Confessionalisation and Erudition in Early Modern Europe: A Comparative Overview of a Neglected Episode in the History of the Humanities
What effect did the structural process of religious confessionalisation have on the production, publication, and dissemination of works of erudition, and on shaping those aspects of European intellectual activity that have come to be known as the ‘humanities’? This introductory overview offers a comparative assessment of that question, focussing separately on each confessional space: Catholic, Reformed, and Lutheran, and the individual regions within each. It stresses the importance of confessional investment in erudite practices for stimulating their growth and development. At the same time, it emphasises the importance of trans-confessional emulation as an agent of intellectual change. It is suggested that early modern erudition and the conditions in which it developed should be conceptualised on their own terms, rather than as a triumphant precursor of the ‘modern’ humanities or a pale remnant of the golden age of a pre-confessional Renaissance humanism.
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