Freedom and Religion in the Nineteenth Century

Article excerpt

Freedom and Religion in the Nineteenth Century. Edited by Richard Helmstadter. [The Making of Modern Freedom Series.] (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1997. Pp. xiii, 446. $55.00.)

This important volume, part of a series exploring the concept of freedom, is the result of a fall, 1995, conference of scholars at the Center for the History of Freedom at Washington University in St. Louis. The eleven articles contained in this book are "case studies" of religious liberty which challenge the "liberal narrative" by first identifying traditional interpretations and then showing how to reread the historical record. The lengthy introduction rehashes the "master narrative of religious liberty" and then summarizes each of the articles in the book.

The broad and ambitious title indicates the wide-ranging content of the articles, the majority of which deal with Europe (particularly England and France but also Germany). Other articles explore religious liberty in the early United States, in Chile, and in British Protestant missionary activities in India and Africa. Another article dispels the Enlightenment notion that science necessarily supports religious liberty. While most articles focus on Christianity, one article addresses European Judaism, and another includes a discussion of Islam in French Algeria. The articles vary in length from twenty-two pages to forty-seven pages, and one "case study" (France) is divided into two parts for a total of sixtynine pages. All presuppose some historical knowledge and all are well written. Because the broad range of topics raises interesting points of comparison and contrast, a concluding chapter in which the authors might have commented on and dialogued with each others' materials and conclusions would have been a valuable addition. …