Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Peter Marshall

9.5 myths about the Reformation

Did the The Reformation laid the foundations of the modern world? This year marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation and Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to the doors of Wittenberg Castle Church. But how much of what we think about it is actually true? To coincide with this occasion, Peter Marshall addresses 9.5 common myths about the Reformation.

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1617: commemorating the Reformation [excerpt from 1517]

Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg is one of the most famous events in Western history – but did it actually happen on 31 October 1517? In this shortened excerpt Peter Marshall looks at the commemoration of the Reformation’s centenary in 1617 that further cemented the idea that Martin Luther posted his theses on the 31 October 1517 precisely.

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Wolf Hall: count up the bodies

Historians should be banned from watching movies or TV set in their area of expertise. We usually bore and irritate friends and family with pedantic interjections about minor factual errors and chronological mix-ups. With Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and the sumptuous BBC series based on them, this pleasure is denied us. The series is as ferociously well researched as it is superbly acted and directed. Cranmer probably didn’t have a beard in 1533, but, honestly, that’s about the best I can do.

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A timeline of the Reformation

Whether we like it or not, we are all children of the Reformation. It was a seismic event in history, whose consequences are still working themselves out in Europe and across the world. The protests against the marketing of indulgences staged by the German monk Martin Luther in 1517 belonged to a long-standing pattern of calls for internal reform and renewal in the Christian Church. But they rapidly took a radical and unexpected turn, engulfing first Germany and then Europe as a whole in furious arguments about how God’s will was to be discerned.

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