Empires of God: Religious Encounters in the Early Modern Atlantic

Empires of God: Religious Encounters in the Early Modern Atlantic

Empires of God: Religious Encounters in the Early Modern Atlantic

Empires of God: Religious Encounters in the Early Modern Atlantic

Synopsis

Religion and empire were inseparable forces in the early modern Atlantic world. Religious passions and conflicts drove much of the expansionist energy of post-Reformation Europe, providing both a rationale and a practical mode of organizing the dispersal and resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people from the Old World to the New World. Exhortations to conquer new peoples were the lingua franca of Western imperialism, and men like the mystically inclined Christopher Columbus were genuinely inspired to risk their lives and their fortunes to bring the gospel to the Americas. And in the thousands of religious refugees seeking asylum from the vicious wars of religion that tore the continent apart in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, these visionary explorers found a ready pool of migrants--English Puritans and Quakers, French Huguenots, German Moravians, Scots-Irish Presbyterians--equally willing to risk life and limb for a chance to worship God in their own way.

Focusing on the formative period of European exploration, settlement, and conquest in the Americas, from roughly 1500 to 1760, Empires of God brings together historians and literary scholars of the English, French, and Spanish Americas around a common set of questions: How did religious communities and beliefs create empires, and how did imperial structures transform New World religions? How did Europeans and Native Americans make sense of each other's spiritual systems, and what acts of linguistic and cultural transition did this entail? What was the role of violence in New World religious encounters? Together, the essays collected here demonstrate the power of religious ideas and narratives to create kingdoms both imagined and real.

Excerpt

Susan Juster and Linda Gregerson

The Bible was the foremost travel guide in modern European history. With its tales of the rise and fall of great empires devoted to rival gods, of religious seekers driven from their homes in search of elusive Promised Lands, of the marvelous and monstrous wonders lying just beyond the borders of the known world, the Old Testament provided a vivid template for the explorations and conquests of the great European Age of Discovery. Packed alongside the exquisite maps and navigational instruments that made overseas travel possible in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Bibles were part and parcel of the Christian explorer’s essential travel kit. And as vernacular Bibles proliferated during the course of the Reformation, the narratives of exploration and conquest expanded to include not only Latin and Hebrew but also English, Dutch, German, French, and—eventually—Natick, Mohawk, and other native American languages.

The intimate connection between religious and political narratives of discovery and resettlement in the early modern Atlantic world is the key insight that organizes this book. Much like the armchair travel writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, we invite readers to explore New World encounters both familiar and strange, with spiritual narratives—many, though not all, derived from the Bible and the attendant devotional literature of western Christendom—fixed firmly in mind. It is no exaggeration to say that religious passions and conflicts drove much of the expansionist energy of post-Reformation Europe: they provided both a rationale and a practical mode of organizing the dispersal and resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people from the Old World to the New. Exhortations to conquer new peoples and lands in the name of God were the lingua franca of western imperialism. Tempting as it is to dismiss these missionary calls to empire as cyn-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.