A new appraisal of theological firebrand Martin Luther, on the 500th anniversary of the religious revolution he triggered - the Protestant Reformation.
The 31st of October 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther pinning his 95 'Theses' - or reform proposals - to the door of his local university church in Wittenberg. Most scholars now agree that the details of this eye-catching gesture are more legend than hammer and nails, but what is certainly true is that on this day (probably in a letter to his local Archbishop in Mainz), the Augustinian Friar and theologian issued an outspokenly blunt challenge to his own Catholic Church to reform itself from within - especially over the sale of 'indulgences' - which ultimately precipitated a huge religious and political upheaval right across Europe and divided mainstream Christianity ever after.
A new, popular biography from journalist Peter Stanford, looking at Martin Luther from within his Catholic context, examining his actual aims for Catholicism as well as his enduring legacy - and where he might fit within the church today.
About the Author
Peter Stanford's previous investigations into the history, theology, enduring appeal and cultural significance of religious ideas include: Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle; The Devil - A Biography; Heaven - A Traveller's Guide to the Undiscovered Country; and The She-Pope, an investigation of the Pope Joan legend. His other books include biographies of Bronwen Astor, Lord Longford and the Poet Laureate, C Day-Lewis, plus the polemical Catholics and Sex that became an award-winning Channel 4 series in 1992.
He is a senior features writer at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles, and contributes to the Independent, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Catholic weekly, the Tablet, where he is a columnist. He has presented programmes on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as BBC Radios 2 and 4 and the BBC World Service.
Stanford - a practising Catholic and the former editor of the Catholic Herald - conveys brilliantly to a secular atheist like me the nature of the internal battle that Luther underwent... what makes this work so valuable is the writer's belief that religion is important and that the relationship of the believer to God requires explanation. I wonder whether an atheist like me would have been half so effective a communicator of Luther's true importance. -- David Aaronovitch * The Times *
Readable, tolerant, intelligent...Stanford humanises the 'little monk' once seen as a man full of flaws, but whose courage in standing almost alone against clerical abuse and corruption changed the course of history. -- Nigel Jones * The Observer *
A thoughtful new biography. * The Sunday Telegraph *
It would be easy to portray all these early Protestants as fanatics...Stanford takes a more generous view. -- Noel Malcolm * The Telegraph *
Peter Stanford's biography skilfully guides readers through the events of Luther's life ... this is a compelling and well-written account. * The Sunday Times *
An honest but sympathetic portrait of a profoundly complicated and at times contradictory individual, seen in the heated context of his times...Stanford has managed a rare thing: an easy, pleasurable read through difficult concepts and hard choices. Yet he also conveys Luther's most admirable qualities, not least the absence of self-satisfaction and the presence of what the author calls 'sheer, selfless courage'. In his quest to declaim his truth, Martin Luther's constant resting place was discomfort: a lesson in conscience for his times, and for ours. -- Jenny McCartney * The Mail on Sunday *
Stanford - himself a Catholic - has developed a reputation as a first-class biographer... [he] skilfully traces the course of the Reformation [and] has also gone to great lengths to make Luther's theology accessible. The core part of that theology, he argues rather convincingly, is as relevant today as ever... If you think this is a religious book for religious people, you'd be wrong. -- Michael Kelly * The Irish Independent *
Peter Stanford deserves to have his route to heaven eased not by indulgences, but by virtue of the fact that he is so tremendously entertaining. -- Catherine Nixey * The Times *
This biography is accessible and lively, while always taking the theological points Luther hammered home with the utmost seriousness. [Stanford] is excellent at locating Luther in the European politics of the early 16th century. -- Denis MacShane * Tribune *
Peter Stanford has a gift for taking theological complexity and running with it. An excellent story-teller with a grasp of the oddities of human judgement. -- Piers Plowright * Camden New Journal *
A beautifully judged mixture of the personal, the political and the historical, that renders Luther human and admirably accessible. Stanford exhibits exactly the evenhandedness that Luther himself lacked. * Michael Arditti *
Cleverly structured and beautifully written, sparkling with insight and generosity. -- Roger Bolton * Radio 4 *
A terrific read. -- Richard Holloway * BBC Scotland *
Peter Stanford makes the life of Luther into a thrilling narrative, told from a modern Catholic perspective. * Lady Antonia Fraser *
Peter Stanford has written a compelling biography of one of the greatest men of the modern age. He is particularly brilliant on the tensions inside Luther's private and spiritual life. This is a very fine biography written with a flourish. * Melvyn Bragg *
There is a great freshness and clarity here. By entering this complex history through personality as well as dogma, I found myself learning a great deal without ever feeling 'taught'. * Sarah Dunant *
Peter Stanford's excellent new biography of Martin Luther, though it tells a familiar story, brings a fresh interpretation. * Reform Magazine *
The narrative is vivid and energetic, enlivened by journalistic turns of phrase and flashes of empathy and imagination... not only engaging and informative, but also eminently readable. * The Methodist Recorder *
Stanford works hard to capture the inner Luther and his account of the first stirrings of what would come to be known as Protestantism is also impressive. * Jonathan Wright - The Catholic Herald *
A brilliant new biography of the theological firebrand Martin Luther...I was gripped by Stanford's description of the profound physical, mental and spiritual torment that Luther endured in his wrestlings with his own faith. * Rachel Kelly - The Catholic Herald *
Compelling and highly readable. * The Irish Catholic *
Accessible and lively while always taking the theological points Luther hammered home with the utmost seriousness. * Tribune Magazine *
Stanford is an excellent writer able to explain theology and present it as exciting and vibrant. * Irish Examiner *
A compelling biography... Stanford has a lively, engaging style that draws readers into his subject. * Church Times *
This comprehensive biography... is a compelling and informative read. * The Reader *
Series: Millennium Series
Number Of Pages: 448
Published: 16th March 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 16.2
Weight (kg): 0.72
Edition Number: 1
Edition Type: Illustrated