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Beyond the Persecuting Society

Religious Toleration Before the Enlightenment

Edited by John Christian Laursen and Cary J. Nederman

Publication Year: 1998

There is a myth—easily shattered—that Western societies since the Enlightenment have been dedicated to the ideal of protecting the differences between individuals and groups, and another—too readily accepted—that before the rise of secularism in the modern period, intolerance and persecution held sway throughout Europe. In Beyond the Persecuting Society John Christian Laursen, Cary J. Nederman, and nine other scholars dismantle this second generalization.

If intolerance and religious persecution have been at the root of some of the greatest suffering in human history, it is nevertheless the case that toleration was practiced and theorized in medieval and early modern Europe on a scale few have realized: Christians and Jews, the English, French, Germans, Dutch, Swiss, Italians, and Spanish had their proponents of and experiments with tolerance well before John Locke penned his famous Letter Concerning Toleration. Moving from Abelard to Aphra Behn, from the apology for the gentiles of the fourteenth-century Talmudic scholar, Menahem ben Solomon Ha-MeIiri, to the rejection of intolerance in the "New Israel" of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Beyond the Persecuting Society offers a detailed and decisive correction to a vision of the past as any less complex in its embrace and abhorrence of diversity than the present.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

THE COMPILATION OF A COLLECTION of essays is necessarily a cooperative process, requiring the aid and good will of numerous individuals, especially the contributors. In addition to thanking them, the editors wish to recognize several persons without whom this project could not have come...

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General Introduction: Political and Historical Myths in the Toleration Literature

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pp. 1-10

ISSUES OF TOLERANCE AND TOLERATION are surely high on anyone's agenda for thinking about politics and history today. What causes people to tolerate and what causes them to persecute each other? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each of these? How have they changed over...

Part I. The Medieval Balance

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Introduction: Discourses and Contexts of Tolerance in Medieval Europe

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pp. 13-24

The choice to begin narrating the history of toleration in Europe withthe Latin Middle Ages may seem a highly contentious one. After all, themost common impression of medieval life among scholars is perhaps bestsummed up by the title of R. I. Moore's influential study of secular andecclesiastical conformity during the High Middle Ages...

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1. Peter Abelard and the Enigma of Dialogue

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pp. 25-52

PETER ABELARD (1079-1142) is often remembered as a victim of persecution. Punished by castration in 1117 following his affair with Heloise,then accused of heresy at the Council of Soissons in 1121 and again by Bernard of Clairvaux at the Council of Sens in 1140, Abelard has long been considered a forerunner of the cause of toleration in the West. At one stage...

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2. Toleration, Skepticism, and the "Clash of Ideas": Principles of Liberty in the Writings of John of Salisbury

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pp. 53-70

THE DEVELOPMENT OF IDEAS of religious toleration in early modern Europe has been commonly and closely associated with the rise of the philosophical movement of skepticism. 1 As Preston King explains, there appears to exist a...

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3. Ha-Me'iri's Theory of Religious Toleration

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pp. 71-91

GENERAL STUDIES OF THE HISTORY of religious toleration, like William K. Jordan's The Development of Religious Toleration in England, Joseph Lecler's Toleration and the Reformation, and Henry Kamen's, The Rise of Toleration, have almost uniformly examined only the ideas of Christian advocatesof toleration. 1 Consequently, factors that have been specifically significant...

Part II. The Long Sixteenth Century

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Introduction: The Transformations of the Long Sixteenth Century

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pp. 95-106

DEFINING TOLERATION AS A primarily philosophical issue might lead one to miss the important shifts that the changing religious and social context of the medieval and early modern periods brought about. Efforts to provide universal principles that allow us to discern every possible configuation of tolerance—efforts that often result in categorizing both medieval...

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4. "Heretics be not in all things heretics": Cardinal Pole, His Circle, and the Potential for Toleration

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pp. 107-124

IN THE EARLY 1530s, WRITING HIS "Dialogue Between Pole and Lupset," Thomas Starkey ascribed the apparently tolerant sentiment "heretics be not in all things heretics" to his patron Reginald Pole (1500-1558). After Starkey left his service, Pole became a leading opponent of Henry VIII, cardinal, nearly successful candidate for pope, papal legate, and archbishop...

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5. The Concept of Toleration in the Colloquium Heptaplomeres of Jean Bodin

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pp. 125-144

FOR THE MODERN READER the concept of toleration developed by Jean Bodin in his Colloquium Heptaplomeres de rerum sublimium arcanis abditis makes the work an important link with ideas of the Enlightenment. For our troubled modern age Bodin's dialogue may hold insights about toleration which are meaningful to us as we struggle with the questions of...

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6. Religious Coexistence and Confessional Conflict in the Vier Dörfer: Practices of Toleration in Eastern Switzerland, 1525–1615

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pp. 145-165

AFTER NEARLY A CENTURY of religious quiet, the prosperous villages of Undervaz, Trimmis, and Zizers outside the city of Chur, Switzerland experienced a series of conflicts about religious confession beginning in 1611 that rapidly escalated to riots, hostile raids from neighboring towns, and vandalism and harassment between the Catholic majority and a minority...

Part III. The Seventeenth Century

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Introduction: Contexts and Paths to Toleration in the Seventeenth Century

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pp. 169-177

THE SHADOW OF THE SIXTEENTH century loomed large over the seventeenth century. The collective memory of the Reformation and its wars and persecutions was strong throughout Europe. Yet the seventeenth century also added its own influential historical events. Any division of the ideas and practices of the time by language and political boundary will...

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7. Samuel von Pufendorf and Toleration

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pp. 178-196

SAMUEL VON PUFENDORF'S WRITINGS contain many arguments for religious toleration in specific cases. In view of his position as one of the founders of the highly influential tradition of Protestant Natural Law, this places him at the origins of the modern theory and practice of toleration. However, his toleration was always a limited toleration, limited largely by...

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8. Baylean Liberalism: Tolerance Requires Nontolerance

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pp. 197-215

MANY OF PIERRE BAYLE'S WORKS contain arguments for freedom of conscience and of intellectual inquiry. They deepened and developed a strand of liberalism that has been largely overlooked in recent scholarly work on the history of political ideas. That strand can be reconstructed as an alternative to the prevailing view that liberalism has its deepest roots in one or...

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9. "Religion Set the World at Odds": Deism and the Climate of Religious Tolerance in the Works of Aphra Behn

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pp. 216-231

WHEN THE HISTORY OF TOLERATION is conventionally narrated, it is most often recounted in terms of a fundamental change either in the nature of the state (that is, as the process of secularization) or in the nature of the individual (recognition of liberty of conscience). 1 But another component of the rise of tolerance both in theory and in practice must surely be...

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10. Skepticism About Religion and Millenarian Dogmatism: Two Sources of Toleration in the Seventeenth Century

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pp. 232-250

IT is A CURIOUS FACT THAT THE opposing positions of skepticism about religion and religious dogmatism provided two of the major roads to toleration in theory and practice in early modern Europe. The very idea that two such different positions could lead to the same outcome is surely part of the reason that toleration has triumphed in the modern West. This...

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11. The Problem of Toleration in the New Israel: Religious Communalism in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts

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pp. 251-277

THE EARLY EFFORTS TO ESTABLISH the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a Christian community present in microcosm one of the more enduring issues in Western history. A vision of a religiously based community is deeply rooted in Christian history. In Acts 13:47, St. Paul reported that...


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pp. 279-286


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pp. 287-288

E-ISBN-13: 9780812205862
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812215670

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 1998