Martin Luther changed Europe and, through Europe, the world. It was he who finally exposed the myth of a unified Latin Christendom, which was only held together by crusades, heresy hunts, Inquisition, and priestly magic. Though not the first radical thinker to challenge papal pretensions and the doctrines they were founded on, by his defiance Luther created the biggest cause celebre of the age. But this renegade monk did not just split Europe into rival Protestant and Catholic camps. By urging Christians to read and interpret the Bible for themselves, he gave a religious boost to that emancipation of the individual we associate with the Renaissance. By putting men and women in charge of their own destinies he made a cultural impact which is incalculable. This first major biography in English for many years, by leading historian Derek Wilson, responds to recent Reformation scholarship to assess Luther's impact on his own and later ages. A warts-and-all study, it gives a vivid picture of a complex and driven man - courageous, stubborn, rumbustious, vulgar, erudite, self-opinionated - but a man of tireless energy and, above all, total conviction.
For his achievements we can admire him. In his failings we can identify with him. Luther remains perpetually fascinating.
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(233mm x 153mm x 29mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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US Kirkus Review »
A new look at one of Christian history's most pivotal characters.Because Luther's life story contains many intriguing elements - political intrigue, accusations of heresy, life and death drama - it's no surprise that biographer and novelist Wilson (Charlemagne, 2006, etc.) was drawn to a subject that has already been covered many times before. The author begins with a specific purpose: "to provide the non-specialist reader with an account of Martin Luther, warts and all, and an assessment of his impact on his own time and subsequent ages." He succeeds in providing a biography accessible to general readers, effectively assessing Luther's legacy while noting that it is difficult to approach his life without taking sides. Wilson berates "agnostic historians who attempt to hover impartially above the field of conflict," pointing out that Luther and his contemporaries cannot be understood without an appreciation for the weight of their beliefs upon everyday life. Still, many Catholics will cringe at Wilson's approach to the Roman Catholic Church, even when there is justification: "[Johann Tetzel's] sermon was the sales pitch of a disreputable insurance rep peddling heavenly policies." Wilson acknowledges Luther's many flaws, but also shows how the Renaissance man helped change perceptions about a diverse variety of subjects, including the biblical interpretation, German nationalism, anti-Semitism and more. Despite his somewhat partisan approach, Wilson offers a solid complement to such resources as Heiko A. Oberman's Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (1990), and also serves as an excellent introduction to many of the other important figures of the era, from Erasmus to Zwingli.A readable overview that demonstrates Luther's wide-ranging impact on the world, then and now. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Derek Wilson
Derek Wilson is well known through his books, radio and TV appearances, frequent journalistic features and festival appearances as one of the UK's leading narrative historians. Among his critically acclaimed and bestselling books are: The King and the Gentleman: Charles Stuart and Oliver Cromwell 1599-1649, In the Lion's Court: Power, Ambition and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII, All the King's Women: Love, Sex and Politics in the Life of Charles II, Charlemagne: The Great Adventure.