Did Luther really change the world? What was reformation? How are the effects felt today?
Kicking off in October, researchers at the University of Sheffield are putting ourselves on the menu for public consumption. In part a response to the question, “What did Martin Luther ever do for Sheffield?” (asked in the run-up to my 2 minutes on BBC Radio Sheffield this Spring), 500 Reformations volunteers are talking about different aspects of Luther and reformation impact.
Reformation: noun or verb?
One of the puzzles about exchanging knowledge in public space is how we bridge gaps between specialist research and public interest. As the 500th anniversary of Luther’s theses rapidly approaches, it is tempting to speak about “the Reformation”. But many researchers now resist thinking of one event, or even one single process. Luther may be a focal part of the story we tell about how things changed, but changes occurred in many different directions and over long periods of time.
We have moved away from a simple progress narrative. We have begun to examine conflicting evidence and tell local stories. We have abandoned the idea of an isolated and distinct English Reformation, to better appreciate our links with mainland Europe.
500 Reformations is a way of highlighting our desire to tell different stories about change.
The local university
Speaking personally, 500 Reformations is also about recognising the University was founded on the civic penny, Sheffield’s university “for the people”.
Researchers in the Arts and Humanities are typically willing to answer speaking invitations. A glut of commitments, or a spell of research leave, can make scheduling difficult. And it may not be obvious where the relevant expertise lies.
500 Reformations aims to break down barriers: by collectively advertising the topics our researchers know about; by helping with scheduling and publicising events (if hosts want); and by keeping our ears and imaginations open to listen to the kinds of invitation you would like to make.
Whether you’re a University of Sheffield-based researcher with relevant expertise, or a South Yorkshire resident who’d like to hear more about 500 Reformations events (including how to host one), more information is now available from the 500Reformations website.