Christianity under the Ancien Régime, 1648-1789

Christianity under the Ancien Régime, 1648-1789

Christianity under the Ancien Régime, 1648-1789

Christianity under the Ancien Régime, 1648-1789

Synopsis

This book offers a brief, but comprehensive, account of religious belief and experience in Europe between the Westphalia settlements in 1648 and the French Revolution. The book is organized around large European regions such as Central and Northwestern Europe (including Britain), Southern Europe and North and Eastern Europe. Within each chapter Professor Ward discusses the churches in their political, social and intellectual context. With its maps, glossary and guide to further reading, this promises to be a major aid to students of Christianity under the ancien r¿gime.

Excerpt

To outline the religious history even of Christianity alone among religions in Europe in the century and a half beween the Westphalia settlements and the French Revolution in a volume of modest compass, and to provide at the same time the basic introductions to the politics and the religious technicalities of the period which modern students need, involve a great exercise in leaving important things out and carry the risk of a somewhat importunate virtuosity in general judgments; the reader is entitled to know what the author thinks, though (within the limits of space) not always to the grounds on which opinions are based. It is well therefore to come clean at the outset as to strategy adopted. a history of Christianity in this period ought in my view to be primarily a history of religious belief and experience, and, while not neglecting the history of the churches, has less to do with a history of the churches than those bodies commonly claim. Thus a major institution like the papacy appears here as an engine of policy rather than as an institution; and the same is true of the principal feature of its institutional growth, Propaganda Fide. Religious belief and experience are, however, deeply affected by the churches' political involvement. It would be nice to feature an Alltagsgeschichte of popular religious observance and its significance, but for huge areas of Europe nothing of this kind is available; and where a good deal of work has been done its value has been diminished by the rashness of historians in adopting a rather amateur anthropology for the occasion. Nevertheless where the evidence permits mentalités make their appearance. At the other end of the social scale eighteenth-century writers raised many important questions about the grounds of Christian belief, and some of these are approached in the longest chapter of the book. It would here be an advantage to have found more space for the history of biblical studies but this has not proved possible. Overseas missions, already altering the European churches, perforce appear only by implication or by side-winds. Nor has it been possible in this study to remedy the great neglect by historians of doctrine of eighteenth-century theology except as slanted towards questions thrown up by the Enlightenment.

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