The religious wars of the sixteenth century, followed by the Thirty Years War, reinforced
religious as well as political divisions in central and western Europe. In the seventeenth
century, every state in Europe, large or small, had an offi cial church, whose clergy
worked with secular authorities to enforce morality and confessional unity. Most of
these were Christian, although in the Ottoman Empire the offi cial state religion was
Sunni Islam. Many people came to feel that these state churches were hollow or overly
formal, however, and instead turned to groups that encouraged more personal forms of
devotion and individual piety. This interiorization of religion occurred among Catholic,
Protestant, and Orthodox Christians, and also among Jews and Muslims, thus ironically
increasing similarities among them at the very time that authorities were trying to draw
clear lines between them.
The eighteenth century is often described as a time of growing secularism in Europe,
when religion became less important in people’s lives. This is true for some
individuals, especially among educated elites in western European cities; a few Enlightenment
philosophers and more ordinary folk even declared they were atheists,
and no longer believed in a god at all. For most Europeans, however, religious devotion,
expressed through individual actions such as prayer or communal activities
such as worship services, remained strong. In fact, movements such as Methodism,
Jansenism, pietism, and Hasidism made religion more rather than less important in
many people’s lives. The signifi cance of religion would become very evident in the
opposition to the French Revolution, and in the broad support for Christian missionary
endeavors, which by the nineteenth century had transformed Christianity into a
The religious landscape of Europe was more diverse by the end of the eighteenth century
than it had been two hundred years earlier, however. Every country of Europe still
had an offi cial state church in 1789, but limited toleration and increased internal migration
meant people of different faiths, or at least different denominations within Christianity,
often lived in the same village or neighborhood. Within many denominations
there was also a wide spectrum of belief and practice, from those who attended services
only for holidays and family events, to those for whom faith shaped every activity. Religion
was not the only area of life where the experiences of Europeans in 1789 were more
diverse than in 1600, however, for, as we will see in the next chapter, economic changes
were transforming the physical and social landscape at the same time as religious movements
were transforming the spiritual panorama.
1 How did the close relationship between
church and state in western and eastern
Europe strengthen religious life? How did
it weaken it?
2 How did the structure and theology
of the state church in England change
during the seventeenth century, and
what options were there for those who
3 In Catholic countries, how were disputes
over theological issues and devotional
practices connected to confl icts over
papal power and the role of the Jesuits?
4 Jansenists, quietists, spiritualists, pietists,
Moravians, and Methodists all advocated
greater personal piety and inner
devotion. Why were these ideas viewed
with suspicion by state churches? What
other teachings or practices of these
groups provoked ridicule or hostile
5 How did religious persecution and religious
devotion shape patterns of migration
within and from Europe in the early
modern period for Christians and Jews?
6 What intellectual, legal, social, economic,
and political developments contributed
to the witch-hunts? How did these factor
into the gender balance among those
tried and executed for witchcraft?
7 How was the Jewish experience different
in western Europe than it was in eastern
Europe during this era? How was it the
same? What accounts for the similarities
8 What devotional practices and patterns
of behavior were shared by pious Christians,
Jews, and Muslims in this period?
There are several good general introductions to Christianity in this era: W. R. Ward ,
Christianity under the Ancien Régime, 1648–1789 ( Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press , 1999); Gerald R. Cragg, The Church and the Age of Reason, 1648–1789 ( London:
Penguin, 1990); Nigel Aston, Christianity and Revolutionary Europe, 1750–1830 ( Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press , 2004). Ted A. Campbell, The Religion of the Heart: A Study of
European Religious Life in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries ( Columbia: University
of South Carolina Press , 1991), presents a positive view of individuals and groups that
emphasized interior religion, while Michael Heyd, Be Sober and Reasonable: The Critique
of Enthusiasm in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries ( Leiden: E. J. Brill , 1995),
surveys those who were hostile. Craig Harline, Miracles at the Jesus Oak: Histories of the
Supernatural in Reformation Europe ( New York : Doubleday , 2003), looks at popular beliefs
and practices in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and Euan Cameron , Enchanted
Europe: Superstition, Reason, and Religion 1250–1750 ( New York : Oxford University Press ,
2010), examines debates over such popular beliefs.
For continental Protestantism, see Bodo Nischan, Prince, People, and Confession: The
Second Reformation in Brandenburg ( Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press , 1994);
Philip Benedict, Christ’s Churches Purely Reformed: A Social History of Calvinism ( New Haven :
Yale University Press , 2002). For Catholicism, see R. Po-chia Hsia , The World of Catholic
Renewal, 1540–1770, 2nd edn ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 2005).
Religious developments in seventeenth-century England have been the focus of wide
research. Representative studies include Stephen Brachlow , The Communion of Saints:
Radical Puritan and Separatist Ecclesiology, 1570–1625 ( Oxford : Oxford University Press ,
1988); Phyllis Mack, Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England.
(Berkeley: University of California Press , 1992); Tom Webster , Godly Clergy in Early Stuart
England: The Caroline Puritan Movement, 1620–1643 ( Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press , 2003). For France, see Joseph Bergin, Church, Society and Religious Change in France,
1580–1730 ( New Haven : Yale University Press , 2009). Several good studies have focused on
Jansenism: William Doyle, Jansenism: Catholic Resistance to Authority from the Reformation
to the French Revolution ( London: St. Martin’s Press , 2000); Ephraim Radner , Spirit and
Nature: A Study of 17th Century Jansenism ( London: Herder and Herder , 2002).
Carter Lindberg, The Pietist Theologians: An Introduction to Theology in the Seventeenth
and Eighteenth Centuries ( London: Blackwell, 2004), provides just what its title promises,
as does Frederick Herzog, European Pietism Reviewed ( Princeton: Princeton Theological
Monograph Series , 2003). Relations between pietism and political developments have been
explored in Mary Fulbrook , Piety and Politics: Religion and the Rise of Absolutism in England,
Württemberg and Prussia ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1983), and Richard L.
Gawthrop , Pietism and the Making of Eighteenth-Century Prussia ( Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press , 1993). On the Moravians, see Colin Podmore , The Moravian
Church in England, 1728–1760 ( Oxford : Oxford University Press , 1998), and on Methodism,
see David Hempton, Methodism: Empire of the Spirit ( New Haven : Yale University Press ,
2005). There are several very interesting biographies of Wesley, including Henry Abelove, The
Evangelist of Desire: John Wesley and the Methodists ( Stanford : Stanford University Press ,
1992), and the comprehensive Henry D. Rack, Reasonable Enthusiast: John Wesley and the
Rise of Methodism ( London: Epworth, 2002).
Timothy Ware , The Orthodox Church, 2nd edn ( Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993), provides
a good introduction to the entire history, as well as the doctrine and rituals, of the Orthodox
Church. Two collections of articles provide some of the best research on religion in early modern
Russia: Samuel H. Baron and Nancy Shields Kollmann, eds., Religion and Culture in Early
Modern Russia and Ukraine ( DeKalb, IL : Northern Illinois University Press , 1997), and Valerie
A. Kivelson and Robert H. Greene , eds., Orthodox Russia: Belief and Practice under the Tsars
(University Park, PA : Pennsylvania State University Press , 2003).
Brian Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 3rd edn ( London: Longman, 2006),
presents a good overview of witchcraft in this era. More specialized studies include Robin
Briggs, Witches and Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of Early Modern Witchcraft
(New York : Penguin, 1996); Stuart Clark, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in
Early Modern Europe ( Oxford : Oxford University Press , 1997); Lyndal Roper , Witch Craze:
Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany ( New Haven : Yale University Press , 2004); Edward
Bever , The Realities of Witchcraft and Popular Magic in Early Modern Europe: Culture,
Cognition, and Everyday Life ( New York : Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008).
Anna Foa, The Jews of Europe after the Black Death, trans. Andrea Grover ( Berkeley:
University of California Press , 2000), explores many aspects of Jewish life. David B.
Ruderman, Early Modern Jewry: A New Cultural History ( Princeton: Princeton University Press ,
2011), considers migration, communities, and identity, and directly addresses the applicability
of the term “early modern” for Jewish history. Isadore Twersky and Bernard Septimus, eds.,
Jewish Thought in the Seventeenth Century ( Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press ,
1987), presents original sources and analyses.
J. Spencer Trimingham , The Sufi Orders in Islam ( Oxford : Oxford University Press , 1998),
is a general overview of all the orders, while Shems Friedlander , The Whirling Dervishes
(Binghamton: State University of New York Press , 1992), is a discussion of the Mevlevi order
by a scholar who is himself a Mevlevi. The older Norman Itzkowitz, Ottoman Empire and
Islamic Tradition ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press , 1972), provides a solid discussion of
religion and politics.
For more suggestions and links see the companion website www.cambridge.org/wiesnerhanks .
1 Johann Feustking, Gynaeceum haeretico fanaticum ( Frankfurt and Leipzig , 1704), title page (my
2 Malleus malefi carum (1486), trans. and quoted in Alan C. Kors and Edward Peters, eds.,
Witchcraft in Europe 1100–1700: A Documentary History ( Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press , 1972), pp. 114–27.
3 Quoted in Christina Larner , Witchcraft and Religion: The Politics of Popular Belief ( Oxford : Basil
Blackwell, 1984), p. 85.