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Religious Reformation and Conflict: Project

This page contains the class project for J. B. Owens's spring 1997 upper-division and graduate level course RELIGIOUS REFORMATION AND CONFLICT. As you read about this assignment, you will have many questions about procedures, concepts, and vocabulary. These questions should become an early and frquent part of our on-line discussion list activity. To make it easy to send me your queries, I have placed on this page a number of links that permit you to send me a message directly. Questions and comments may be sent to me at my e-mail address (owenjack@isu.edu), or if you prefer, you may send me a message now by selecting this button: Mail Now. Please be sure to include your name and e-mail address in the body of your message.

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Religion and Regime

[I borrow this title from Guy E. Swanson, Religion and Regime: A Sociological Account of the Reformation, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1967.]

Through the use of comparative study, you will test the following hypothesis about the relationship of POLITICAL REGIMES to communities defined by a religious perspective of some sort. Moreover, your research will involve an examination of this relationship during periods when it has been disrupted by religious reform movements and religious conflict. You will produce a paper offering the results of your research. This paper must be sent to my e-mail address (owenjack@isu.edu) no later than 3:00 pm on Thursday, 24 April. The research project will be worth approximately 40% of your grade for the course.

Brief summary of important assignment dates:

  1. Preliminary discussion of the project on Tuesday, 21 January. DEADLINE for obtaining an ISU computer account.
  2. Preliminary report of the project design on Tuesday, 28 January.
  3. Preliminary research project bibliography on Tuesday, 4 February.

NOTE: Failure to meet these deadlines will result in a failing grade for this entire project. Since you may have to use the interlibrary loan service of the Eli M. Oboler Library to get information, you will need to pick your topic and begin work quickly. Periodically throughout the semester, I will ask YOU to post on the course discussion list reports on the progress of your research.

Questions? Please put your name and e-mail address in the body of your message.


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Hypothesis

[NOTE: The following statement is based on the work of Jeffrey C. Alexander. For your use I have placed on library reserve Alexander's Action and Its Environments: Toward a New Synthesis (1988), of which you should at least read the introduction and the concluding chapter, "Action and Its Environments" (perhaps skipping pages 301-311), to get a better idea of the implications of the Hypothesis. Alexander writes about the social, cultural, and peronality environments of human action. While the treatment of the first two environments is useful, his work on personality is marred by its heavy reliance on increasingly-discredited psychoanalytic, particularly Freudian, theories of personality development. Historians, for whom personality is an important factor, need something better. To get a better idea of how I fit Alexander's work into historical analysis, you should read the Analytical Approach statement for History 360, THE SPANISH EMPIRE.]

CONSIDER: "No Bishop, no King, no nobility" -- King James I of England and VI of Scotland (died 1625)

AUTHORITY is the issue that is always central during periods of religious reformation and conflict. And questions of authority in the religious sphere will also raise concerns for those individuals and groups exercising political authority, as King James's famous epigram shows, since the definition of religious authority in periods of reformation and conflict will have a direct impact on the nature of the political regime.

To understand why religious reform movements have an impact on political regimes, we have to understand human action as having two dimensions, INTERPRETATION and STRATEGIZATION. Interpretation involves both TYPIFICATION and INVENTION. Strategization occurs when an actor seeks to transform the world to achieve certain aims.

Both interpretation and strategization by human actors are enabled and constrained by the social and cultural environments of action. The social environment includes the division of labor, the institutions of political authority (broadly understood), and the ties of group solidarity. The cultural environment provides interpretive schemes of classification, sacralization, and valuation, internalized by actors to a large extent through socialization. Actors are often denied the time, energy, and knowledge that would be needed to act against the world.

However, the social and cultural environments can be disrupted by factors like conquest, economic change, political disputes, and the development of new means of communication. If actors try to reshape these disrupted environments through the development of a faith community, the religious reform movement that results from their effort will attempt to impose its interpretive schemes. Since the organizational and intellectual perspectives of the proposed faith community will not be immediately accepted by all within a particular political regime, there will be conflict, which will often be violent. Since the definition of political authority itself corresponds to a scheme of classification, the predominance of the particular classification schemes of a successful religious reform movement will be reflected in the practices and institutions of the political regime.

Questions? Please put your name and e-mail address in the body of your message.


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Your Task

You must test this HYPOTHESIS through the comparative study of the consequences for political regimes of two cases of attempted religious reformation. You will need to do research for each case on:
1. a) the division of labor;
b) the institutions of political authority;
and c) the solidarity groups of the social environment.
2. the schemes of a) classification, b) sacralization, and c) valuation within the cultural environment.
3. the disruption of the social and cultural environments.
4. the classification schemes of the religious movements that sought to reshape the disrupted environments.
Comparison is necessary so that you can evaluate the relative importance of particular factors. To undertake such a comparison, you must follow the instructions in the following sections.

Questions? Please put your name and e-mail address in the body of your message.


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Choices

1) A. Select a case of religious reformation and/or conflict from the Reformation period (for our purposes 1300-1650) of European history, which may included "Greater Europe" (which includes European-controlled areas of other continents). You may not pick events that involve your own religious tradition, if you have one: by which I mean (for example) Reformed/Calvinist, Lutheran, Ch'an Buddhist, Sephardic Jewish, or Persian Shi'ite, rather than Protestant, Buddhist, Jewish, or Muslim.
B. Your case must involve a specific POLITICAL REGIME, which can be a kingdom or republic (e.g., Castile or the Dutch United Provinces), or some smaller unit like a city (e.g., London or Naples) or a seigniorial jurisdiction (e.g., the County of Belalcázar).

2) A. Select a comparative case of religious reformation and/or conflict, which can be non-European and non-Reformation. You may not pick events that involve your own religious tradition (as defined in #1), if you have one.
B. Select a specific POLITICAL REGIME (see #1 for types).
C. Select an appropriate period of time.

To formulate your ideas, you may wish to watch parts of a video series on the Renaissance, housed in the Media Center of the library. Program 18 is an overview of the period 1300-1700. Programs 6, 7, and 8 deal with religious changes. Program 8 is especially relevant as it stresses religious conflict. If you wish, you may consult now a list of the 18 programs in the series.

Questions? Please put your name and e-mail address in the body of your message.


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Preliminary Discussion

We will have a preliminary discussion of this project on Tuesday, 21 January. This discussion will be more useful to you if you have already thought about several possible topics and if you come with appropriate questions.

For this discussion, you must have read completely this page and the COURSE STYLE SHEET, the page on PLAGIARISM, and the page on the EVALUATION STANDARDS for your paper.

NOTE: You must have obtained your ISU computer account before this discussion or you will have to drop the course.

Questions? Please put your name and e-mail address in the body of your message.


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Project Design Report

Report your choices (1. A and B; 2. A, B, and C) to me in a statement mailed to my e-mail address (owenjack@isu.edu) by 3:00 pm on Tuesday, 28 January. I will respond in an e-mail message either accepting the proposed design of your project or making recommendations for revisions. Once all of the students have filed acceptable project designs, I will post the choices on the course discussion list as some of you may find it useful to collaborate if you are doing research on similar cases.

Failure to submit this project design report on time will result in a failing grade for this entire project.

Questions? Please put your name and e-mail address in the body of your message.


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Preliminary Bibliography

Your preliminary research project bibliography must be sent to my e-mail address (owenjack@isu.edu) by 3:00 pm on Tuesday, 4 February. Failure to submit this bibliography on time will result in a failing grade for this entire project.

The bibliography must include at least FIVE relevant articles from scholarly journals. I have provided a list of scholarly journals in the ISU collection. This bibliography must follow the bibliographic forms in the COURSE STYLE SHEET.

I have placed on library reserve several useful volumes of bibliographic essays on the Reformation period, which you should consult before you submit your report on your project choices so that you will be sure to have sufficient sources for necessary information. You will find these listed in the COURSE BIBLIOGRAPHY. You should also consult the chapters relevant to your interests in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, BR302.8 O93 1995 in the library's reserve collection.

Questions? Please put your name and e-mail address in the body of your message.


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Alternative Project

As part of the Glenn E. Tyler Collection, the ISU Library now holds the first two CD-ROMs of the ADMYTE (Archivo Digital de Manuscritos y Textos Españoles) Project. These contain digital versions of over 60 printed books published between 1471 and 1525, with companion full-text transcriptions, and the transcriptions of over 60 manuscripts. The technology permits key-word searches, which greatly facilitates all sorts of interesting research, and brief discussions and bibliographies are provided with each work. For those students who read Spanish and want to use this material, I can help you design an alternative course project.

I will demonstrate to any interested student how to use this material. If any student would like to see a description of the project with a complete bibliography of the manuscripts and printed books included, send me an e-mail message to that effect, and I will send you the message provided by ADMYTE's developers.

Questions? Please put your name and e-mail address in the body of your message.


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Comparison

By design, this assignment involves what is known as an "individualizing comparison" in which one selects a particular aspect of some society and compares that aspect to the same thing in one or more other societies (in this case: in one other). Your work may take on the characteristics of an "encompassing comparison." This type of comparison may become involved if both of your cases are part of some larger system, as may occur if both your cases are European ones from the Reformation period (e.g., the Lutheran and Reformed Protestant movements in German-speaking Europe).

There are two other major types of comparison, neither of them particularly relevant to your task. In a "universalizing comparison," one looks for a "standard sequence" in various cases. For example, one might use this sort of comparison to generate a theory of economic development applicable to any country. In a "variation-finding comparison," one examines a large number of cases to isolate the crucial variables that account for differences. One might employ this type of comparison to understand how parliamentary institutions develop or fail to develop in all nations. Of course, during a particular piece or research, these four types of comparison can overlap. If you want to read more about doing comparative history, turn to the following book and works in its bibliography. The "Theoretical Perspectives" section of the Course Bibliography will include other useful works.

Tilly, Charles
1984 Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Questions? Please put your name and e-mail address in the body of your message.


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"The soul is pleased by the comparison of one thing with another, since placing one thing in conjunction with another has an innate affinity with the way the mind acts."
-- Thomas Aquinas [1225-1274], Summa Theologiae I-II 32:8

All contents copyright © 1996-97.
J. B. Owens
All rights reserved.

Revised: 29 January 1997

URL: http://www.isu.edu/~owenjack/rrc/project.html