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  • Published: 15 June 2017
  • ISBN: 9781784703448
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $29.99

Martin Luther

The first historical biography, for many decades, of Martin Luther (1483-1546), the rebellious monk who ushered in the modern world


'A magnificent study of one of history's most compelling and divisive figures' Richard J. Evans

When Martin Luther nailed a sheet of paper to the church door of a small university town in 1517, he set off a process that changed the Western world for ever.

Within a few years Luther’s ideas had spread like wildfire. His attempts to reform Christianity by returning it to its biblical roots split the Western Church, divided Europe and polarised people’s beliefs, leading to religious persecution, social unrest and war; and in the long run his ideas would help break the grip of religion on every sphere of life.

Yet Luther was a deeply flawed human being: a fervent believer tormented by spiritual doubts; a prolific writer whose translation of the Bible would shape the German language yet whose attacks on his opponents were vicious and foul-mouthed; a married ex-monk who liberated human sexuality from the stigma of sin but who insisted that women should know their place; a religious fundamentalist, Jew-hater and political reactionary who called ‘for the private and public murder of the peasants’ who had risen against their lords in response to his teaching. And perhaps surprisingly, the man who helped create in the modern world was not modern himself: for him the devil was not a figure of speech but a real, physical presence.

As an acclaimed historian, Lyndal Roper explains how Luther’s impact can only be understood against the background of the times. As a brilliant biographer, she gives us the flesh-and-blood figure. She reveals the often contradictory psychological forces that drove Luther forward and the dynamics they unleashed, which turned a small act of protest into a battle against the power of the Church.

A New Statesman, Spectator, History Today, Guardian and Sunday Times Book of the Year

  • Published: 15 June 2017
  • ISBN: 9781784703448
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $29.99

About the author

Lyndal Roper

Lyndal Roper is Regius Professor of History at Oxford and one of the most respected historians at work in Britain today. An expert on early modern Germany, her previous books include a study of witchcraft, Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany. In 2016 she received the prestigious Gerda Henkel Foundation Prize for her work on Luther and the Reformation.

Praise for Martin Luther

This is a smart, accessible, authoritative biography of one of the most dynamic figures in European history. Lyndal Roper writes with clarity and discernment, so that nothing stands between the reader and her grimly fascinating subject; she earths the reformer, situating him psychically as well as geographically in a Germany she describes as vividly as if we lived there: mining towns as well as lecture halls, courts as well as cathedrals. She creates a context for a man who arouses both admiration and horror in the modern reader. Here he stands: never more vocal, more controversial, more compelling

Hilary Mantel

A fine achievement, deeply researched and fluently written, and it brings its difficult and cantankerous subject to life as no other biography has... A magnificent study of one of history’s most compelling and divisive figures

Richard J. Evans

Impeccable scholarship and painstaking fair-mindedness characterize his deeply illuminating biography. Roper has mined the correspondence, and Luther’s charisma and complexity shine through the letters

Andrew Pettegree, New York Times

Lyndal Roper's new book is a compelling and provocative attempt to restore some flesh and blood to this static icon...the work of one of the most imaginative and pioneering historians of our generation

Alexandrda Walsham, Guardian

Lyndal Roper provides a fine scholarly narrative of Luther’s extraordinary life...She paints the picture of a “difficult hero”, with full attention to both light and shadow. A compellingly readable and richly documented study

Rowan Williams

Excellent and wholly absorbing biography… Roper’s biography, distinguished by the excellence of its writing and research, is the beginning of wisdom in all things Reformation, anti-Roman and, alas, proto-Hitlerite.

Ian Thomson, Guardian

[Martin Luther is] exemplary history: imaginative yet empirical, rounded and profound.

Malcolm Gaskill, Financial Times

Roper’s immaculate scholarship…gives a complex account of his inner life, without ever straying beyond what the evidence will allow.

Kathryn Hughes, Guardian, Book of the Year

[It] deploys its considerable learning with the lightest of touches: a seductive, shimmering and significant retelling of a man whose rise to power was…as unlikely as it was extraordinary

Thomas Penn, Guardian, Book of the Year

An impressive and fascinating read.

David Crane, Spectator, Book of the Year

A superb evocation of Luther’s Germany… Roper captures so well his coarseness and cruelty.

A.N. Wilson, New Statesman, Book of the Year

[A] magnificent book.

New Statesman

A revelation of psychological insight and breathtaking historical detail… Extensive and engaging biography… Very strong on the economic background and how it translates into spiritual questions… This book brings clarity to how complicate, strange, ennobling and disgusting the period was.

Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

Roper…has an extraordinary talent for making complex theological issues not just clear but entertaining.

Gerrard DeGroot, The Times

Beautifully written… Among the most interesting, provocative and original biographies of Luther to appear in recent years… This unfailingly inventive and compelling account is a welcome gust of fresh air… Anyone seriously interested in one of the most influential figures of the last half-millennium will need to make time to read this one.

Peter Marshall, Literary Review

[It is] fresh and captivating… A closely focused and compellingly intimate study of Luther’s perceptions.

Alexandra Shephard, History Today, Book of the Year

[A] rewarding biography… Roper brings him alive as a very human figure.

Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times, Book of the Year

This is the book about Luther we’ve missed among all the holy books and the case studies: the whole engrossing story of a soul and a mind and the man who broke the old world and its old ways for ever. Lyndal Roper brings alive the struggle for ideas, adds a subtle sense of how human beings work, and distils a lifetime of scholarship to conjure Luther’s own world with its princes, demons, scandals and sheer brave defiance of a whole old order

Michael Pye, author of The Edge of the World

Compelling and above all deeply honest biography.

David Crane, Spectator

This book will continue to bring the reformer and his theology to life for generations to come.

Bridget Heal, History Today, Book of the Year

[An] excellent study.

Jonathan Wright, BBC History Magazine


Christopher Howse, Sunday Telegraph

Roper’s Luther is an angry man: a renegade and a rebel… [She] paints a vivid picture of the political and economic context in Mansfeld, where Luther grew up, and of the situation of Wittenberg and its political governance. There are important findings here, particularly relating to Luther’s early life

Charlotte Methuen, The Times Literary Supplement

Roper writes with the virtuosity of an unsurpassed archival researcher, the grace of an elegant stylist, and the compassion of a seasoned student of human nature. Her nuanced and insightful portrait brilliantly evokes the inner and outer worlds of the man Luther. The book is a complete triumph.

Joel F. Harrington, author of The Faithful Executioner

Magnificent and surely definitive – a work of immense scholarship, acute psychological insight and gloriously fluent prose. Lyndal Roper has got under the skin of her subject and the result is thrilling.

Jessie Childs, author of Henry VIII’s Last Victim and God’s Traitors

Roper’s scholarly strengths plus 10 years of careful research have yielded a richly contextualised biography of a man whose influence has been and remains enormous, for good or ill or both.

Brad Gregory, Tablet

This is a helpful and insightful examination of Luther’s attitudes and relationships… Highly recommended.

Martin Wellings, Methodist Recorder

Roper portrays a deeply flawed but fascinating human being to rival any of the major personalities of Tudor England.

Caroline Sanderson, Bookseller

I heartily commend Martin Luther… It is simply the best English-language biography of Luther I’ve read and I’d be amazed if its combination of rigorous scholarship and approachable tone is bettered.

Francis Philips, Catholic Herald, Book of the Year

[A] superb new biography… A challenging and deeply stimulating study of a major historical figure.

Elaine Fulton, History Today

The work of a brilliant scholar, who had devoted years of research to the project, and it repays careful reading… There are rich treasures in the book, without a bout. Roper has a great gift for narrative… Roper’s exploration of the cultural and social world of the Saxon miners is masterly… Fascinating.

Euan Cameron, Church Times

A probing psychological account.

Very Rev. Professor Iain Torrence, Herald Scotland

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