New Bodleian History Books: August 2019 – History of Religion

Most followers of one of the larger world religions are, or certainly should be, concerned with history to some degree, since the great world religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism are all very much “historical” religions, inescapably tied to the historical events of the life, works, and teachings of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets, Jesus Christ, the Prophet Mohammad, and Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha.

But even atheists and the non-religious have ample cause to be interested in religions and their history, since religions have of course for millennia influenced the social, economic, cultural and political shape of the societies we live in today. They have stamped their marks on numerous and occasionally quite important aspects of everyday life, from a country’s national holidays and working week to the ethics and morals underlying its laws, or the shape of its towns and cities with their churches, mosques, and temples. Our personal and social lives are similarly permeated and moulded by religious teachings, from the form our relationships, marriages, and families take through to our personal attitudes towards and behaviour with regard to issues such as the environment, human rights, fair trade, or charity.

Religious history is thus very much not distinct from secular, social, political, economic, or intellectual history, but touches on all of these areas. And if that was not a wide enough field yet, in addition the subject matter of “history of religion” encompasses numerous facets from ecclesiastical and church history to the history of theology, the social history of religion, religious literature, the relationship of religion and politics, or the comparative history of religion. It is understandable, then, that the new books on the topic of the history of religion arrived at the Bodleian this month, which I would like to highlight in this month’s blog, touch only on a very small portion of what the subject has to offer.


Rulers and Religions

The connection between rulers and religions is firmly tied in with the idea of the established church or state religion, whether this takes the form of mere government-sanctioned establishments of a religion, genuine theocracies, or, on the other side of the spectrum, an approved religion actually under the control of the state. The degree to which established national religions are imposed upon citizens by ruler and state has rather decreased over the last few centuries especially in European nations, but examples of very close connections between ruler and religion are numerous in both medieval and early modern Europe.

A look at a ruler’s attitude towards religion as well as the relationship between Christianity and Islam during the age of the crusades is presented in William C. Jordan’s The Apple of his Eye, which discusses the efforts of Louis IX of France (Saint Louis) to convert Muslims to Christianity and repatriate them in France during the 13th century. Since Louis is rather better known for his strict attitude towards and often violent opposition of other religions – for example in his laws and edicts against the Jews, the use of the inquisition against the Cathars, or two crusades against the Muslims – these accounts of the peaceful conversion of Muslims highlight an interesting new facet of the saintly king’s character. The relationship of kingly rulers with members of their own, rather than a different religion, is the topic of Barbara Bombi’s monograph on Anglo-Papal Relations in the Early Fourteenth Century, which discusses the diplomacy between England and the papal curia during the reigns of Edward II and Edward III from 1305 to 1360. Bombi examines the diplomatic relationships in the light of several key events of these years, such as the papacy’s move to France after the election of Pope Clement V in 1305, the outbreak of the Hundred Years’ Wars in 1337, and the conclusion of the first phase of the war with the Treaty of Brétigny-Calais in 1360. A third newly arrived study on rulers and their attitudes towards religion examines royalty in 19th century Germany: Der König und sein Beichtvater offers an edition of the personal correspondence between the Prussian King Frederick William IV and his confessor Carl Wilhelm Saegert, as well as of Saegert’s diaries from the eventful months of the 1848 revolution. One of the king’s primary advisors on matters of national and international politics, Saegert’s low birth barred him from elevation to an official post on the king’s staff, but he remained in secret the king’s chief political advisor and emotional supporter for over seven years after 1848.


Religious Writings

Sacred texts are at the centre of the three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but religions have of course produced a plethora of writings beyond these, from non-scriptural interpretations and commentaries and the literature of religious controversies to hagiographies and martyrologies, religious drama and poetry, prayers, hymns and service books, or church historiography.

Martyrologies as a specific genre of early modern hagiographical writings and their impact on contemporary society is the subject of the conference proceedings collected in Märtyrerbücher und ihre Bedeutung für konfessionelle Identität und Spiritualität in der Frühen Neuzeit. The contributions cover martyrologies in England, France, Germany and the Netherlands, looking at the origins and printing histories of these martyrologies from the mid-16th to the 17th century, and the artwork and imagery that accompanied them, but also at their roles in the reformation history of the various European countries, both as a means of strengthening the identity of religious communities and as instruments of religious prosecution. Writings concerned with religious debate and dispute, and the issue of religion and public politics, are at the heart of Peter Lake’s and Michael Questier’s All Hail to the Archpriest, an edition of the rich pamphlet literature occasioned by the “Archpriest Controversy” or “Appellant Controversy”, the debate which followed Pope Clement VIII’s appointment of an archpriest to oversee Catholic priests in England at the end of the 16th century. The pamphlets shed light on issues such as late Elizabethan puritanism and the function of episcopacy, as well as on the accession of James VI in England and the relationship between Protestants and Catholics in this troubled period. Even more religious controversy related to writing from the early modern period is the subject of Nadine Wendland’s Gibbon, die Kirchengeschichtsschreibung und die Religionsphilosophie der Aufklärung, a study of Gibbon’s 1776 The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, whose first volume with its descriptions of early Roman Christianity and persecution provoked outrage among British theologians. The study focusses on Gibbbon’s bias in portraying historical events and figures, examining his methods in dealing with such topics as Christian miracles and heresy, and his handling and reception of authors such as Voltaire and David Hume.


Religion, Politics and Society

That not only the presence of religion but also its absence or diminishing can have a profound impact on society and politics is shown in the essay collection Säkularisierung und Religion: Europäische Wechselwirkungen. The contributions discuss definitions and theories of secularization with reference to both a historical and a contemporary context, examine historical phases of secularization and their possible causes, the theoretical and practical reactions of different religions to the phenomenon, and its substantial repercussions for both society and politics. The often religiously connoted idea of “reconciliation” with a view to national politics is the subject of a second essay collection newly arrived this month, Versöhnungsprozesse zwischen Religion, Politik und Gesellschaft. The contributions by historians, political scientists, sociologists and theologians look at processes of reconciliation as driven by participants from churches, politics and society, examining factors that influence the process of reconciliation and its successes, obstacles and setbacks. They offer a wide range of case studies on international reconciliation processes from the second half of the 20th century, such as those between Germany and France, Russian and Finland, the countries of the former Yugoslavia, South and North Korea, East Germany, and South Africa. Finally, an even more widespread view of religion and politics than either of these two volumes, both in terms of geography and chronology, is taken by Alan Strahern in his Unearthly Powers: Religious and Political Change in World History. Drawing on examples from Ancient Rome to the Incas and 19th-century Tahiti, and dicussing a number of religious phenomena from sacred kingship to reformation, iconoclasm, and conversion, Strahern’s book tackles such fundamental questions as the importance of religion for rulers in the pre-modern world, the emergence and spread of the great world religions of Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, the nature of both immanent and transcendent religions, and how the interaction of religion with political authority shaped the course of world history.


You can find more books on the subject on our online LibraryThing shelf tagged with religious history or church history.

New ejournal: Brill Research Perspectives in Jesuit Studies, 1, 2019-

Oxford historians will be pleased to know that online access to Brill Research Perspectives in Jesuit Studies (eISSN 2589-7454) is now available via SOLO.

This peer-reviewed journal publishes four fascicles each year on various thematic subjects. It has a global reach and covers early modern and modern history.

Vol.1, Issue 1 (2019): Jesuit Schools and Universities in Europe 1548–1773

Vol. 1, Issue 2 (2019): Gathering Souls: Jesuit Missions and Missionaries in Oceania (1668–1945)

While you are here, you might also be interested in:

  • Index Religiosus: International Bibliography of Theology, Church History and Religious Studies [subscription resource]: Index Religiosus is a reference bibliography for academic publications in Theology, Religious Studies and Church History. It covers publications written in various European languages (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, etc.) and is the result of collaboration between the Catholic University of Louvain and the KU Leuven, which are both recognized internationally for their excellence in the field of Theology and Religious Studies. The new bibliography starts on the basis of two existing bibliographies: the bibliography of the Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique and the Elenchus Bibliographicus from the journal Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses. From January 2014 onwards, the printed version of the bibliography of the Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique and the Elenchus Bibliographicus will be no longer available. These printed bibliographies will be replaced by the Index Religiosus.
  • ATLA with ATLASerials [subscription resource]: ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials is the full text version of the ATLA Religion Database (ATLA). This database is a collection of major religion and theology journals selected by some of the major religion scholars in the United States. Coverage of this database dates back to 1949
  • Digital Library of the Catholic Reformation [subscription resource]: Catholic authors of the 16th and 17th centuries took advantage of print technology to create a vast treasury of published documents–a legacy that to this day has been but selectively sampled and appreciated. The Digital Library of the Catholic Reformation makes the documentary riches of this era more accessible than ever, adding powerful functionalities that maximize the flexibility with which researchers can search, view, organize, and manipulate this historically important source material. With new content uploads occurring on a regular basis, the database offers a constantly growing treasury of documents, including papal and synodal decrees, catechisms and inquisitorial manuals, biblical commentaries, theological treatises and systems, liturgical writings, saints’ lives, and devotional works.
  • Catholic Encyclopedia: The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

New: e-access to British Catholic History, 2010- (formerly Recusant History)

BCH coverI am pleased to report that Oxford users now have electronic access to British Catholic History, volume 30:1, 2010 onwards.

Published on behalf of the Catholic Record Society, it was formerly known as Recusant History 4 (1957) – 31 (2014) and prior to that as Biographical Studies 1 (1951) – 3 (1956).

The journal publishes peer-reviewed research articles and reviews on the history of British and Irish Catholicism at home and throughout the world covering all aspects of British Catholic history from the 15th century up to the present day. It emphasises the multi-faceted, national and international dimensions of British Catholic history.

The journal welcomes contributions on all approaches to the Catholic experience including the intellectual, political, material, cultural, theological, literary, sociological, philosophical, economic, gendered, artistic, musical, educational and polemical.

Access is via SOLO (shortly) and OU eJournals.

New: Journal of Jesuit Studies, 2014- is now available online

I’m delighted to announce that Oxford readers now have online access to the relatively new Journal of Jesuit Studies, 1, 2014- (ISSN: 2214-1324) via Brill Online Journals.

Journal of Jesuit Studies - cover“The Journal of Jesuit Studies (JJS) is a peer-reviewed quarterly journal dedicated to the study of Jesuit history from the 16th to the 21st century. It welcomes articles on all aspects of the Jesuit past and present including, but not limited to, the Jesuit role in the arts and sciences, theology, philosophy, mission, literature, and inter-religious/inter-cultural encounters.

In its themed issues (published twice a year) the JJS highlights studies with a given topical, chronological or geographical focus. In addition there is one open-topic issue per year and an issue featuring the most recent bibliography of Jesuit studies. The journal publishes book reviews as well.

One of the key tasks of the JJS is to relate episodes in Jesuit history, particularly those which have suffered from scholarly neglect, to broader trends in global history over the past five centuries. The journal also aims to bring the highest quality non-Anglophone scholarship to an English-speaking audience by means of translated original articles.

JJS’s Book Reviews Office operates thanks to the generous support of the Centre for Catholic Studies and the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University.”

[from http://www.brill.com/products/journal/journal-jesuit-studies]

To keep up to date with new publications, events and historic dates about the Jesuits, follow the Journal of Jesuit Studies Facebook page.

New: Medieval Sermon Studies, 50 (1) 2006- is now online

I’m pleased to report that Oxford readers now have online access to Medieval Sermon Studies [ISSN 1366-0691] from 50 (1) 2006 onwards.

Medieval Sermon Studies - coverPublished annually by Maney Publishing on behalf of the International Medieval Sermon Studies Society, this refereed journal contains articles on the study of medieval sermons, preaching in Latin and the vernacular languages within their social, literary, religious, intellectual, theological, catechetical, political and historical contexts. It also aims to foster the study of various artes praedicandi, and theories of preaching derived from them, as well as material used by sermon writers (e.g. Florilegia, commentaries, etc.).

This will be of interest to medievalists working in the field of religious culture, history, and literature.

Amongst others, it is indexed in ATLA with ATLASerials and MLA International Bibliography.

Access is via SOLO or OU eJournals.

Other recently received medieval resources