Historians, religion and the historical record

S. J. Barnett

in The Enlightenment and Religion

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780719067402
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700518 | DOI:
Historians, religion and the historical record

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This chapter focuses on historical records and problems that occur in their interpretation, moving from the distortions of historians to the inherently biased and misleading nature of the historical record, and to the role of politico-religious struggle in its creation. Historians must ask which historical reality – as provided by the historical record – they wish to choose, for competing constituencies of interest that have bequeathed to us not objective history, but above all their views upon the issues of the period. Thus, the myth of the deist movement is not solely the invention of historians, but was itself first invented in the early Enlightenment with the aid of the powerful tools of politics and public opinion. The politico-religious convulsions across Europe from the Reformation until the eighteenth century were numerous and bloody. The resulting religious divisions were enshrined in confessional states, but, as with the cases of Protestant England and Catholic France, religious minorities remained persecuted and disabled. The origins of Enlightenment Anticlericalism, John Toland, Pierre Bayle, the problem of influence and many more issues are briefly explained.

Keywords: myth; historical records; religious divisions; Enlightenment

Chapter.  14519 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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