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The Reformation: Its History and Legacy (December 2017): Home

By Matthew Hill


This essay first appeared in the December 2017 issue of Choice (volume 55 | issue 4).


This year, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the European Reformation. It was triggered innocently enough when the German monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. This was hardly unusual, for church doors often acted as bulletin boards for public discussions. His attack on the selling of indulgences threatened church revenue streams and the theological rationale on which they rested. With the aid of the print medium, Luther’s ideas spread rapidly, in time triggering a chain of events that tore apart the unity of medieval Christendom. Whether the Protestant Reformation created the modern world is debatable, but it was for certain a watershed moment in early modern European history.

The body of literature on the Reformation is enormous. To narrow the material and to focus on works geared toward undergraduates, journal articles, non-English sources (unless solid translations are available), and primary sources (due to the myriad number of collections) have been omitted. Also, due to space limitations, the analysis is limited to the sixteenth century, rather than tracing its Puritan offspring in the seventeenth century. To simplify the bibliography, the essay focuses on the major secondary sources to point students to the best scholarship on the subject. Works in the essay are grouped in twelve categories: General Works, Reformation Theology, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Other Reformers, The English Reformation, The Scottish Reformation, The Reformation in France, The Anabaptists, Women and the Reformation, Art and Printing, and The Legacy of the Reformation. 

Matthew Hill is currently an adjunct professor of history at Columbia International University and an online history instructor at Liberty University.