Professor Lyndal Roper

Featured Publication

Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet, Bodley Head 2016 (Der Mensch Martin Luther, Fischer 2016)

Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet, Book Cover

The first historical biography in English, for many decades, of Martin Luther (1483–1546), whose rebellion against the authority of the Church helped to create the modern world.

Luther’s ideas spread like wildfire. His attack on the Church soon convulsed Germany, divided Europe and polarised people’s beliefs. They triggered decades of religious persecution, social unrest and war. And in the long run, his ideas paradoxically helped break the grip of religion in every sphere of life.

But the man who started the Reformation was deeply flawed. He was a religious fundamentalist, a Jew-hater and a political reactionary. He was a fervent believer who was tormented by doubt, a brilliant writer who shaped the German language and a vicious and foul-mouthed polemicist. He was a married ex-monk who liberated human sexuality from the stigma of sin, but also a man who insisted that women should know their place. For him the Devil was not just a figure of speech but a very real and physical presence. 

In this first biography by a social and cultural historian, Lyndal Roper gives us a flesh-and-blood figure, warts and all. She reveals the often contradictory psychological forces that drove Luther forward – insecurity and self-righteousness, anger and humility – and the dynamics they unleashed which turned a small act of protest into a battle against the power of the Church.

  • Luther and the Reformation
  • Gender History
  • Sixteenth century German Art and material culture

My first book, The Holy Household (1989), examined how the Reformation transformed gender relations in one town, Augsburg. My next book, Oedipus and the Devil (1994), (Ödipus und der Teufel, Campus, 1995) explored several themes in early modern German culture, including sexuality, discipline, and masculinity. In Witch Craze (2004), (Hexenwahn, Beck, 2005) I examined trials of women accused of witchcraft. The book argued that the witch craze sprang from a collective fantasy. Older, infertile women were accused of harming infants and destroying fertility in the natural and human world. The Witch in the Western Imagination (Virginia UP 2012) discusses images of witches: beautiful, disturbing, and hard to relate to the trials. My latest book is a biography of Martin Luther - Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet. I am currently  finishing Luther’s World, Body and Soul (Princeton 2018) on social and cultural themes connected with Luther.

Together with Mette Ahleveldt-Laurvig I convene a Workshop where many postgraduates working on early modern topics loosely related to German history meet to discuss our work.  Current members include;- Martin Christ, who is writing his doctorate on Upper Lusatia and the Reformation,  Mette Ahlefeldt-Laurvig writing her doctorate on Childbirth Rituals in early modern Denmark, Edmund Wareham, who has finished a doctorate on the nuns of the convent of Günterstal, Natalie Cobo who works on Spanish chronicles of the New World, Ryan Asquez working on images of the Suffering Christ between 1450 and 1550, Laura Roberts, who works on English women’s religious networks in the sixteenth century, Ryan Crimmins, religion and soldiers in the Thirty Years’ War, Cecilia Tarruell, Newton International Fellow, who is working on migration in the Hispanic World and Ottoman Empire. Ongoing and past members include Hannah Murphy, now at KCL, who works on medicine in sixteenth century Nuremberg, Clare Copeland  whose most recent book is on the Florentine saint Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, Chris Kissane (Institute of Historical Research London) who is finishing a book on Food and its meaning, including a study of sausages in Zurich, Carla Roth, Historisches Seminar Basel, who is  writing a book on Johannes Rütiner, John Jordan, University of Bern,  writing on legal cultures in early modern Freiberg, and Adrianna Catena, University of Warwick, who is finishing a book on indigo.

  • Luther and Women

  • Luther's World, Body and Soul

  • Karlstadt's Wagen: The First Visual Propaganda for the Reformation

  • Martin Luther Renegade and Prophet

  • Luther Relics

  • Martin Luther

  • Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Religion and Sexuality in Early Modern Europe

  • The Witch in Western Imagination

  • The Seven-headed Monster: Luther and Psychoanalysis

  • Martin Luther's Body: The 'Stout Doctor' and his biographers

  • More

Masters Students

  • Laura Roberts, Female Religious Networks in early modern England (M Phil)

I would like to hear from potential DPhil students regarding early modern European history.

I currently teach:

Undergraduate FHS

Master's Courses
Special Subject: Martin Luther Theory and Method
  Option: History of the Self