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Seeing Things Their Way

Seeing Things Their Way

Intellectual History and the Return of Religion

Edited by Alister Chapman, John Coffey, and Brad S. Gregory

While religious history and intellectual history are both active, dynamic fields of contemporary historical inquiry, historians of ideas and historians of religion have too often paid little attention to one another’s work. The intellectual historian Quentin Skinner urged scholars to attend to the contexts as well as the texts of authors, in order to ‘see things their way.’ Where religion is concerned, however, historians have often failed to heed this good advice; this book helps to remedy that failure. The editors and contributors urge intellectual historians to explore the religious dimensions of ideas and at the same time commend the methods of intellectual history to historians of religion.

The introduction is followed by an essay by Brad Gregory reflecting on issues related to the study of the history of religious ideas. Subsequent essays by John Coffey, Anna Sapir Abulafia, Howard Hotson, Richard A. Muller, and Willem J. van Asselt explore the importance of religion in the intellectual history of Great Britain and Europe in the medieval and early modern periods. James Bradley shifts forward with his essay on religious ideas in Enlightenment England. Mark Noll and Alister Chapman deal respectively with British influence on the writing of religious history in America and with the relationship between intellectual history and religion in modern Britain. David Bebbington provides a concluding reflection on the challenges inherent in restoring the centrality of religion to intellectual history.

Contributors: Anna Sapir Abulafia, Willem J. van Asselt, David W. Bebbington, James E. Bradley, Alister Chapman, John Coffey, Brad S. Gregory, Howard Hotson, Richard A. Muller, and Mark A. Noll.

Seeing Things Their Way is a unique and important volume that explores and applies in the field of religious thought the methodology of intellectual history pioneered by Quentin Skinner. This rich interdisciplinary collection not only addresses for the first time at book length the strengths, weaknesses, and implications of this approach within the context of the history of religious ideas, but also offers some exemplary exercises in the good practice of that art. It will appeal to historians of political thought and specialists in intellectual history as well as to scholars interested in the place and treatment of religious ideas in social history.” — Richard Rex, Queens’ College, University of Cambridge

ISBN: 978-0-268-02298-3
280 pages
Publication Year: 2009

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Alister Chapman is assistant professor of history at Westmont College.

John Coffey is professor of early modern history at the University of Leicester. He is the author of John Goodwin and the Puritan Revolution: Religion and Intellectual Change in Seventeenth-Century England (2006).

Brad S. Gregory is Dorothy G. Griffin Associate Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (1999).

“. . . Seeing Things Their Way is a superb collection of essays. . .”. — Christianity Today

“The book has a simple and well-presented interdisciplinary message, a nice hook connecting it to Skinner, one of the great intellectuals of our time, and, finally, the book is filled with lots of important information and interpretations from insightful and careful historians willing to try to see through the religious perspectives of their subjects.” — Christian Scholar’s Review

“This book seeks to bring together religious history and intellectual history in a fruitful dialogue. While the threat of reductionism is more evident in the history of religious ideas, the essays in this volume demonstrate the possibility in the religious realm of ‘seeing things their way.’ This book is an important contribution to the history of religious thought.” — Catholic Library World

“. . . Each of the articles shows the importance of theological concepts to a particular issue in the history of ideas, revealing the advantages of the recommended approach. Taken together, the essays in this volume reveal, eloquently and persuasively, the unacceptably high cost of ignoring both theology and religious experience; they will help to ensure that future intellectual historians will be unable to sidestep religion, as too many of their predecessors have done.” — The Journal of Ecclesiastical History

“The editors of this volume argue that intellectual historians have neglected religion while religious historians have failed to learn from the methods of intellectual history. . . . This is a terrific collection of essays that shows how fruitful the dialog between religious and intellectual history can be. It is also a passionate plea for a serious intellectual engagement with religious ideas and figures.” — Religious Studies Review

“Seeing Things Their Way is a much-needed assessment of whether Cambridge School (largely taken in Skinner’s sense) method can be applied to the history of religious ideas. . . . The contributors are generally optimistic about the possibility as well as importance of recovering past religious ideas, of the people as well as of elite theologians.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“The collection edited by Chapman, Coffey, and Gregory represents a very welcome attempt to suggest how intellectual history might be rewritten by allowing religious ideas to occupy the centrality they deserve among research priorities. . . . A very sobering and useful methodological warning to historians of political thought emerges from the reappraisal of the significance of the sacred and religious sensibilities in collective life in pointing out that the exclusive emphasis on politics is in fact detrimental to the history of political thought because it limits its contextual horizon and range of source material.” — History of Political Thought

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Disarming Beauty

Essays on Faith, Truth, and Freedom

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Patristics and Catholic Social Thought

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Preferential Option for the Poor beyond Theology


Edited by Daniel G. Groody and Gustavo Gutiérrez

Seeing Things Their Way

Intellectual History and the Return of Religion


Edited by Alister Chapman, John Coffey, and Brad S. Gregory

 Seeing Things Their Way: Intellectual History and the Return of Religion
Paper Edition

While religious history and intellectual history are both active, dynamic fields of contemporary historical inquiry, historians of ideas and historians of religion have too often paid little attention to one another’s work. The intellectual historian Quentin Skinner urged scholars to attend to the contexts as well as the texts of authors, in order to ‘see things their way.’ Where religion is concerned, however, historians have often failed to heed this good advice; this book helps to remedy that failure. The editors and contributors urge intellectual historians to explore the religious dimensions of ideas and at the same time commend the methods of intellectual history to historians of religion.

The introduction is followed by an essay by Brad Gregory reflecting on issues related to the study of the history of religious ideas. Subsequent essays by John Coffey, Anna Sapir Abulafia, Howard Hotson, Richard A. Muller, and Willem J. van Asselt explore the importance of religion in the intellectual history of Great Britain and Europe in the medieval and early modern periods. James Bradley shifts forward with his essay on religious ideas in Enlightenment England. Mark Noll and Alister Chapman deal respectively with British influence on the writing of religious history in America and with the relationship between intellectual history and religion in modern Britain. David Bebbington provides a concluding reflection on the challenges inherent in restoring the centrality of religion to intellectual history.

Contributors: Anna Sapir Abulafia, Willem J. van Asselt, David W. Bebbington, James E. Bradley, Alister Chapman, John Coffey, Brad S. Gregory, Howard Hotson, Richard A. Muller, and Mark A. Noll.

Seeing Things Their Way is a unique and important volume that explores and applies in the field of religious thought the methodology of intellectual history pioneered by Quentin Skinner. This rich interdisciplinary collection not only addresses for the first time at book length the strengths, weaknesses, and implications of this approach within the context of the history of religious ideas, but also offers some exemplary exercises in the good practice of that art. It will appeal to historians of political thought and specialists in intellectual history as well as to scholars interested in the place and treatment of religious ideas in social history.” — Richard Rex, Queens’ College, University of Cambridge

ISBN: 978-0-268-02298-3

280 pages

“. . . Seeing Things Their Way is a superb collection of essays. . .”. — Christianity Today

“The book has a simple and well-presented interdisciplinary message, a nice hook connecting it to Skinner, one of the great intellectuals of our time, and, finally, the book is filled with lots of important information and interpretations from insightful and careful historians willing to try to see through the religious perspectives of their subjects.” — Christian Scholar’s Review

“This book seeks to bring together religious history and intellectual history in a fruitful dialogue. While the threat of reductionism is more evident in the history of religious ideas, the essays in this volume demonstrate the possibility in the religious realm of ‘seeing things their way.’ This book is an important contribution to the history of religious thought.” — Catholic Library World

“. . . Each of the articles shows the importance of theological concepts to a particular issue in the history of ideas, revealing the advantages of the recommended approach. Taken together, the essays in this volume reveal, eloquently and persuasively, the unacceptably high cost of ignoring both theology and religious experience; they will help to ensure that future intellectual historians will be unable to sidestep religion, as too many of their predecessors have done.” — The Journal of Ecclesiastical History

“The editors of this volume argue that intellectual historians have neglected religion while religious historians have failed to learn from the methods of intellectual history. . . . This is a terrific collection of essays that shows how fruitful the dialog between religious and intellectual history can be. It is also a passionate plea for a serious intellectual engagement with religious ideas and figures.” — Religious Studies Review

“Seeing Things Their Way is a much-needed assessment of whether Cambridge School (largely taken in Skinner’s sense) method can be applied to the history of religious ideas. . . . The contributors are generally optimistic about the possibility as well as importance of recovering past religious ideas, of the people as well as of elite theologians.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“The collection edited by Chapman, Coffey, and Gregory represents a very welcome attempt to suggest how intellectual history might be rewritten by allowing religious ideas to occupy the centrality they deserve among research priorities. . . . A very sobering and useful methodological warning to historians of political thought emerges from the reappraisal of the significance of the sacred and religious sensibilities in collective life in pointing out that the exclusive emphasis on politics is in fact detrimental to the history of political thought because it limits its contextual horizon and range of source material.” — History of Political Thought