"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Church-State Relations in Russia, China, and the West

Church-state relations in Russia continue to be the object much scholarly attention. Recently we've seen a number of books, including Wallace L. Daniel, The Orthodox Church and Civil Society in  Russia; John and Carol Garrard, Russian Orthodoxy Resurgent: Faith and Power in the New Russia; and Benjamin Forest et al, eds., Religion And Identity In Modern Russia: The Revival Of Orthodoxy And Islam.

Now Cambridge University Press has recently brought out an edited collection that treats such relations in a wider context:

James D. Tracy and Marguerite Ragnow, eds., Religion and the Early Modern State: Views from China, Russia, and the West (Studies in Comparative Early Modern History) (CUP, 2010), 436pp.

About this book the publisher tells us;
How did state power impinge on the religion of the ordinary person? This perennial issue has been sharpened as historians uncover the process of 'confessionalization' or 'acculturation', by which officials of state and Church collaborated in ambitious programs of Protestant or Catholic reform, intended to change the religious consciousness and the behaviour of ordinary men and women. In the belief that specialists in one area of the globe can learn from the questions posed by colleagues working in the same period in other regions, this 2005 volume sets the topic in a wider framework. Thirteen essays, grouped in themes affording parallel views of England and Europe, Tsarist Russia, and Ming China, show a spectrum of possibilities for what early modern governments tried to achieve by regulating religious life, and for how religious communities evolved in new directions, either in keeping with or in spite of official injunctions.
 Three chapters in particular treat East-Slavic realities:
  • 2. Ecclesiastical elites and popular belief and practice in seventeenth-century Russia by Robert O. Crummey
  • 6. Orthodoxy and revolt: the role of religion in the seventeenth-century Ukrainian Uprising against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by Frank E. Sysyn, author of other important works on Ukrainian history in particular.
  • 9. False miracles and unattested dead bodies: investigations into popular cults in Early Modern Russia by Eve Levin, author of a fascinating 1995 study Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700
In addition, the volume contains a chapter by the Cambridge historian Eamon Duffy:
  • 12. The disenchantment of space: Salle church and the Reformation
Duffy is the author of not only what I regard as the best one-volume study of the popes, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes; Third Edition but also several other very important works that have dramatically corrected and revised our understanding of the English reformation, starting with a "micro" history,  The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village (2003) and then expanded in his widely discussed The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580. More recently we've had from him a re-examination of so-called Bloody Queen Mary: Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor.

I look forward to seeing Religion and the Early Modern State: Views from China, Russia, and the West  reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

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