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 célèbre 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.
A first-rate biography
Scores highly in thoroughness, clarity and human sympathy. If you want a model of how to defy uncomprehending power - your equivalent of Luther's Pope, Emperor, Church - or a model of how to laugh at the Devil, Wilson has provided a reliable guide as to how Luther did it
Wilson tells the story well and places it carefully in context, but what makes his book sprecial is the superb closing chapter, where he deals with what these days we would call Luther's legacy
A vibrantly written book which focuses on personalities as well as the momentous events surrounding them - the impact of which will never be lost