Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Religion in the Early Modern World

Brown University historian Linford Fisher and the students in his "Religion and the Early Modern Atlantic World" course have put together a very helpful annotated bibliography of some of the best scholarship in the field. 

Attention graduate students:  add these books to your reading lists!

Here is a taste of Fisher's description of the project:

In short, on the pages that follow, we have attempted to rethink the received geographical, temporal, and topical boundaries of the early modern period. Using religion as a primary lens of analysis, we have tried to put the following areas and eras into conversation, even when—or perhaps precisely when—such conversation is non-existent in the literature at present:

1) Early modern European religious history (era of Protestant reform and Catholic renewal)
2) Western European expansion – into Asia, the Caribbean, the Americas, and Africa
3) Atlantic world history, particularly the religious history of the Atlantic world
4) The history of religion in America (which often operates narrowly, within the boundaries of the present-day U.S.)

Taking all these various geographies together highlights the incredible motion of people, goods, and ideas in ways that are truly global. If one of the critiques of Atlantic world histories has been that they are artificially limiting in terms of geography (see Peter Coclanis’ “Atlantic World or Atlantic / World?” [2006]), the approach we have taken here is an explicit attempt to partially remedy such geographic limitations. By considering North America and the Atlantic World in tandem with early modern Europe and considering the full expanse of early modern empires, a more accurate, full span of early modern religious activity comes into focus. Jesuit missionaries in China and India; English Protestant ministers in Japan, Goa, and Istanbul; Protestant merchants and ministers circulating through the Ottoman Empire, coming into contact with Jews and Muslims alike; Catholic popular devotional practices being transported to the shores of South America by “unorthodox” laypersons; Puritan colonists founding Boston and Providence Island deep in the Spanish Atlantic empire; Jewish and Moravian merchants moving from continental Europe to North America to Brazil and Caribbean islands; all reveal the interwoven, overlapping, and textured worlds of Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim renewal and expansion into the various corners of the early modern world.