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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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III Conclusions for Histories of the World and of the World-System


III   Conclusions for Histories of the World and of the World-System

World- and Global History is dependent on editions of sources and secondary literature. Typically the production of these is organised in sub-disciplines on periods, spaces (area-studies)174 institutions (Churches, International law, social movements) or topics (history of trade, “Umwelt”, gender-relations, ideas). What is the best way for Global and World-History to draw on the research of the sub-disciplines?

There are different attempts to do that. Peter Feldbauers, Bernd Hausberger and Jean-Paul Lehners Global history is relying on a concept of “Worldregions” related to area-studies, the books are structured along periods.175 Reinhard Sieders and Ernst Langthalers Global History is taking histories of institutions and topics as starting-points; religious history constitutes a special chapter; they are only treating modern times.176 My own attempt in the two volumes from early modern to contemporary world-history is a combination – I start with systematic receptions of certain area-studies, histories of institutions and topics like global associations etc.; religious histories constitute own chapters.177 ← 65 | 66 →

Alfred Kohler178 and Jürgen Osterhammel179 have written within smaller periods, using “centuries” for periodization, and have turned to religion following the internal structure of their narratives. Christopher A. Bayly has taken the safer side and included in his history of the long 19th. century an own chapter on religious world-empires, which allow global views on the expansions of Christianity and of Islam and offers a fine map on religious centers of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists...

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