The Reformation period witnessed an explosion in the number of biographies of contemporary religious figures being published. Whether lives of reformers worthy of emulation, or heretics deserving condemnation, the genre of biography became a key element in the confessional rivalries that raged across Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Offering more than a general survey of Life writing, this volume examines key issues and questions about how this trend developed among different confessions and how it helped shape lasting images of reformers, particularly Luther and Calvin up to the modern period. This is the first-ever full length study of the subject showing that Lives of the reformers constitute an integral part of the intellectual and cultural history of the period, serving as an important source of information about the different Reformations. Depending on their origin, they provide a lesson in theology but also in civic values and ideals of education of the period. Genevan Lives in particular also point up the delicate issue of 'Reformed hagiography' which their authors try to avoid with a varying degree of success. Having consistently been at the forefront of the study of the intellectual history of the Reformation Irena Backus is perfectly placed to highlight the importance of Life writing. This is a path-breaking study that will open up a new way of viewing the confessional conflicts of the period and their historiography.
Professor Irena Backus is based at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.
’There is much else to savor in this concise study, enlivened by many touches of straight-faced humor. Backus leads us from the world of Reformation polemic through to the beginnings of modern scientific history in the late seventeenth century, in a book of compelling interest and exemplary scholarship.’ Diarmaid MacCulloch, Biography ’...Backus provides the reader with a very thorough and stimulating entry into the Lives literature of the Reformation, which in turn provides further insight into larger questions of Wirkungsgeschichte in Reformation Europe.’ Erik Hermann, Catholic Historical Review ’Irena Backus displays her expert command of the ideas and texts of Reformation Europe in this important study of biographies of leading reformers.’ Archives ’The first full-length study of Life-writings of the Reformers by Irena Backus is a delightfully original integration of intellectual and cultural Reformation history. Backus’s easy mastery of primary source material once again confirms her established reputation in Reformation research... The book is ... a model for future research that integrates social and intellectual history by deeply discerning the relationships and conflicts between individual historical figures.’ Zwingliana ’This book renders an important service to Reformation scholarship by opening up a new area of research, and is a worthy successor to Backus’s previous studies of history-writing in the sixteenth century. It will be essential reading for historians and historical theologians alike.’ Journal of Theological Studies 'Backus has identified the salient nuances that make the lifewriting genre so variegated. ... We can be grateful for such a careful analysis of this body of writing.' Ralph Keen, Catholic Historical Review 'Like everything that Backus does, this book demonstrates meticulous research. It is full and careful, giving the story behind the persisting interpretations of major Protestant Reformers.' Journal o