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

Convenor: Dr Aysu Dincer

Seminar Time: Monday 12-2pm in Room OC1.04 *

*Notes: Week 1's class will meet on Tuesday 11th Jan (H002); Week 2's class will meet on Tuesday 18th Jan (S008); Week 10's class will meet on Tuesday 15th March (OC1.03)

Context of Module
Module Aims
Intended Learning Outcomes
Preliminary Bibliography
Reading ListLink opens in a new window
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 (Aysu Dincer) - please note the date/time change: 11 Jan Tuesday (H002) 3-5pm

Week 2: Sources and Concepts (Beat Kümin)- please note the date/time: 18 Jan Tuesday (S008) 3-5pm

Week 3: Religion and Sociology (Mark Philp)

Week 4: Religion and Imperialism (Guido van Meersbergen) -

Week 5: Religion and Science (Michael Bycroft) -

[Reading Week]

Week 7: Religion and Violence (Penny Roberts) -

Week 8: Gender and Religion (Rosie Doyle)

Week 9: Tolerance and Intolerance (Mark Knights)

Week 10: Conclusions (Aysu Dincer) pleas note that this class will meet on Tuesday 15th March (OC1.03)

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).

Bauer, Stefan (ed.), The Uses of History in Religious Controversies from Erasmus to Baronio (special issue of Renaissance Studies, 2021)

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; (3rd edn, London 2018), 135-46

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: 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

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, Anthony, Feeling 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', French History 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: 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)


One 6000 word assessed essay.

Term: Spring Term
Day: Monday

12-2pm (note exceptions)

Room OC1.04 (note exceptions)