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Science and Religion


This seminar looks at how, and where, scientific knowledge was created in the early modern period, and addresses the much disputed question of whether changes in the understanding of the natural world and the wider universe justify the label ‘revolution’. Using the treatment of Galileo as a case-study, we will also discuss whether ‘science’ and ‘religion’ were in this period locked in a bitter and inevitable conflict, or whether there were often possibilities for them to work together in a relatively harmonious way. Discussions of the Scientific Revolution have traditionally viewed it as an exclusively European phenomenon, but more recent scholarship is changing this emphasis, and we will consider the ways in which the production and transfer of new forms of knowledge took place in a wider global context.



  • How should we understand the relationship between science and religion in early modern Europe?
  • What, if anything, was revolutionary about early modern science?
  • Was the creation of early modern scientific knowledge a purely European phenomenon?



Galileo's letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany, 1615 (Internet Modern History Sourcebook)

Questions about the source: 

  • Why was there some tension between a sun-centred cosmology and the Counter-Reformation Church?
  • How did Galileo hope to ease this tension?
  • Did he succeed?



Stein, Claudia, ‘The Scientific Revolution’, in Beat Kümin (ed.), The European World (4th ed, 2023), pp. 323-33



Henry, John, The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science (Basingstoke, 2002), chaps 1 and 6.

McMullin, Ernan, 'Galileo on Science and Scripture,' in Peter Machamer, The Cambridge Companion to Galileo (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 277-296 for context of Galileo's Letter

James Poskett: Horizons: A Global History of Science (London, 2022), chap. 2.

Susan Scott Parrish, ‘Diasporic African Sources of Enlightenment Knowledge’, in James Delbourgo and Nicholas Dew (eds), Science and Empire in the Atlantic World (London, 2007), pp. 281-310

Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution (Chicago, 1996), introduction

Stephen P. Weldon, ‘Science and Religion’ in Gary B. Ferngren (ed.), Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction (Baltimore, 2002), pp. 3-22



Cohen, H. Floris, The Rise of Modern Science Explained: A Comparative History (Cambridge, 2015)

Harrison, Peter, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge, 1998)

Harrison, Peter (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion (Cambridge, 2010)

Heilbron, John, Galileo (Oxford, 2010), esp. chap. 7

Hunter, Lynette, and Sarah Hutton, Women, Science and Medicine. 1500-1700: Mothers and Sisters of the Royal Society (Stout, 1997)

Lindberg, David C., and Ronald L. Numbers (eds.), God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter Between Christianity and Science (Berkeley, 1986)

Lindermann, Mary, Medicine and Society in Early Modern Europe (2010),

Osler, Margaret J., Rethinking the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge, 2000)

Park, Katharine, and Lorraine Daston (eds.), The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 3 Early Modern Science (Cambridge, 2008)

Schiebinger, Londa L., Secret Cures of Slaves: People, Plants, and Medicine in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World (Stanford, 2017).

Wooton, David, The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution (London, 2015)

Zhang, Quiong, Making the New World Their Own: Chinese Encounters with Jesuit Science in the Age of Discovery (Leiden, 2015)