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Holy Wars and Sacred States: Religious Conflict, the State, and Sacred Power in Early Modern Europe.

July 4, 2019 - July 6, 2019
Queen's University Belfast

25 University Square
Belfast BT71NN
United Kingdom

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Four hundred years after the outbreak of the Thirty Years War is a good time to re-consider early modern European religious conflict in the round. That religious conflict profoundly shaped European modernity – from the Schmalkaldic War, the Thirty Years War and the Civil Wars in Britain and Ireland, to the Khmelnytsky Uprising, and beyond – is indisputable, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 is just one sign that the confessional age did not end in 1648. Was religious conflict always about hordes of irrational fanatics flinging themselves at each other with no regard for material wellbeing? How did religious militants and religious moderates differ in their approach to conflict? Can secular motivations be separated from sacred ones in what remained a religious culture? How did early modern nations conflate fighting for country with fighting for God, and vice versa? How did millenarian views, confessional orthodoxy, and patriotism interact in periods of conflict among rulers and ruled?  To what extent can the creation of areas of human life free from God be separated from the state’s appropriation of sacred power?

The organisers would like to explore these and similar questions in the context of discussions about early modern warfare, civil and religious conflict, toleration, and the confessional and sacred character of the early modern European state. Our conference will take the temperature of the study of religious conflict across sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth century Europe from the Stuart kingdoms to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. We hope to create dialogue between historians of political, social, religious, and intellectual life, ranging across all of Europe’s confessions. We are also interested in drawing the attention of the Anglophone world to the scholarship of Paolo Prodi (1932-2016), and the variety of the confessionalisation thesis which he advanced. Prodi argued that early modern Europe saw the reversal of the papal revolution of the twelfth century, the re-establishment of territorial churches (whether Anglican, Gallican, or Josephist), and the sacralisation of the European states, which reached its most extreme form in the development of the twentieth century political religions, whether fascist or communist. Irene Fosi (Chieti-Pescara) will lead a special panel on Prodi’s legacy.

Plenary lectures will be delivered by Eric Nelson (Harvard) and Stefania Tutino (UCLA).

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