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Championing an Unknown and Unbeloved Era: A Survey of Heiko A. Oberman’s Life, Work, and Methodology

February 21st, 2023 | 33 min read

By Jeb Ralston

The Late Middle and Reformation historian, Heiko A. Oberman, has left an indelible impact upon Renaissance and Reformation studies even twenty years after his untimely death. In this article, I seek to give an account of Oberman’s life and legacy, the continuities and discontinuities of themes in his scholarly works, and the contours of his evolving methodologies and academic priorities. I have separated these themes in Oberman’s works into three categories: pre-Reformation fourteenth and fifteenth-century philosophy and theology (namely Nominalism and Augustinianism), the Reformation and Luther, and Calvin and the Reformation of the Refugees. In tracing these various themes and methodologies in Oberman’s work, I seek to demonstrate how Oberman helped invigorate studies in the Late Middle Ages and sought to challenge and revise the traditional periodization of church history from 1250-1550.

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