virtue’[25] taken from his early writings. Prior to Lutheranism only the Roman Catholic priest would ‘speak to God’. The parish would repent and pray through the priest. This quotation provides the population with belief that they are no different to priests, boosting their egos. This comment would have encouraged laymen to support him due to ‘rising their status in society’. Luther makes it clear that everyone should have a ‘relationship’ with God and that the Holy doctrine should be open for everyone to understand, not just the clergy. This source makes Cameron’s belief that Luther harnessed people’s ego very plausible due to the clear message portrayed. This strategy of preaching to peoples’ egos is clear throughout Luther’s life. A source taken from the 95 theses, his first work, contains similar sentiment.  “It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God; it is a still greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book.”[26]  The message presented by this source further agrees with Cameron’s beliefs. In suggesting that only priests, and not mere laymen, should read the Bible Luther gains support from the common German. 

This source will have intrigued the nation, potentially destroying any previous pro-papacy beliefs. Cameron’s suggestion is supported by this quote due to its provocative nature.  Once again Luther is seen to provide the layman with a sense of religious importance.  By rallying the support of the peasantry through the distribution of pamphlets, Luther was evidently successful in boosting the egos of the illiterate and the poor. This argument suggested by Cameron is very plausible due to the various examples of Luther using this technique in his work.  The ability to fully understand the new theological doctrine produced was extremely rare. This lead to Luther being forced to attract and inspire his potential audience across the German kingdoms by satisfying their ‘heart’ rather than their intellect. Cameron’s explanation of Luther’s ability to win over the German people revolves around the pre-existing opinions held by the laity and nobility, and how this was exploited. Cameron’s evidence shows that Luther’s political and provocative works were successful due to his populist outlook rather than the theological content of his works.

Luther’s popularity has been explained by factors such as the content of his theological doctrine, the medium of the time and Lutheran message of moral and political superiority. The content of Luther’s doctrine is undisputedly the cause for initial interest in Luther’s opinions. However, regardless of the content, the huge popularity received by Luther cannot be accredited to his doctrine, due to the low levels of literacy and poor theological knowledge of his multi-kingdom audience. Although the works were purchased by many laymen, C. Scott Dixon provides a convincing explanation regarding ‘the craze of purchasing pamphlets’[27] due to the new medium of the time. The printing press is critical in this line of explanation because of its key role in the mass production of printed works. S. T. Chow regards the printing press as the most important factor when considering what contributed to the popularity of Martin Luther, through a strong explanation for the importance of woodcuts which could only be mass produced by the printing press. The final contributing factor investigated involves Luther’s political works persuading the citizens of the German kingdoms, harnessing the pre-existing consensus of anti-papal and nationalist feelings. Convincing evidence of this technique is found within Luther’s works, such as in the Invocavit sermons. Regardless of the effect of this technique, throughout the investigation is has been made clear that the growth of Luther’s popularity relied on the printing press. The ability to mass produce texts and images for distribution across Germany makes it immensely responsible for the popularity of Lutheranism in Germany up to the period of 1534.


Primary Sources:


Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, Anders Nygren (2002)

Martin Luther: A Pure Doctrine of Faith, Michael Stoltzfus (2003)

Martin Luther: On the Liberty of a Christian

L. Cranach The Elder (1523) The Pope Donkey of Rome


An Open Letter to The Christian Nobility, Martin Luther ,1483-1546, I. The Three Walls of the Romanists

Secondary Sources:

D. MacCulloch (2003) Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700: (Penguin)

R.W. Scribner (1986) The German Reformation: (Palgrave Macmillan)

P.G. Wallace (2004) The Long European Reformation. Religion, Politics, and the Search for Conformity, 1350-1750: (Palgrave Macmillan)

G. Parker (1992) ‘Success and Failure in the Reformation’, Past and Present

C. Scott Dixon (2002) The Reformation in Germany: (John Wiley & Sons)

M.U. Edwards (1994) “Printing, Propaganda and Martin Luther”: (Fortress Press)

J. Lotherington (2015) Years of Renewal: European History 1470 – 1600  : (Horsham House)

Pettegree (2005) Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion: (Cambridge University Press)

G. Dickins (1974) The German Nation and Martin Luther: (Hodder & Stoughton Educational)

R. Kennedy (2002) What Impact Did the Invention of the Printing Press Have on the Spread of Religion?

E. Cameron (1999) ‘The Power of the Word: Renaissance and Reformation Early Modern Europe: (Oxford University Press)

R. W. Scribner (1981) For the Sake of Simple Folk, Popular Propaganda for the German Reformation:(Oxford University Press)

T. P Dost (2001) Renaissance Humanism in Support of the Gospel in Luther’s Early correspondence:(Ashgate Publishing)

S. T. Chow, Animals and Monsters in Woodcuts of the German Reformation

H-J. Martin (1990) The History and Power of Writing (University of Chicago Press)

Development and Popularity of the Keyboard Concerto

Describe the development of the keyboard concerto from c.1710-1790, and assess why the form became so popular with both composers and public.
This essay explores the development of the keyboard concerto during the 18th century considering its precursors, social and economic context and the advent of the piano. By exploring the work of key composers during the 18th century, it will be shown how musical and social shifts created an environment in which enduring, popular and technically adventurous piano concertos could emerge.

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Early Concertos
Concertos are typically defined asinstrumental works where a smaller group (in a concerto grosso) or soloist (ina solo concerto) contrasts against the sonority of a larger grouping. This technique was used in orchestration during the 17th century in works such as canzonas (Grout 1988: 473), with the concerto form emerging towards theend of the 17th century. Possibly the most influential composers ofearly concertos were Corelli, Torelli and Vivaldi. Wellesz and Sternfield(1973: 435) trace the emergence of the early concerto form through these three composers.
Corelli’s twelve Opus 6 concertigrossi were written at the end of the 17th century using a structure consisting of a somewhat random alternation of slow and fast movements. Movements were ritornello-based (a ritornello is like a refrain), with alternating tutti and concertino passages showing limited decoration or exploration of thematic material.
Torelli, composing at the turn ofthe century, wrote concerti grossi and solo concerti. He established the three movement (fast-slow-fast) structure that was widely adopted. Torelli also explored the use of contrasting thematic elements within concertos and increased the complexity of solo lines.
Vivaldi, writing in the early 18thcentury, refined the form, with more exploration of thematic contrasts, although Kolneder (1986b: 307-8) argues that Vivaldi’s material is perhaps better described as motifs than themes.
Although these three composers werekey to the emergence of the concerto form, their instrumentation focused on strings. Vivaldi wrote some flute and bassoon concerti, and orchestras would typically include a continuo keyboard part, but the first composers to use solo keyboard in concertos were Bach, Handel and Babel.
The First Keyboard Concertos
There is debate over which piece ofmusic qualifies as the first keyboard concerto. Handel wrote the first organ concertos, with a set of six published in 1738, but used a concerto-likestructure very much earlier, in his cantata ‘Il trionfo del tempo e deldisinganno’ of 1707, contrasting the organ with the orchestra in a ritornello structure.
Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 5,composed around 1720, is widely held to be the first harpsichord concerto, and develops the concept of the virtuoso soloist, featuring an extensive solo harpsichord cadenza towards the end of the first movement.
However, recent research suggests that, even earlier than this, William Babel was writing concerted movements for harpsichord. The dates of composition are uncertain, but appear to be at leastas early as 1718, and possibly 5 or 6 years prior to that (Holman 2003).
Handel’s work, in addition to developing the keyboard concerto, provides interesting insights into the nature of performance and developments in amateur music-making at the time. Handel hadmoved to London, where he spent most of his adult life, in 1712, establishing himself as something of a celebrity. Initially finding success with Italian-style opera, the wane in the popularity of the form caused him to switch to oratorios. The virtuoso castrati, who had played a major role inopera, were not appropriate for oratorios, where virtuoso performance was considered not to be in the spirit of the work. By composing organ concerti tobe performed alongside the oratorios, Handel preserved an element of virtuoso performance popular with audiences, and as one of the leading organists of his day, he was able to showcase his skills through these works..
As the English organ had no pedals, music written for it transferred easily to the harpsichord, and Handel’s publisher could promote his second set of organ concerti as ‘for harpsichord or organ’, broadening its appeal (Rochester 1997).
Mid-Century Developments
The popularity of the Baroque concerto may have hindered the development of the concerto form. Wellesz and Sternfield argue that even such original composers as Sammartini and C.P.E.Bach could not rid their minds of Baroque preconceptions. (1973: 434)
C P E Bach regularly used the Baroque structure, with a number of tuttis punctuating solo passages in the ritornello style, but was innovative in other respects: his device of running one movement into another is more often associated with 19th century music.
Wellesz and Sternfield establish three main elements where there is a clear differentiation in style between Classical and Baroque concerto forms: tonality, form and co-ordination of musical elements (1973: 435-6).
Classical concerto style develops the concept of opposing tonalities, placing tonic and dominant against each other,while the Baroque style, though often using modulation, maintains more stability.
In the Baroque concerto, exposition and development are often combined, while in the Classical era there is clearer demarcation, pointing towards sonata rather than ritornello form.
The Baroque form entwines contrapuntal elements over a more independent bassline, while the Classical form prefers all elements – including harmony, melody, orchestration and rhythm- to be held together within the same overall plan.
Also key to the development of the keyboard concerto was the emergence of the piano. The prototype instrument was developed by Bartolomeo Cristofori in the final years of the 17thcentury and called the gravicembalo con piano e forte, meaning harpsichord withsoft and loud, although the dulcimer, where strings are hit by hammers, was more of an inspiration than the plucked harpsichord. This gave scope to developa keyboard instrument with greater dynamic versatility. However, composers were initially sceptical. In 1736, Gottfried Silbermann invited J S Bach to try one of his instruments. Bach was critical, but Silbermann worked to improve hispiano, and Bach subsequently acted as an intermediary in its sales.
The new instrument also found success in Britain. During the 18th century, Britain, and especially London, was cosmopolitan: Handel had had great success, and records show that many musicians from the continent made Britain home. Britain offered an environment of relative political stability compared with many areas of Europe. There was a keen appreciation of music among the upper classes, and a growing middle classwith money to spend on leisure pursuits – including music.
However, in 1740 there was only onepiano in the country. In 1756, the Seven Years War resulted in an exodus from Saxony to Britain, and their numbers included a group of harpsichord makers,one of whom, Zumpe, began to make pianos and invented the square piano. It had advantages over the harpsichord and other types of piano which were a similar shape to the harpsichord. It was quicker and cheaper to manufacture, and remained popular until the middle of the next century.
Johann Christian Bach, son of J Sand younger brother of C P E, arrived in London in 1762. He developed a range of commercial interests, and became Zumpe’s London agent, providing an incentive to write material to show the instrument to its best advantage. He had other business interests too: on arrival in London in 1762, he shared lodgings with Carl Abel, also a German composer. They developed a partnership running subscription concerts, which proved hugely popular until after J CBach’s death in 1782, and had a stake in the Hanover Square Rooms, which they used as a venue for their concerts.
Johann Christian had been a pupil of his older brother Carl Philip Emmanuel, but it was the younger brother who was the more influential on the development of the concerto form, particularly with regard to exposition themes. He often used a triadic primary theme and more cantabile secondary theme, suggesting elements of sonata form, although ritornello style is still evident.
J C Bach wrote around 40 keyboard concertos between 1763 and 1777 (Grout 1987: 560). Midway, dating from 1770,are the Opus 7 concertos: ‘Sei concerti per il cembalo o piano e forte’ (six concertos for harpsichord or piano). The title itself is significant.Harpsichord manufacture was still on the increase in the 1770s, but the instrument was soon to be overtaken in popularity by the square piano, and Bachwas the first to use the instrument for public performance (Grout 1987: 562).Grout suggests that the E flat major concerto, no. 5 of the set, hassignificant structural similarities to Mozart’s K488 (Piano Concerto No. 23 inA major), with a similar combination of Baroque ritornello structure and sonataform, contrasting keys and thematic material.
While Johann Christian’s work goes some way to realising the Classical concerto form, it was Mozart who pushed theform forward to create a precedent for concerto composition in subsequent centuries:
Mozart’s concertos are incomparable. Not even the symphonies reveal such wealth of invention, such breadth and vigor of conception, such insight and resource in the working out of musical ideas.
Grout 1987: 614
Mozart’s Piano Concertos
Mozart’s move to Vienna from Salzburg in 1781 heralds musical developments and reflects social changes. On 9May 1781, he wrote to his father I am no longer so unfortunate as to be in Salzburg service (Mersmann 1938: 161): he had been frustrated by the limited opportunities of his employment at court. The joy of leaving Salzburg for Vienna seems to have been musically inspiring, and the next few years were prolific, not least in the composition of piano concertos: Mozart wrote 12 between 1784 and 1786.
The influence of J C Bach on Mozartwas significant. The two had met in London in 1764, when Mozart was still aboy. In 1772, Mozart created his first three piano concertos by rearranging three of J C Bach’s sonatas. Beyond the concerto structure, the detail of Mozart’s music suggests Bach’s influence. His subtle ornamentation and cleveruse of suspensions and ambiguities of tonality also characterises J C Bach’s work.
Mozart’s use of keys is particularly innovative: in the first movement of the A major Piano Concerto K488, the development section incorporates a passage of dialogue between thewinds and a larger grouping of piano and strings, modulating through E minor at bar 156, C major at bar 160, A minor at bar 164 and then through F major at bar 166 to D minor at bar 168. The more obvious, related tonalities for a work in Amajor would be D and E major, the subdominant and dominant keys, and F# minor, the relative minor key. This type of harmonic device gives a strong sense of departure from the safety and stability of the home key, making its eventual return in the recapitulation stronger and more satisfying.
This passage also shows examples of Mozart’s innovative orchestration: the small group-large group contrast of earlier concertos becomes a three-way interchange, with piano, winds and strings forming three groups which are united and contrasted in a range of combinations.
Mozart’s innovations took the keyboard concerto to a new level, and give some indication of why the form became so popular with composers and the public.
For the composer, working patterns were changing, away from the often creatively restrictive nature of patronageto an environment of more freedom, with composers having more control of performances as events – J C Bach is a particularly good example of this. With many composers also being gifted performers, who could attract audiences by way of their virtuosity, the concerto offered scope to write exciting, challenging passages within the context of a major work, giving their performances real impact.
Yet the economic reality was thatincome depended on the success of concerts and the ability to please a fickle audience.Mozart was clearly aware of the need to please a range of Viennese listeners,writing of his 3 concertos written for the 1782-3 season:
There are passages here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction, but they are written so that thenon-connoisseurs cannot fail to be pleased even if they don’t know why.(Quoted by Steinberg 1998: 279)
Taking the above into account, itis surely not insignificant that Mozart’s piano concertos are, 200 years after their composition, enjoyed by a huge audience and also highly regarded by musicologists.
The development of the keyboard concerto in the 18th century demonstrates how changes in the social landscape and innovations in instrument technology planted the seeds of avibrant music industry. This helped set up the piano concerto to become an indispensable ingredient in the concert hall and a contributing factor in the phenomenon of the virtuoso in the 19th century and beyond.