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Themes & Approaches in the Historical Study of Religious Cultures (HI993)


Peter Marshall

Seminar Time: Mondays, 10.00-12.00, Room H422/4

*Note: Week 7 seminar (Religion and Violence) will take place Monday 13:00-15:00 in Room H2.45.

Context of Module
Module Aims
Intended Learning Outcomes
Preliminary Bibliography
Context of Module

This team-taught 1-term option complements other modules by focusing on the meanings and significance of 'religion' in a variety of historical settings. Rather than following a chronological structure or dealing with individual denominations, it examines religious issues through (a) the perspectives of different academic disciplines and (b) coverage of key themes. Students will be able to engage with the multiplicity of approaches pursued in the field more generally and by members of the History department in particular.

Module Aims

This postgraduate option aims to:

- widen and deepen students’ understanding of themes in the study of religious cultures across space and time;
- help students develop a conceptual and practical understanding of the skills required by historians and scholars from neighbouring disciplines;
- foster students' ability to undertake critical analysis and formulate hypotheses;
- enable students to produce a piece of critical and reflective historiographical writing.

Intended Learning Outcomes

After completion of this option, students should be in a position to:

- understand the pervasive significance of religion in past societies;
- place European developments into a wider global perspective;
- recognize key approaches and interpretations which different disciplines can bring to the study of religion;
- demonstrate a conceptual and practical understanding of the skills required by Humanities scholars;
- formulate and test hypotheses in a piece of critical and reflective writing.


Week 1: Introduction to the Study of Global Religions

Week 2: Religion and Sociology

Week 3: Sources and Concepts

Week 4: Gender and Religion 

Week 5: Religion and Science

[Reading Week]

Week 7: Religion and Violence

Week 8: Tolerance and Intolerance

Week 9: Religion and Imperialism

Week 10: Conclusions

Illustrative Bibliography

Week 1: Introduction to the Study of Global Religions

Alkhateeb, Firas, Lost Islamic History (London, 2014).

Armstrong, Karen, The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (London, 2004).

MacCulloch, Diarmaid, A History of Christianity (London, 2009).

Nirenberg, David, Neighboring Faiths, Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today (Chicago, 2014).

Week 2: Religion and Sociology

P. Berger, The Social Reality of Religion (1969).

J. Bossy, Christianity in the West (1985)

P. Collinson, ‘Religion, Society and the Historian’, Journal of Religious History 23 (1999), 149-67

E. Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life: A Study in Religious Sociology (2nd edn, 1976)

K. Marx and F. Engels, On Religion (1974)

M. Weber, ‘Protestant Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism’, in W.G. Runciman (ed.), Weber: Selections in Translation (1978), 138-73.

Week 3: Sources & Concepts for Pre-Modern Religion

T. Johnson, ‘Religion’, in: G. Walker (ed.), Writing Early Modern History (London, 2005), 139-58

P. Marshall, ‘Religious Cultures’, in: B. Kümin (ed.), The European World 1500-1800 (2nd edn, London, 2014), 134-45

L. Sangha & J. Willis (eds), Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources (London, 2016)

H. Schilling, ‘Confessionalization’, in his: Religion, Political Culture and the Emergence of Early Modern Society (1992)

Week 4: Gender and Religion

S. Apetrei, Women, Feminism and Religion in Early Enlightenment England (2010)

S. Morgan, Women, Religion and Feminism in Britain 1750-1900 (2002)

Week 5: Religion and Science

K. Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971)

A. Thomson, The Body of Thought: Science, Religion and the Soul in the Early Enlightenment (2008)

Week 7: Religion and Violence

Bale, AnthonyFeeling Persecuted: Christians, Jews and Images of Violence in the Middle Ages (London, 2010)

Broomhall, Susan, 'Reasons and identities to remember: composing personal accounts of religious violence in sixteenth-century France', 27/1 (2013), 1-20.

Diefendorf, Barbara, Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth Century Paris (Oxford, 1991)

Feldman, Allen, Formations of Violence: the Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland (Chicago, 1991)

Week 8: Tolerance and Intolerance

O.P. Grell & R. W. Scribner (eds), Tolerance and Intolerance in the European Reformation (2002)

B. Kaplan, Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (2007)

Week 9: Religion and Imperialism

Anderson, Gerald. Biographical Dictionary of the Christian Missions (Grand Rapids, 1998).

Bays, Daniel, ed. Christianity in China, from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (Stanford, 1996).

Porter, Andrew, 'Commerce and Christianity': The Rise and Fall of a Nineteenth-Century Missionary Slogan', The Historical Journal, 28, 3 (1985), 597-621


One 6000 word assessed essay, to be submitted by Wednesday 22 April 2019.

Tutors: Peter Marshall,
Term: Spring Term
Day: Monday


(week 7 ONLY 13:00-15:00)

Room H4.22/4