Martin Luther – Fundamentalist Reactionary or Enlightened Creator of the Modern World?

Hosted by BBC Radio 3 "Free Thinking" and LSE Literary Festival

Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building,


Diarmaid MacCulloch

Diarmaid MacCulloch

Ulinka Rublack

Ulinka Rublack

Peter Stanford

Peter Stanford


Anne McElvoy

Anne McElvoy

500 years ago Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation when he nailed a sheet of paper to the door of a church in a small university town in Germany. That sheet and the incendiary ideas it contained flared up into religious persecution and war, eventually burning a huge hole through 16th century Christendom. And yet the man who sparked this revolution has somehow been lost in the glare of events. Who was Luther? What made him a brilliant writer as well as a foul mouthed polemicist? And what drove him to challenge the authority of the Church?

In an event hosted by BBC Radio Three’s arts and ideas programme, Free Thinking (@BBCFreeThinking) , Anne McElvoy explores the man and his passionate theology with Peter Stanford, the author of a new Luther biography, Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident and the historians, Ulinka Rublack, author of Reformation Europe and Diarmaid MacCulloch, whose most recent book is All Things Made New – Writings on the Reformation.

Diarmaid MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University. His Thomas Cranmer (1996) won the Whitbread Biography Prize, the James Tait Black Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize; Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490-1700 (2004) won the Wolfson Prize and the British Academy Prize. A History of Christianity (2010), which was adapted into a six-part BBC television series, was awarded the Cundill and Hessel-Tiltman Prizes. His Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh were published in 2013 as Silence: A Christian History. His most recent television series, Sex and the Church, broadcast in 2015. He was knighted in 2012.

Ulinka Rublack is Professor of Early Modern European history at Cambridge University and a Fellow of St John's College. Her recent book The Astronomer & the Witch: Johannes Kepler's Fight for His Mother was an Observer book of the year and has inspired an opera. Her other books include Reformation Europe. She is editor, most recently, of the Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations and of Penguin's first graphic classic, Hans Holbein, The Dance of Death.

Peter Stanford is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. His previous investigations into the history, theology and cultural significance of religious ideas include The Devil – A BiographyHeaven – A Traveller’s Guide to the Undiscovered CountryThe She-Pope and Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle. A former editor of the Catholic Herald, he writes for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles, as well as The Observer and The Tablet. His biography of Lord Longford was made into the BAFTA- and Golden Globe-winning film, Longford, and he has presented TV versions of his other books, including Channel 4’s Catholics and Sex. He is director of the Longford Trust for prison reform

Anne McElvoy (@annemcelvoy) is Senior Editor at The Economist,  a presenter of BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking  and BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze,  and a London Evening Standard columnist.

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This event forms part of the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 2017, taking place from Monday 20 - Saturday 25 February 2017, with the theme "Revolutions".


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