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Historiography of religion

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Title: Historiography of religion  
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Subject: History of religions, History of religion in the United States
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Historiography of religion

The Historiography of religion is how historians have studied religion in terms of themes, sources and conflicting ideas. Typically historians focus on one particular topic in the overall History of religions, in terms of geographical area or theological tradition.

The field has focused mostly on theology and church organization and development. Recently the study of the social history of religious behavior and belief has become important.[1]


Jacob argues that there has been a dramatic shift in the historiography of the Reformation. Until the 1960s, historians focused their attention largely on the great leaders and theologians of the sixteenth century, especially Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. Their ideas were studied in depth. However, the rise of the new social history in the 1960s look at history from the bottom up, not from the top down. Historians began to concentrate on the values, beliefs and behavior of the people at large. She finds, "in contemporary scholarship, the Reformation is now seen as a vast cultural upheaval, a social and popular movement, textured and rich because of its diversity."[2]

See also


  1. ^ John T. McGreevy, "Faith and Morals in the Modern United States, 1865-Present." Reviews in American History 26.1 (1998): 239-254. online
  2. ^ Margaret C. Jacob, Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and politics in eighteenth-century Europe (Oxford University Press, 1991) p 215

Further reading


  • McLeod, Hugh. "Religion and the City," Urban History Yearbook (1978) p7-22. reviews studies of religion in the cities of Europe and America 1820s-1970s
  • Ranger, T. O. and Isaria Kimambo. The Historical Study of African Religion (U. of California Press, 1972)


  • Bebbington, David W. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (Routledge, 2003)
  • Brown, Callum G. The social history of religion in Scotland since 1730 (Methuen, 1987)
  • Davie, Grace. Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without belonging (Blackwell, 1994)
  • Gajano, Sofia Boesch. "Italian religious historiography in the 1990s," Journal of Modern Italian Studies (1998) 3#3 pp 293-306
  • Hsia, Po-Chia, ed. A Companion to the Reformation World (2006) 29 essays by scholars; emphasis on historiography
  • MacCulloch, Diarmaid; Laven, Mary; Duffy, Eamon. "Recent Trends in the Study of Christianity in Sixteenth-Century Europe," Renaissance Quarterly (2006) 58#3 pp 697-731 in JSTOR
  • Marshall, Peter. "(Re)defining the English Reformation," Journal of British Studies (2009) 48#3 pp. 564–586 in JSTOR
  • Menchi, Silvana Seidel. "The Age of Reformation and Counter-Reformation in Italian Historiography, 1939-2009," Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte (2009) Vol. 100, pp 193–217.
  • Thomas, Keith. Religion and the decline of magic: studies in popular beliefs in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England (1991) highly influential study of popular religious behaviour and beliefs
  • Weber, Eugen. Religion and Superstition in Nineteenth-Century France," Historical Journal (1988) 31#2 pp. 399-423 in JSTOR


  • * Chappel, James. "Beyond Tocqueville: A Plea to Stop 'Taking Religion Seriously,'" Modern Intellectual History (2013) 10#9 pp 697-708.
  • Dolan, Jay P., and James P. Wind, eds. New Dimensions in American Religious History: Essays in Honor of Martin E. Marty (Eerdmans, 1993)
  • Fox, Richard Wightman. "Experience and Explanation in Twentieth-Century American Religious History." New Directions in American Religious History ed. by Harry Stout and D. G. Hart (1997) pp: 394-413.
  • Frey, Sylvia R. "The Visible Church: Historiography of African American Religion since Raboteau," Slavery & Abolition (2008) 29#1 pp 83-110.
  • McGreevy, John T. "Faith and Morals in the Modern United States, 1865-Present." Reviews in American History 26.1 (1998): 239-254. online
  • Schultz, Kevin M.; Harvey, Paul. "Everywhere and Nowhere: Recent Trends in American Religious History and Historiography," Journal of the American Academy of Religion, March 2010, Vol. 78#1 pp 129–162
  • Smith, Timothy L. "Religion and ethnicity in America." American Historical Review (1978): 1155-1185. in JSTOR
  • Stout, Harry S., and D. G. Hart, eds. New Directions in American Religious History (1997) excerpt and text search
  • Sweet, Leonard I., ed. Communication and Change in American Religious History (1993) 14 essays by scholars; very long annotated bibliography pp 355-479
  • Wilson, John F. Religion and the American Nation: Historiography and History (2003) 119pp
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