The Myth About Luther's Posting of his Theses – How History Scholars Deal With a Momentous Invention


Professor Christine Roll, RWTH Aachen

Friday, October 27, 2017, RWTH Guesthouse

On the topic

October 31 is the pinnacle of the Luther decade: Reformation Day will, in 2017, be a one-time-only nationwide holiday. The anniversary organizers' phantastic goals, however, could not be realized – not even in Wittenberg one could speak of a “Summer's Tale.”

From a historical science point of view it is all the more useful to look at centuries past as to how any anniversaries related to Luther and the Reformation were celebrated and to uncover the various Luther transformations – Luther as a national hero, as an exemplary citizen, as an anti-Semite and last but not least: as every good democrat's role model.

In the course of the lecture, insight will also be given into the methodological work of historians: How do we go about finding out what actually happened on October 31, 1517? Where did our knowledge come from regarding the alleged posting of the theses? And why does the image of Luther as hammer-swinging reformer remain so popular?

  Portrait of Professor Christine Roll Copyright: © RWTH Department of History

Christine Roll

Professor Christine Roll completed her studies in history and Russian at the city of Constance in 1986. From 1986 to 1992 she worked as an academic staff member on the research project concerned with tapping the political correspondence of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the University of Konstanz. She earned her doctoral degree there in 1991 and later won the Constance county award for the Promotion of Junior Researchers for her dissertation.

From 1992 to 1997 she worked as research assistant at the Chair of Modern History at the University of Konstanz. From 1997 to 2000 she received a scholarship from the German Research Foundation to qualify as a professor. She was conferred her habilitation qualification by the University of Konstanz in 2003.

Since 2005 she has been employed at RWTH Aachen University as tenured professor at the Department of Early Modern History while also being the superintendent of the University Archives. She is furthermore a member of the Academic Advisory Board to the German Historical Institute in Moscow and since 2014 she is Dean at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at RWTH Aachen.

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