Religion and Culture in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800

Religion and Culture in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800

Religion and Culture in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800

Religion and Culture in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800

Synopsis

In the pre-industrial societies of early modern Europe, religion was a vessel of fundamental importance in making sense of personal and collective social, cultural and spiritual exercises. Developments from this era had immediate impact on these societies, much of which resonates to the present day. Published in German seven years ago, Kaspar von Greyerz important overview and interpretation of the religions and cultures of Early Modern Europe now appears in the English language for thefirst time. He approaches his subject matter with the concerns of a social anthropologist, rejecting the conventional dichotomy between popular and elite religion to focus instead on religion in its everyday cultural contexts. Concentrating primarily on Central and Western Europe, von Greyerz analyzes the dynamic strengths of early modern religion in three parts. First, he identifies the changes in religious life resulting from the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation.He then reveals how the dynamic religious climate triggered various radical and separatist movements, such as the Anabaptists, puritans, and Quakers, and how the newfound emphasis on collective religious identity contributed to the marginalization of non-Christians and outsiders. Last, von Greyerz investigates the broad and still much divided field of research on secularization during the period covered. While many large-scale historical approaches to early modern religion have concentrated on institutional aspects, this important study consciously neglects these elements to provide new and fascinating insights. The resulting work delves into the many distinguishing marks of the period: religious reform and renewal, the hotly debated issue of "confessionalism", social inclusion and exclusion, and the increasing fragmentation of early modern religiosity in the context of the Enlightenment. In a final chapter, von Greyerz addresses the question as to whether early modern religion carried in itself the seeds of its own relativization.

Excerpt

When I wrote the foreword to the original German edition of this book in March 2000, I took the secularized social and cultural climate in which Europeans live today as a reason for reminding the reader of the special effort he or she had to make in order to grasp the central role of religion in the cultures and societies of early modern Europe. There is no need to repeat this caveat in a preface to the American edition of Religion and Culture in Early Modern Europe. To this day, North American society has not undergone the same thorough process of secularization. What will appear naturally more removed to American readers, however, is the specifically European context of what follows.

The attempt to familiarize a largely secularized public with the dynamics of religion in early modern Europe was not, in fact, the main reason for writing this book. Above all, the purpose—and challenge— was to cover more than three hundred years of European history and religion while doing justice to the aspects of durability and change, as well as to theoretical questions posed by the history of premodern religion. I have tried to come to terms with this challenge by attributing prominence to religion as a social and cultural force. This resulted in a conscious neglect of institutional aspects and their corollaries, which are usually covered by surveys concentrating on salient aspects of the history of early modern Europe. in this book, I do not look at early modern poor relief or at Baroque ecclesiastical architecture, to name only two examples. Likewise, I have not tried to . . .

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