Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and Work

By Bernhard Lohse; Robert C. Schultz | Go to book overview

1
LUTHER’S WORLD

1.1 Frederick III and Maximilian

Luther lived during the reigns of three German emperors. When Luther was born in 1483, Frederick III was emperor. He ruled for fifty-three years, from 1440 to 1493. This was the longest reign of any German emperor. Frederick III was politically as well as militarily incompetent, unable to meet the demands of his time. He lost control of the empire. Frederick III did, however, succeed in arranging the marriage of his son, Maximilian I (1493–1519), to Mary of Burgundy, heiress to FranchéComt£ (on the border between France and Switzerland) and the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands. This marriage laid the basis for the meteoric rise of the Hapsburgs. Through this marriage, Maximilian not only established an alliance with Burgundy but also gained the enmity of France. The resulting conflicts between the Hapsburgs and France dominated political and ecclesiastical history during the first decades of the sixteenth century.

Maximilian I was politically more effective than his father had been. He began to reform the empire in 1495. Even though his reforms enjoyed wide popular support, however, he was able to complete only part of what he intended. One of Maximilian’s reforms was the introduction of a general tax that was regularly collected throughout the empire. He was, however, still sometimes forced to continue the custom of levying special taxes on the different territories. As a result, he never developed the financial base for gaining firmer control of the whole empire. For example, he could not maintain a central army.

Another reform was introduced in 1495, when Maximilian was able to establish a supreme court for the empire. This court set limits to the unrestrained power of the nobility, who operated on the principle that “might makes right.” He thereby strengthened the central administration of the empire.

Maximilian, who has been called “the last of the knights,” was more successful in his support of humanistic stuthes and the literary arts dun in political reform. As a result of his support, Humanism—the then-new

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Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and Work
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - Luther's World 1
  • 2 - Questions Related to Luther's Life 19
  • 3 - Luther's Role in The Complicated Controversies Of His Time 40
  • 4 - Luther's Writings 97
  • 5 - Aspects and Problems of Luther's Theology 139
  • 6 - The History of the Interpretamon of Luther 199
  • 7 - Editions, Scholarly Journals, Aids to the Study of Luther 238
  • Abbreviations 244
  • Notes 246
  • Select Bibliography of Works in English 271
  • Index of Names 276
  • Index of Subjects 279
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