New Online Exhibition


The Art of Disagreeing Badly

Religious Dispute in Early Modern Europe

The physical exhibition curated by Dr Stefan Bauer and Bethany Hume, from the University of York, will be on display at the Old Palace, York Minster from 15th November to 15th December 2016. The exhibition showcases the collections of the York Minster library, examining the role of religious polemic in the early modern period.

This digital exhibition is interactive, if you click on any of the links it will lead you to a zoomable image of the books.

Click here for the online exhibition


Reception of the Church Fathers: Conference report



The Reception of the Church Fathers and Early Church Historians, c. 1470-1650

Conference Organizers: Andreas Ammann, Bern; Sam Kennerley, Cambridge; Kirsten Macfarlane, Oxford.

On 23 September 2016, (lay) historians and literary scholars assembled at Trinity College, Cambridge, to reflect on “The Reception of the Church Fathers and Early Church Historians, c. 1470-1650”. One of their principal aims was to ponder what impact these earlier Christian sources had on the development of the early modern sense of the Christian past. Today’s scholarship investigating this reception comes in many forms. Andrew Taylor (Cambridge) paid very close philological attention to how Philo was read and edited in the 1550s. Richard Serjeantson (Cambridge) underlined (with reference to Arnaldo Momigliano) that scholars have only recently recognized that the foundations of historical scholarship were laid by church historians. He tracked the great controversy from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries about the place and the time of Emperor Constantine’s baptism, discussing the views of Bartolomeo Platina (d. 1481), Johannes Löwenklau (d. 1594) and Jean Morin (d. 1659). Anthony Grafton (Princeton) also quoted Momigliano as he had been “spot-on” in pointing out the importance of Eusebius for early modern scholars in the 1960s. In his talk, Grafton followed the “twists and turns” of the Eusebian revival in the Renaissance and Reformation. Eusebius’s inclusion of original documents in his Church History had paved the way for the documentary method of sixteenth-century scholars. Grafton told the story of how Eusebius inspired such diverse figures such as Paul of Middelburg (d. 1534), Guillaume Budé (d. 1540), Thomas Cranmer (d. 1556) and John Foxe (d. 1587). Eusebius’s practice of working with assistants might have inspired the team-work project of the Magdeburg Centuries. Cristina Dondi (Oxford) presented her data-based project “The Fifteenth-Century Book Trade”, which allows scholars to retrace the distribution of incunables across the world. Material evidence (bindings, signatures, marginalia etc.) is used to identify the movements of early printed books. Madeline McMahon (Princeton) explained how Desiderius Erasmus (d. 1536) elevated the reception of a church father to a new level by fashioning an image of himself based on Jerome; this was, in turn, a Jerome based on his own image. Erasmus’s editing became a “form of theology”. In his Defence of the Apology, John Jewel (d. 1571), on the other hand, pointed out the weaknesses of church fathers. Many humanists had seen the fathers as both authoritative and fallible, so McMahon also offered insights into how fifteenth-century humanists studied the church fathers in discerning fashion. Poggio Bracciolini (d. 1459), for example, juxtaposed church fathers such as Augustine and Jerome, recognizing how they had differed in their opinions on numerous points. Alex Wright (Cambridge) concentrated on William Cave’s Primitive Christianity: or, the Religion of the Ancient Christians in the First Ages of the Gospel. Cave (d. 1713) studied the genre of commendatory letters and was the first English scholar to write a literary history of the Church. Sam Kennerley (Cambridge) traced an aspect of a “change in direction” of early modern Catholicism by exploring how patristic studies were extended to the East. This outreach was supported by Marcello Cervini (Pope Marcellus II, d. 1555). Sundar Henny (Bern) dealt with presentism in seventeenth-century patristics in Zurich, while Cornel Zwierlein (Bochum) investigated Non-juror patristic studies and the Levant. Mark Vessey (Vancouver) reviewed aspects of Erasmus’s method as found in his Ratio seu compendium verae theologiae (1518/19). In a thought-provoking talk, Nicholas Hardy (Cambridge) examined how political circumstances, patronage as well as the disciplinary conventions of controversial theology conditioned the writings of Isaac Casaubon (d. 1614). Such influences made Casaubon, like other humanists, a flexible and inconstant figure, to whom even the term “scholar” in the strictest modern sense should perhaps not be applied. Jean-Louis Quantin (Paris) gave the keynote lecture to conclude the conference. His overview of the geography of patristic printing was a history of patristic studies in disguise. He recounted how Venetian publishing became increasingly disconnected from patristic scholarship and how Paris printers then ascended to market dominance. Was it beneficial for patristic studies, however, that only one order (the Maurists) came to monopolize this field so strongly? Or did this very monopoly contribute to a slowdown of patristic studies from the eighteenth century onwards? Quantin left this interesting question open.

In conclusion, one could not have wished for much more from this high-powered short conference, both in terms of variety and intellectual stimulation; perhaps only the participation of theologians might have added more viewpoints. After the end of the conference, a book-launch followed to celebrate the new volume edited by Scott Mandelbrote and Joanna Weinberg, Jewish Books and their Readers (Leiden, 2016). The book was presented by Thomas Roebuck (University of East Anglia).


Conference Overview:

Panel 1. Chair: Andreas Ammann (University of Bern)

Andrew Taylor (Churchill College, Cambridge): Reading Philo in the 1550s

Richard Serjeantson (Trinity College, Cambridge): Reborn in Rome? The baptism of Constantine and the writing of church history, 1475-1650

Anthony Grafton (Princeton): The reception of Eusebius as a church historian

Panel 2. Chair: Emily Michelson (University of St Andrews)

Cristina Dondi (Lincoln College, Oxford): The circulation of the early editions of the fathers: an evidence-based approach

Madeline McMahon (Princeton): Feuding Fathers: John Jewel reads Jerome on the Origenist Controversy

Alex Wright (Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge): ‘Letters and Learning’. William Cave’s ‘Primitive Christianity’ (1673) and the early modern study of ‘literae commendaticiae’

Panel 3. Chair: John-Paul Ghobrial (Balliol College, Oxford)

Sam Kennerley (Trinity College, Cambridge): The globalisation of patristics in the circle of Marcello Cervini

Sundar Henny (Universität Bern): Presentism in Seventeenth-Century Patristics

Cornel Zwierlein (Ruhr-Universität Bochum): Non-Juror Patristic studies and the Levant

Panel 4. Chair: Joanna Weinberg (University of Oxford)

Mark Vessey (University of British Columbia): The renaissance of late antiquity in Erasmus’ ‘Ratio seu compendium verae theologiae’ (1518/19)

Nicholas Hardy (Trinity College, Cambridge): Isaac Casaubon, the fathers, and post-Reformation theological controversy

Keynote lecture. Respondent: Scott Mandelbrote (Peterhouse, Cambridge)

Jean-Louis Quantin (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Sorbonne, Paris): A European geography of patristic scholarship, sixteenth to the seventeenth- century

This conference report has now also been published on H-Net (H-Soz-Kult). Click here.


Panel report: Catholic Historiography and Confessionalization

The Sixteenth Century Society and Conference (SCSC) promotes scholarship on the early modern era, broadly defined (ca. 1450 – ca. 1660). This year’s Conference took place in Bruges, Belgium (18-20 August 2016). The History & Theology Project organized a papel entitled ‘Catholic Historiography and Confessionalization’ (Sponsor: Ecclesiastical History Society; Organizer: Stefan Bauer). The panel was chaired by Simon Ditchfield (York).

In his paper, Boris Hogenmüller (Würzburg) dealt with ‘The authority of history in Melchior Cano’s De locis theologicis (On Theological ‘Places’)’. The great work of the Spanish theologian Cano (1506/9–1560) probably represents the first modern treatise on fundamental theology. Its intention was to present theologians with a rich supply of ‘places’ (loci), from which they could extract arguments in order to win discussions with pagans and heretics. Besides theology’s own ‘places’ (loci proprii) – such as the authority of Scripture – ‘other places’ (loci alieni) are provided as special sources of arguments. Among them, the authority of (secular) history occupies a central position. As a theologian, Cano used classical historiography (especially the writings of pagan historians such as Tacitus and Sallust) for argumentative support, especially in disputes with ‘heretics’ (that is, members of other confessions). He subordinated the historical assertions of the classical authors to the intentions of the loci. For theologians, according to Cano, these assertions were equally binding just as arguments from Holy Scripture or decisions of the General Church Councils. For this reason, profane history – as a locus alienus of theology – should not be assigned less authority than, for example, the apostolic tradition.

Stefan Bauer (York) discussed the ‘Limits of confessionalization in mid-sixteenth century Rome’. A central tenet of the theory of confessionalization – namely that religion and the State were closely interconnected in the development of modernity – played out in Catholic historiography in several ways. Works on ecclesiastical history were shaped by the necessity to justify the traditions of the Catholic Church. They were also informed by expectations of doctrinal correctness and conditioned by thought control. It was shown that the historian Onofrio Panvinio (1530-68) was able to maintain an idiosyncratic position in this emergent process of the confessionalization of historiography.

The paper by Andreea Badea (Rome) was entitled ‘Staging the Papacy: The meaning of historical factuality in Alfonso Chacón’s Vitae et gesta summorum pontificum’. How could the papacy be defended, in historical writing, against attacks from inside and outside the Church? An antiquarian might reply: “by writing a detailed history of the popes” — but such a work would only defend Catholicism as a confessional entity. In order to clear up inner-Catholic divergences, the Spanish antiquarian in Rome Alfonso Chacón (1530-99) decided to expand the chronological material which he had collected concerning the Curia as an institution. In his Vitae et gesta he documented not only the lives of the popes but also the institutional evolution of the court. This paper showed how this antiquarian shaped a confessional identity and reinforced the central role of the papacy by focusing on the Curia as an everlasting sacral complex.

Information on the panel participants:

Dr Boris Hogenmüller studied Classics and History; PhD, University of Würzburg 2008; Lecturer in Classics at the University of Würzburg and Gymnasium teacher in Hanau. Research interests: Ancient philosophy; Greek and Roman satire; Roman love poetry; Neolatin literature (16th century). Publications include: ‘Die “impii”: Melchior Canos Auseinandersetzung mit den Reformatoren in De locis theologicis“, Theologie und Philosophie 85 (2010), pp. 501-12; ‘Über die Orte der Theologie (De locis theologicis): Melchior Cano, Gaspard Juenin und Hieronymus Buzi im Vergleich‘, Würzburger Jahrbücher für Altertumswissenschaften 36 (2012) 169-84; ‘Eine bisher unerkannte Juvenalstelle in Melchior Canos De locis theologicis‘, Philologus 158 (2014), pp. 320-30.

Dr Andreea Badea,  PhD in History (2007), Bayreuth University, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute in Rome. She entered academia as a Lecturer at Bayreuth University until 2008. From 2008 to 2012, she moved on to the University of Münster as a researcher at the DFG-Project “Römische Inquisition und Indexkongregation in der Neuzeit”. She publishes on the entanglement of learned culture, historiographical practice, and Roman politics in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Dr Stefan Bauer, MA (Aachen), MA and PhD (Warburg Institute), is a Research Fellow in early modern history. He currently holds a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship at the University of York, UK, working on a project entitled “History and Theology: the Creation of Disinterested Scholarship from Dogmatic Stalemate (ca. 1525-1675)”. His special interests lie in the history of historiography as well Reformation and Counter Reformation Europe. Monographs: The Censorship and Fortuna of Platina’s Lives of the Popes in the Sixteenth Century, Turnhout, Brepols, 2006; Polisbild und Demokratieverständnis in Jacob Burckhardts Griechischer Kulturgeschichte, Basel & Munich, Schwabe & C.H. Beck, 2001.

A complete programme of the conference can be downloaded by clicking here: SCSC 2016.

Catholic Historiography and Confessionalization

Pleased to announce our panel “Catholic Historiography and Confessionalization” at SCSC Bruges, Fri 19 Aug 8.30am:


The Sixteenth Century Society and Conference (SCSC) promotes scholarship on the early modern era, broadly defined (ca. 1450 – ca. 1660).

For the full conference programme please click here.

Islam, the Turks and the Making of the English Reformation

I would like to draw attention to a new book. John Foxe wrote the first English history of the Ottoman Empire in his magnum opus, The Acts and Monuments (1570). He exceeded contemporary representations in his extremely negative image of Islam and the «Turks,» who were identified as Antichrist and the epitome of wickedness.By juxtaposing Foxe’s work with that of his sources, fascinating conclusions can be drawn. The author analyzes the factors prompting Foxe to insert a lengthy digression on a topic that does not directly concern the main theme of his ecclesiastical history, shedding new light on the established notions of his historiographic methodology and his perception of Catholicism as the greatest enemy of «true religion».

Toenjes, Christopher: Islam, the Turks and the Making of the English Reformation.The History of the Ottoman Empire in John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments (Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016).

Inside Dee’s Miraculous Mind

In three evening lectures at the Royal College of Physicians, Deborah Harkness, Katie Birkwood, and Bill Sherman explored the world of Tudor polymath John Dee (1527–1609). Harkness gave fascinating insights into Dee’s conversations with angels, his search for Truth (with a capital T) and his great imagination, which made him go beyond the knowledge contained in his own book collection (even though he possessed the largest library in England at the time, consisting of 4,000 volumes). Birkwood gave the audience an idea of how many decisions go into creating a book exhibition, from the choice of books to their physical presentation. Sherman went “Back to the Future” with John Dee, showing a scene from Derek Jarman’s 1978 film Jubilee, which jumps back and forth between the time of Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II. This led Sherman to reflect on some markers of modernity put down by Dee that were recognized as such only much later. The audience members joined the conversation with numerous questions on topics ranging from alchemy to Greek philosophy; in fact, their curiosity exceeded the time allotted for the discussion.

2 3 4 5 Polymath

Venue: Royal College of Physician, London

‘The Renaissance library and the worldview of John Dee’, Deborah Harkness, professor of history, University of Southern California

‘Curating Dee: behind the scenes of ‘Scholar, courtier, magician’’, Katie Birkwood, RCP rare books and special collections librarian

‘Back to the future with John Dee’, Bill Sherman, head of research, Victoria & Albert Museum

‘In conversation’, followed by exhibition viewing