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Martin Luther

Rebel in an Age of Upheaval

By Heinz Schilling
22-minute read
Audio available
Martin Luther: Rebel in an Age of Upheaval by Heinz Schilling

Martin Luther (2017) details the life and times of one of the most important figures in European history. Five hundred years ago, the German priest Martin Luther sparked the Reformation, which would eventually bring the Protestant Church into existence and thereby create a permanent schism between the Protestant and the Roman Catholic Church. This book presents a fresh interpretation of Luther’s life, investigating what his actions – and the Reformation in general – tell us about the modern world.

  • People skeptical as to the power religion can hold over people
  • History junkies who want to learn more about how modern Europe emerged
  • Anyone curious about one of the most famous historical figures of all time

Heinz Schilling is Professor Emeritus of History at Humboldt University in Berlin. Schilling’s work focuses on the history of religion, and he has published numerous academic works and award-winning popular histories. His book Martin Luther: Rebel in an Age of Upheaval is considered the gold standard of Luther biographies.

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Martin Luther

Rebel in an Age of Upheaval

By Heinz Schilling
  • Read in 22 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 14 key ideas
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Martin Luther: Rebel in an Age of Upheaval by Heinz Schilling
Synopsis

Martin Luther (2017) details the life and times of one of the most important figures in European history. Five hundred years ago, the German priest Martin Luther sparked the Reformation, which would eventually bring the Protestant Church into existence and thereby create a permanent schism between the Protestant and the Roman Catholic Church. This book presents a fresh interpretation of Luther’s life, investigating what his actions – and the Reformation in general – tell us about the modern world.

Key idea 1 of 14

Martin Luther was born at the end of the Middle Ages, a time of great societal turmoil.

When looking at the modern world, it may seem that things have never changed at such a great speed as they are doing today. In reality, though, something quite similar was taking place some 500 years ago; the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were characterized by radical societal, geopolitical and economic upheaval.

Europe was threatened from the east by the constant specter of Ottoman invasion. Meanwhile, to the west, Spanish and Portuguese vessels had taken to the seas and were in the process of "discovering" the New World.

European contact with the Americas was soon followed by the establishment of colonial trading routes. These brought an unprecedented influx of gold and silver from American mines to Europe, and these newfound riches laid the foundations for a new capital-oriented society in Europe.

In turn, a new and wealthy middle class of merchants began to emerge, and they were all too willing to challenge the old aristocratic order.

While all this was going on, the population of Europe was booming. It’s estimated that Europe’s population increased from 82 to 107 million over the course of the fifteenth century.

In the midst of all this change and upheaval, on November 10, 1483, Martin Luder – or Martin Luther as he would come to be known – was born to Hans, a mining entrepreneur, and Margarete in Eisleben, Germany. It was a comfortable household with domestic servants, but the family still lived modestly and avoided luxuries.

Luther, as his family’s first-born child, was expected to safeguard the family’s middle-class status and was thus sent to study law. Then, as now, a legal career was seen as a secure choice.

But, as we now know, Luther didn’t follow his designated course – and his change of heart would affect not just his own life, but the course of history itself.

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