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Religions in World- and Global History

A View from the German-language Discussion

Hans-Heinrich Nolte

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.
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I. General remarks and definitions

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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....

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