Religions in World- and Global History

A View from the German-language Discussion

by Hans-Heinrich Nolte (Author)
©2015 Monographs 70 Pages


The author argues that religious history is underestimated in its importance for World- and Global history. The history of religions is quite often an established sub-discipline within convincing research traditions. In order to reconstruct the past adequately, historians need academically controlled data about the beliefs of the people they are dealing with. This book offers ten examples from a wide range of religious beliefs which show that developments in religion have far reaching consequences for general history – in the change from Empire to the system of European nations, in establishing social disciplines as part of capitalist societies, in attempts of semi-peripheral states struggling for a place in the European World-System, in defence of Muslim societies on the peripheries and in postcolonial Africa.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Abstract
  • Contents
  • I. General remarks and definitions
  • I.1 World and Global History – an inter-disciplinary project
  • I.2 World and Global History – on concepts
  • I.3 Religions and civilizations
  • II. Case-Studies
  • II.1 Some famous ones
  • II.2 Catholic Church and European World System in the 13th. century.
  • II.3 Protestantism and nation-states in the 16th. cy. “Konfessionsbildung” and social discipline.
  • II.4 “Old belief” as protest against the modernising tendency of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th. century
  • II.5 The Russian Orthodox Church serving enlightened absolutism in the 18th. century and yet loosing the Patriarchy and monasteries
  • II.6 Islam as an anti-colonial movement in the Caucasus in the 19th. century
  • II.7 Christian Democracy as European variant for politics in the 20th. century
  • II.8 Secularisation as European “Sonderweg”
  • II.9 The role of religions in the developing East-West-conflict in Europe
  • II.10 Orisha
  • III Conclusions for Histories of the World and of the World-System

I.   General remarks and definitions

I.1   World and Global History – an inter-disciplinary project

This essay is written in the conviction, that World- and Global-History is an interdisciplinary project of a couple of humanities – history, economics, political science, sociology, psychology and others.1 The special contribution of my field history to this alliance is finding and reading sources in the original languages.2 My argument runs, that religious history should be included in these meetings of faculties, that this specialty of the sciences about mankind should be asked for cooperation in the task.

To make it easier to see my colours in this attempt, let me name some of the older colleagues, of whom I read texts, and cite some of the younger colleagues, with whom I have learned. In history some of the older colleagues are Leopold von Ranke, Jakob Burckhardt, Karl Lamprecht, Fernand Braudel.3 In eco ← 9 | 10 → nomics I read Adam Smith and Karl Marx.4 In political science Ernst-Otto Czempiel, Samuel Huntington5 and again friends and colleagues from Hannover.6 In sociology Max Weber, Tomas Masaryk, Eric Wolf, Norbert Elias and Immanuel Wallerstein.7 In psychology Sigmund Freud and Peter R. Hofstätter ← 10 | 11 → on psychology of groups.8 Already now that is an extensive program. Some world-historians argue, that Wallerstein should be excluded, others are not reading psychology any more. Obviously the quantity of the texts is enormous. It is impossible to read “all Marx” and “all Weber” in addition to work in an archive. Therefore one may only read some of their works, following transmitted selections of importance. Despite the obvious arguments against enlarging quantity still further my proposal is, to add religious studies – not theology of a certain religion, but “Religionswissenschaft”9 – to the program. Up to now history of religions did not play a sufficient role in the contexts of world- or global history within German-language historiography.10 ← 11 | 12 →

The essay is written in English, first of all, because as a lecture it was offered at the 39th. Conference of the Political Economy of the World System in Berlin March 2015.11 This essay is part of a corpus of texts stemming from that conference.12 Secondly the essay is written in English, since that is the global language of our time.13 Two centuries ago it might have been written in Latin. In regard to some habits criticised as “Anglobalism”14 my point is simple: this essay neither is presupposing, that English historiography is leading in this field, nor, that German is; it is just offering a critique of the latter one with a special emphasis on World-System-Studies. ← 12 | 13 → There is no attempt to cover all or at least some of the historiographies to the question – neither English, nor Russian, Chinese, Italian etc., etc.. An essay on the role of religion in global historiography would have to establish at least three or four “national” examples and then start with comparisons.15 In case this essay does invite comparisons, that would be very welcome. Of course – since English is the global language, in my argument English texts play a big role, and I am content, that the New Cambridge World History regularly offers chapters on religion as also the Companion to World History edited by Doug Northrup.16

For an English-language public it might be adequate to give a note to my person: I am a German born 1938 in Ulm, migrated around in my country and had the luck to be invited for a year in High-School in the US. I studied history and German studies in Marburg, Münster and Göttingen and became professor for History of Eastern Europe in Hannover.17 History of Eastern Europe is my “Area-Studies”, and my research mostly was on Russia respectively the Soviet Union. Since four from ten of the case-studies presented ← 13 | 14 → below are from this field, let me give some introductory notes to the field.18


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (December)
global history Religions History
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 70 pp.

Biographical notes

Hans-Heinrich Nolte (Author)

Hans-Heinrich Nolte is Professor Emeritus of Eastern European History at the Department of History, University of Hannover. He was Visiting Professor of Global History at the University of Vienna.


Title: Religions in World- and Global History
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
72 pages