The Uses of History in Early Modern Religious Controversies


The Uses of History in
Early Modern Religious Controversies

International Conference
Huntingdon Room at The King’s Manor, York YO1 7EP
Friday, 2 June 2017

Organiser: Stefan Bauer (Dept. of History, University of York)

From the Reformation, church history presented a challenge to each confession in its own right. Protestants were compelled to invent particularly creative answers because, as Euan Cameron has noted, “the core message of the Reformation called for a shift in perceptions of the Christian past.”  This is because Protestants, who aimed to revert to the pristine early state of the Church, were confronted with the key issue of explaining why error had come into the Church after apostolic times. The prevailing models for church history did not suit their view of the degeneration of the medieval Church, so that Protestant historians in the Reformation had to re-invent the discipline. Catholics, on the other hand, aimed to show that church institutions and doctrine from apostolic times had always been the same.

This conference builds on the recent volume “Sacred History: Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World”, edited by Katherine Van Liere, Simon Ditchfield and Howard Louthan (Oxford 2012). It will push research into the field further by concentrating on the polemical interactions between Catholics and Protestants. It will also explore to which degree history and theology were fused together in the process and to which degree they could be separated.

The historiography of Christianity is a fundamental and burgeoning field in current scholarship, a fact which, in combination with the contemporary topicality of and sensitivity to religious difference and identity, suggests that this conference will be of interest to people both within and without the academy.

9.30am                 Opening remarks

9.40am                 Panel 1:  Initial impact
Chair: Richard Rex (Cambridge)

Sam Kennerley (Cambridge)
Erasmus, Oecolampadius and the politics of patristic scholarship in Reformation Basel, 1523-1529.  Download MP3 podcast here

David Bagchi (Hull)
“O Constance, be strong upon my side!” Contesting the Council in the Reformation, c. 1520-c.1550

10.50 am              Tea break

11.10am               Panel 2:  Church histories
Chair: Simon Ditchfield (York)

Stefan Bauer (York)
Pontianus Polman re-imagined.  Download MP3 podcast here

Harald Bollbuck (Göttingen)
Searching for the true religion: the Church History of the “Magdeburg Centuries” between critical methods and confessional polemics

12.30-2pm           Lunch


2pm                       Panel 3:  England, France and the Netherlands
Chair: Stefan Bauer (York)

Jean-Louis Quantin (EPHE, Paris)
The saint, the pope, and the emperor: the deposition of John Chrysostom in confessional polemics

Jan Machielsen (Cardiff)
Pope Joan on the frontlines: the unknown debate between Egbert Grim and Johannes Stalenus in the 1630s

Bethany Hume (York)
The Albigensian heresy in confessional polemic: Jacques-Benigne Bossuet’s “Histoire des variations des églises protestantes” (1688) and the response of Huguenot exiles

3.30pm                 Coffee/tea break

3.50 pm                Panel 4:  Bibles
Chair: Katrin Ettenhuber (Cambridge)

Debora Shuger (UCLA)
The polemics of the paratext and the English Bible

Kevin Killeen (York)
The eye-sore of the Bible: Catholic Radicalism

Nicholas Hardy (Cambridge)
Biblical criticism and confessional controversy: the text of the Old Testament in the Reformed and Catholic traditions

5.20pm                 Short break

5.30pm                 Roundtable: New perspectives on the history of religious polemics

Euan Cameron (Union Theological Seminary, NYC, chair), Anthony Milton (Sheffield), Richard Rex, Simon Ditchfield, Debora Shuger, Katrin Ettenhuber, Stefan Bauer

6.15pm                 Close of the conference with a drinks reception (sponsored by CREMS) followed by a meal for invited speakers.

The Patrides lecture by Euan Cameron, “World History and God’s Grand Design: the historical imagination in the Middle Ages and Reformation”, will take place on 1 June at 6.30pm. All are invited to this public lecture. Location: Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building, YO10 5DD. A separate registration for this event via Eventbrite is recommended.

Conference registration for guests costs £12 or £10 for students (to cover lunch and coffee breaks), spaces are limited. Guests can register via email: