Tag Archives: History of Religion

Fancy, “The Mercenary Mediterranean”

In March, the University of Chicago Press will release “The Mercenary Mediterranean: Sovereignty, Religion, and Violence in The Medieval Crown of Aragon,” by Hussein Fancy (University of Michigan).  The publisher’s description follows:

Sometime in April 1285, five Muslim horsemen crossed from the Islamic kingdom of Granada into the realms of the Christian Crown of Aragon to meet with the 9780226329642king of Aragon, who showered them with gifts, including sumptuous cloth and decorative saddles, for agreeing to enter the Crown’s service.

They were not the first or only Muslim soldiers to do so. Over the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Christian kings of Aragon recruited thousands of foreign Muslim soldiers to serve in their armies and as members of their royal courts. Based on extensive research in Arabic, Latin, and Romance sources, The Mercenary Mediterranean explores this little-known and misunderstood history. Far from marking the triumph of toleration, Hussein Fancy argues, the alliance of Christian kings and Muslim soldiers depended on and reproduced ideas of religious difference. Their shared history represents a unique opportunity to reconsider the relation of medieval religion to politics, and to demonstrate how modern assumptions about this relationship have impeded our understanding of both past and present.

“Religions in the Modern World” (Woodhead et al., eds.)

In January, Routledge released “Religions in the Modern World: Traditions and Transformations, 3rd Edition” edited by Linda Woodhead (Lancaster University, UK), Christopher Partridge (Lancaster University, UK), and Hiroko Kawanami (Lancaster University, UK). The publisher’s description follows:

Religions in the Modern World: Traditions and Transformations, Third Edition is the ideal textbook for those coming to the study of religion for the first time, as well as for those who wish to keep up-to-date with the latest perspectives in the field. This third edition contains new and upgraded pedagogic features, including chapter summaries, key terms and definitions, and questions for reflection and discussion. The first part of the book considers the history and modern practices of the main religious traditions of the world, while the second analyzes trends from secularization to the rise of new spiritualities. Comprehensive and fully international in coverage, it is accessibly written by practicing and specialist teachers.

“Christianity and Freedom: Historical Perspectives” (Shah & Hertzke eds.)

In March, Cambridge University Press will release “Christianity and Freedom: Volume 1. Historical Perspectives” edited by Timothy Samuel Shah (Georgetown University) and Allen D. Hertzke (University of Oklahoma). The publisher’s description follows:

In Volume 1 of Christianity and Freedom, leading historians uncover the unappreciated role of Christianity in the development of basic human rights and freedoms from antiquity through today. These include radical notions of dignity and equality, religious freedom, liberty of conscience, limited government, consent of the governed, economic liberty, autonomous civil society, and church-state separation, as well as more recent advances in democracy, human rights, and human development. Acknowledging that the record is mixed, scholars document how the seeds of freedom in Christianity antedate and ultimately undermine later Christian justifications and practices of persecution. Drawing from history, political science, and sociology, this volume will become a standard reference work for historians, political scientists, theologians, students, journalists, business leaders, opinion shapers, and policy makers.

“Pagans and Christians in Late Antique Rome” (eds. Salzman et al)

In November, the Cambridge University Press released “Pagans and Christians in Late Antique Rome: Conflict, Competition, and Coexistence in the Fourth Century,” edited by Michele Renee Salzman (University of California, Riverside), Marianne Sághy (Central European University), and Rita Lizzi Testa (Università degli Studi di Perugia). The publisher’s description follows: 

This book sheds new light on the religious and consequently social changes taking place in late antique Rome. The essays in this volume argue that the once-51gcE0J9FuL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_dominant notion of pagan-Christian religious conflict cannot fully explain the texts and artifacts, as well as the social, religious, and political realities of late antique Rome. Together, the essays demonstrate that the fourth-century city was a more fluid, vibrant, and complex place than was previously thought. Competition between diverse groups in Roman society – be it pagans with Christians, Christians with Christians, or pagans with pagans – did create tensions and hostility, but it also allowed for coexistence and reduced the likelihood of overt violent, physical conflict. Competition and coexistence, along with conflict, emerge as still central paradigms for those who seek to understand the transformations of Rome from the age of Constantine through the early fifth century.

  • The most up-to-date analysis of the texts and archaeological evidence from late antique Rome
  • Written by an international team of scholars with diverse backgrounds and approaches
  • Illuminates new approaches to ancient history by addressing the nature of religious change in the largest city in the Mediterranean world – Rome

O hAnnrachain, “Catholic Europe, 1592-1648”

In December, Oxford University Press released “Catholic Europe, 1592-1648” by Tadhg O hAnnrachain (University College Dublin). The publisher’s description follows:

Catholic Europe, 1592-1648 examines the processes of Catholic renewal from a unique perspective; rather than concentrating on the much studied heartlands of Catholic Europe, it focuses primarily on a series of societies on the European periphery and examines how Catholicism adapted to very different conditions in areas such as Ireland, Britain, the Netherlands, East-Central Europe, and the Balkans. In certain of these societies, such as Austria and Bohemia, the Catholic Reformation advanced alongside very rigorous processes of state coercion. In other Habsburg territories, most notably Royal Hungary, and in Poland, Catholic monarchs were forced to deploy less confrontational methods, which nevertheless enjoyed significant measures of success. On the Western fringe of the continent, Catholic renewal recorded its greatest advances in Ireland but even in the Netherlands it maintained a significant body of adherents, despite considerable state hostility. In the Balkans, O hAnnrachain examines the manner in which the papacy invested substantially more resources and diplomatic efforts in pursuing military strategies against the Ottoman Empire than in supporting missionary and educational activity.

The chronological focus of the book is also unusual because on the peripheries of Europe the timing of Catholic reform occurred differently. Catholic Europe, 1592-1648 begins with the pontificate of Clement VIII and, rather than treating religious renewal in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as essentially a continuation of established patterns of reform, it argues for the need to understand the contingency of this process and its constant adaptation to contemporary events and preoccupations.

Edwards, “Religions of the Constantinian Empire”

This month, Oxford University Press releases “Religions of the Constantinian Empire,” by Mark Edwards (University of Oxford).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religions of the Constantinian Empire provides a synoptic review of Constantine’s relation to all the cultic and theological traditions of the Empire during the period9780199687725 from his seizure of power in the west in 306 CE to the end of his reign as autocrat of both east and west in 337 CE. Divided into three parts, the first considers the efforts of Christians to construct their own philosophy, and their own patterns of the philosophic life, in opposition to Platonism. The second assembles evidence of survival, variation or decay in religious practices which were never compulsory under Roman law. The “religious plurality” of the second section includes those cults which are represented as demonic burlesques of the sacraments by Firmicus Maternus. The third reviews the changes, both within the church and in the public sphere, which were undeniably prompted by the accession of a Christian monarch. In this section on “Christian polyphony,” Mark Edwards expertly moves on from this deliberate petrifaction of Judaism to the profound shift in relations between the church and the civic cult that followed the Emperor’s choice of a new divine protector.

The material in the first section will be most familiar to the historian of philosophy, that of the second to the historian of religion, and that of the third to the theologian. All three sections make reference to such factors as the persecution under Diocletian, the so-called “edict of Milan,”the subsequent legislation of Constantine, and the summoning of the council of Nicaea. Edwards does not maintain, however, that the religious and philosophical innovations of this period were mere by-products of political revolution; indeed, he often highlights that Christianity was more revolutionary in its expectations than any sovereign could afford to be in his acts.This authoritative study provides a comprehensive reference work for those studying the ecclesiastical and theological developments and controversies of the fourth century.

Akhtar, “The Khōjā of Tanzania: Discontinuities of a Postcolonial Religious Identity”

In December, Brill Publishing released “The Khōjā of Tanzania: Discontinuities of a Postcolonial Religious Identity” by Iqbal Akhtar (Florida International University). The publisher’s description follows:

The Khōjā of Tanzania, Discontinuities of a Postcolonial Religious Identity attempts to reconstruct the development of Khōjā religious identity from their arrival to the Swahili coast in the late 18th century until the turn of the 21st century. This multidisciplinary study incorporates Gujarati, Kacchī, Swahili, and Arabic sources to examine the formation of an Afro-Asian Islamic identity (jamatī) from their initial Indic caste identity (jñāti) towards an emergent Near Eastern imaged Islamic nation (ummatī) through four disciplinary approaches: historiography, politics, linguistics, and ethnology. Over the past two centuries, rapid transitions and discontinuities have produced the profound tensions which have resulted from the willful amnesia of their pre-Islamic Indic civilizational past for an ideological and politicized ‘Islamic’ present. This study aims to document, theorize, and engage this theological transformation of modern Khōjā religious identities as expressed through dimensions of power, language, space, and the body.

Reynolds, “How Marriage Became One of the Sacraments”

In February, Cambridge University Press will release “How Marriage Became One of the Sacraments: The Sacramental Theology of Marriage from its Medieval Origins to the Council of Trent” by Philiip Reynolds (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:

Among the contributions of the medieval church to western culture was the idea that marriage was one of the seven sacraments, which defined the role of married folk in the church. Although it had ancient roots, this new way of regarding marriage raised many problems, to which scholastic theologians applied all their ingenuity. By the late Middle Ages, the doctrine was fully established in Christian thought and practice but not yet as dogma. In the sixteenth century, with the entire Catholic teaching on marriage and celibacy and its associated law and jurisdiction under attack by the Protestant reformers, the Council of Trent defined the doctrine as a dogma of faith for the first time but made major changes to it. Rather than focusing on a particular aspect of intellectual and institutional developments, this book examines them in depth and in detail from their ancient precedents to the Council of Trent

“Religion, Politics, and Values in Poland” (eds. Borowik and Ramet)

This month, Springer Press releases “Religion, Politics, and Values in Poland: Community and Change Since 1989” edited by Irena Borowik (Jagiellonian University) and Sabrina P. Ramet (Norwegian University of Science and Technology).  The publisher’s description follows:

1989 brought a tectonic shift in Central and Southeastern Europe as Communism springer-logo-logotype-1024x768imploded and alternative political parties emerged. In Poland, religious institutions looked to take advantage of the new situation, as they were the countervailing force against Communist rule. This dynamic helped shape Polish culture for years and decades to come.

Heilo, “Eastern Rome and the Rise of Islam”

In December, Routledge released “Eastern Rome and the Rise of Islam: History and Prophecy,” by Olof Heilo (Center for Middle Eastern Studies in Lund).  The publisher’s description follows:

The emergence of Islam in the seventh century AD still polarises scholars who seek to separate religious truth from the historical reality with which it is associated. However, history and prophecy are not solely defined by positive evidence or apocalyptic truth, but by human subjects, who consider them to convey distinct messages and in turn make these messages meaningful to others. These messages are mutually interdependent, and analysed together provide new insights into history.

It is by way of this concept that Olof Heilo presents the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire as a key to understanding the rise of Islam; two historical processes often perceived as distinct from one another. Eastern Rome and the Rise of Islam highlights significant convergences between Early Islam and the Late Ancient world. It suggests that Islam’s rise is a feature of a common process during which tensions between imperial ambitions and apocalyptic beliefs in Europe and the Middle East cut straight across today’s theological and political definitions. The conquests of Islam, the emergence of the caliphate, and the transformation of the Roman and Christian world are approached from both prophetic anticipations in the Ancient and Late Ancient world, and from the Medieval and Modern receptions of history. In the shadow of their narratives it becomes possible to trace the outline of a shared history of Christianity and Islam. The “Dark Ages” thus emerge not merely as a tale of sound and fury, but as an era of openness, diversity and unexpected possibilities.

Approaching the rise of Islam as a historical phenomenon, this book opens new perspectives in the study of early religion and philosophy, as well as providing a valuable resource for students and scholars of Islamic Studies.