The tranquil world reflected in Erasmus’ early letters from Louvain gradually disintegrated in the years covered by Volume 7. In the letters of Volume 8, which spans the period of Erasmus’ last fifteen months in the Netherlands and his move to Basel during 1520 and 1521, his situation worsens.
On the political front, the golden age of peace for which he had hoped is further destroyed by the war-mongering of Francis I, Henry VIII, Leo X and Charles V. In spiritual matters, Erasmus continues to be pressed harder to take a firm position for or against Luther. He persists in his earlier view, that Luther was right in his spirit but wrong in his language, and chooses not to make a public judgment against him, saying only that he will plant his feet firmly ‘on the same side, whatever it may be, as the peace of the Gospel.’ For the next seven and a half years, Erasmus is to live in Basel, a city as yet undecided which side it will take in the religious conflict, while he works ahead on his editions of the Christian Fathers and attempts to cope with the conflicts in the world around him.
An exchange of letters between Juan de Vergara and Diego López Zúñiga which bears on the controversy then raging between Erasmus and Zúñiga is included as an appendix to this volume.