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War and the Supernatural in Early Modern Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - War and Supernature (War and the Supernatural in Early Modern Europe)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2021-02-28

Religious warfare cannot be separated from Europe's experience of early modernity. The Thirty Years War is only the best known of the sixteenth and seventeenth-century wars in which religious rights and duties were central points of conflict.
The Latin-language debates of intellectuals and theologians both Catholic and Protestant have much to tell us about the nature of this religious warfare. Latin served as Europe’s international learned language, so that scholars in Edinburgh, Heidelberg, and Salamanca could participate in the same conversation; and those universities were often intimately connected to government.
It is especially important that the small numbers of radical Christians who favoured imposing their own version of Christianity on others by force were accused by moderates within their own communities of promoting wars incompatible with orthodoxy. For Protestants, force belonged in the secular kingdom, never in the spiritual one. For Catholics faith was supernatural, a gift of God, rather than natural, a creation of rational humans, and thus could not be imposed by force. Arguments for evangelisation by force were thus resisted by most of the educated European elite.
Nevertheless, the most surprising of our research results has been that those radicals who favoured the use of force in evangelisation look more modern than medieval. For example, Franciscans who recommended the forced baptism of Jewish children imagined political life as the reconciliation of clashing rights, very much as we do. They argued that the right of God over the child was greater than the right of the parent, and that the government was obliged to favour the right of God. Unusually among Catholics, some Franciscans developed this position into a support for holy war controlled by the secular government, and without any papal involvement. This was an understanding of sacred and secular life that granted formidable sacred power to the secular government, and a vision of Europe's future in which the nation and the state would become sacred. In the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, this vision was fulfilled.
Over five years, the project team has translated and published these scholastic debates between religious militants and religious moderates on the role of force in religious life in order to re-shape arguments among political historians on the nature of European religious warfare.
In 2016, the Principal Investigator, Dr Ian Campbell, assembled a team comprising the postdoctoral fellows Dr Floris Verhaart and Dr Todd Rester, and the PhD student Ms (now Dr) Karie Schulz. On Dr Rester's departure in May 2019, Dr Francesco Quatrini took his place.
At our weekly seminar meetings, Dr Verhaart and Dr Rester presented their translations of works by early modern Catholic and Protestant theologians like David Pareus, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Guillaume du Buc, John Punch, Alfonso de Castro, Bartolomeo Mastri, and others. We reinforced these seminars with three meetings of our International Advisory Board in 2017, 2018, and 2019, during which we enjoyed contributions (in person or electronically) from Dr Sarah Mortimer, Dr Jacob Schultz, Dr Richard Serjeantson, Professor Brad Gregory, Professor John McCafferty, Professor Mordechai Feingold, Dr Marco Forlivesi, Dr Jason Harris, Dr Richard Kirwan, Professor Herman Selderhuis, as well as Professor Sylvain Piron.
In 2017, we agreed with Routledge that they would publish our two volumes of primary sources, Protestant Politics beyond Calvin: Reformed Theologians on War in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries; and Beyond Aquinas: Franciscans and Scotists on War and Politics in the Counter Reformation. We delivered the first volume to Routledge in 2020 for peer review; the second volume will follow in 2022.
Our first international conference was held at Queen’s University Belfast in 2018. The proceedings, in form of a 3000 word introduction by Campbell, and five 5000 word articles by colleagues from Queen's, Oxford, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is currently under peer review. Our second international conference took place in 2019. The proceedings will be published as a group of articles in History of European Ideas with contributions by Sarah Mortimer, Noah Dauber, Vincenzo Lavenia and Campbell's translation of an article by Paolo Prodi. We hope to submit these essays for publication in the Autumn of 2021.
The team has is publishing much related research. Campbell is writing a history of Franciscan political thought in seventeenth-century Rome, and has searched the archives of the Roman Inquisition. A preliminary article was printed in 2020, and another article is forthcoming. Dr Verhaart has written a study of Protestant imperial evangelism by the Dutch Republic which is currently under peer review. Dr Francesco Quatrini has published a study of the Polish Brethren and toleration in the seventeenth century in the Historical Journal, and another study of the Brethren is under peer review. Dr Schulz defended her PhD thesis successfully in June 2020, and her thesis is contracted to Edinburgh University Press as Protestantism, revolution, and Scottish political thought for submission in 2022. Her article on the use of Catholic political thought by Scottish Presbyterians is forthcoming in the Journal of British Studies in 2021.
Over the past forty years, and led by German scholarship, historians of early modern Europe have been happy to accept that Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism were all functionally equivalent; that these different Christian confessions were equally serviceable to the growth of the early modern state. Our initial research hypothesis on this project reflected that 'confessionalisation thesis'. We hypothesised that the distinction between nature (an area of freedom for human reason and politics) and supernature (the area of God's command) would serve as an interpretative principle for intellectual culture across early modern Europe.
We learned that this hypothesis was incorrect. The distinction between nature and supernature was certainly vital to the Dominican and Jesuits orders. But Protestants emphasised that God through Scripture had established politics as a duty that humans were obliged to fulfil; governments were obliged to govern and subjects were obliged to obey. Protestant life was thus penetrated by divine commands in ways foreign to Catholicism. We also discovered the rejection of the nature-supernature distinction by the Franciscans. We had to accept, therefore, larger distinctions between Catholic and Protestant conceptions of politics than we had expected, and greater entanglement between the sacred and the secular than we had expected.
We have also realised that the work of the late Paolo Prodi raises important questions for our project. Prodi argued that sacred power was drifting from churches into early modern states, which resulted in the Romantic Nationalist emphasis on the holiness of the national spirit. The process can be observed among Protestants, in their celebration of the Godly Prince; but the Franciscans too wished to increase the powers of secular monarchs to intervene in sacred matters without the mediation of the Church.
As we proceed, we must attend to those moments in Europe's history where the sacred and the secular was most densely interwoven, because those are the moments that gave rise to the modernity in which we now live.