Protestants: The Birth of a Revolution

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9780006862581: Protestants: The Birth of a Revolution

This book attempts to change the way we think about the Protestant Reformation and about Martin Luther's revolution. In their own words, ordinary Germans tell how they received the fiery Reformer's message, how it accorded with their view of God, flesh, the Devil, Rome and the world and how, if at all, it made them change their behaviour and their beliefs.

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'Protestants' tells the story of the birth of Protestantism in sixteenth-century Germany – the revolutionary event to which all modern Protestant communities ultimately trace their origins. But Steven Ozment takes that oft-told history and strips it of the crust of myth and ideology which has been grafted onto it to lay bare the tale of a people both bewildered and inspired by the inflammatory ideas loosed upon the world by Martin Luther.

Ozment ushers onto stage the real men and women of the sixteenth century whose beliefs were at stake: they appear before us cursing and sermonizing, parenting and labouring, sinning and repenting. He shows us a clergy and a people tussling with the Devil, increasingly fearful that their Church has become an affliction and a tyranny. Rules are broken on principle and new values are asserted – social reform, individual conviction, hard work and the rejection of empty ritual. Zwingli preaches at Zurich, and ex-goatherd Thomas Platter is 'yanked up by my hair' out of the priesthood, marries a maid and appalls his pious family. A revolution takes root in popular, principled, conscientious defiance, a revolution illuminated in this book in an unmatched tapestry of difficult lives, fantastic fears, theological disputes, extraordinary revelations and everyday crises.

"Steven Ozment is the leader of those Reformation historians who have lifted the religious history of the sixteenth century out of the closed and sealed realm of disputation among competing, hairsplitting theologians and set it down in the hurly-burly of city streets, brought it to the fireside of family life, and followed its influences into the hearts of lay people young and old, princes, nobles, and common folk. Here is the reformation as it depended on Everyman – and Everywoman – defining popular opinion and in turn defined by it. Ozment has given us a scholarly book, gracefully written… To read him is to believe that history is a living art."
RICHARD MARIUS, Harvard University, author of 'Thomas More'

"For a solid historical introduction to the Reformation as a social and theological movement, Ozment's highly readable account is superb."
JAROSLAV PELIKAN, Yale University

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Steven Ozment
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