The papers presented in this volume were first delivered at a conference convened at Victoria College at the University of Toronto in September 2017. In his “Introduction” Nicholas Terpstra summarizes the aims of the various authors as moving “outside of Germany and the northern European sphere generally in order to trace global developments” and to explore “some of the ways Reformation movements shaped relations” with other Christians, other world religions, and aboriginal peoples (7). The aims of the volume may be transnational and global, but they are also comparative, as the second introductory piece by Luke Clossey demonstrates. He compares the parallel developments of reform movements and territorial expansion in Buddhism and Islam in the early modern period to Christianity. As he reminds, Christianity’s expansion, while decidedly larger in its global dimensions at the time, was certainly not singular. He shows that while the expansion of Buddhism into Mongolia and Tibet and the spread of Islam into South and Southeast Asia shared some similarities with the spread of Christianity, each were quite different from the other. Neither Islam nor Buddhism had a concept of missions akin to Christianity’s, and as a result of its early modern permutations Buddhism became at the time little more than a catchall phrase to describe a group of quite different religions.
The differences between Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity and their early modern expansions prompts Clossey to consider typologies for explaining the divergent patterns displayed in the emergence and spread of global religions and in the patterns of reform that the three world religions experienced in the early modern period. The theories scholars relied on to explain these developments once stressed the expansion of world religions as instances of diffusion and transmission resulting from imperial conquest and territorial expansion. Explanations like these were best suited to European imperialism in which Christianity went hand-in-hand with settlement and colonial encounters. The early modern expansions of Islam and Buddhism, however, did not always occur as a result of face-to-face contact or conquest. In the case of Buddhist expansion into China, in particular, new types of religious experience were nurtured through contacts at a distance with several different forms of Buddhism at once, and the result produced a new hybrid form of the religion that was different from that practiced in other regions.
The first section of the volume’s papers, “Conversion, Co-existence, and Identity,” echo Clossey’s concerns with the dynamics of conversion, reform, and religious expansion. The first of these, a contribution from Haruko Nawata Ward, examines the development of the genre of female kirishitan (Christian) martyrologies in late sixteenth-century Japan. These accounts addressed the realities of both Japanese and Catholic societies at the time, for on the one hand they extolled the virtues of women who resisted imperial efforts to impose a state Buddhist cult on Japanese subjects, while at the same time celebrating feats of female religiosity that were generally circumscribed among European women experiencing Tridentine waves of reform. In secret circulation until the nineteenth century, kirishitan accounts helped to inspire a female religious identity among Japanese Christians that ran counter to both Buddhism and institutional Catholicism. Similar dynamics can be seen in the two remaining chapters in this section, that of Giorgio Caravale on the Roman gypsies and Gary K. Waite on the Dutch Anabaptists. Both groups were initially granted a limited degree of toleration in their respective societies, but subjected nonetheless to waves of persecution, attempts at conversion, and efforts to root out their different beliefs and practices.
Reform movements among orthodox Christians often heightened such efforts, as can be seen in the cases treated in the second of the book’s sections, “Spatial and Social Disciplines,” on the geographical dimensions of relations between religious majorities and minorities. Justine Walden explores the consequences of the founding of the Florentine ghetto in 1571–73, a little more than half a century after the first Italian ghetto appeared at Venice. In the Middle Ages, Florentine Jews had been kept outside the town walls, yet successive enlargements of those battlements had gradually brought them inside the limes. As elsewhere in Italy, waves of late sixteenth-century religious reform came in Florence to confine the Jews within a few years to a small portion of the city, a quarter traditionally reserved as the haunt of prostitutes and thieves. Spatial isolation thus revived and heightened older notions of the Jews as sources of pollution and crime. Tense negotiations, outright prohibitions, and persistent efforts to isolate also governed relations between Protestants and Catholics in early modern Italy, the subject of Stefano Villani’s essay in this section. Older heterodox groups, like the Waldensians, the Eastern Orthodox, and even Muslims, had longstanding traditions of negotiated settlement with Italian governments. These same polities, however, steadily resisted the novelties of religious practices and beliefs embraced by the new waves of Protestant traders who set up shop in Italy in the early modern centuries. These merchants were often confined to trading colonies in which, unlike the Jews of Italian ghettos, religious services had to be performed in secret, lest heterodoxy attract converts from the locals. Cracks in such prohibitions began to appear as British imperial power strengthened in the eighteenth-century Mediterranean, yet it was not until the Risorgimento that such regimes collapsed.
Enclosure might play a role in isolating the heterodox, but it also could be perceived as a way to safeguard racial purity and the European community. The final paper in this section from Allison Graham relates the fascinating history of early-modern Manila. Here Spanish colonials built two sets of walls, one to protect the city from the chaos and disorder that threatened from outside, and a second enclosure to protect and isolate Spaniards from the locals. Walls might exclude, marking off a population as dangerous, a source of pollution. At the same time, such structures could be perceived to isolate and protect racial purity, even as they were intendd to foster discipline and strengthen the Catholicity of a ruling class.
The final two sections of the volume, “Cultural and Religious Politics,” and “Life Across Boundaries,” treat two sides of the same coin: ecclesiastical power and its efforts to enforce religious uniformity and define practices on the one hand, and instances in which members of different religions nonetheless mingled and met on the other. The three papers on religious politics in the third section explore different avenues clerical interactions with those from other religions might take in borderlands, and include Luka Špoljarić’s treatment of the 1459 forced conversion of the Bosnian Krstjani whom Rome feared as Manichees; Lindsay Sidders’s discussion of the evangelistic and enlarged Christian vision of the Mexican Creole bishop Alonso de la Mota y Escobar; and Andrew McCormick’s examination of the failed reform efforts of the eighteenth-century Catholic bishop Pietro Martire de Stefani, who labored unsuccessfully on the confessionally divided island of Naxos.
In a volume largely devoted to examining cases in which Christians aimed to build walls that created uniformity and strengthened reform efforts, it is refreshing to see that the conference organizers also recognized limits to those endeavors. The fourth and final section of the volume, “Life Across Boundaries,” demonstrates that the individual might continue to confound the efforts of ecclesiastical reformers, and that the boundaries between religious traditions, while hardened as a consequence of the accruing efforts of reformers, remained nonetheless porous. Here three papers suggest ways that Catholics, Protestants, varying sects, and Christians and Non-Christians interacted despite the increasingly arbitrary lines that were being drawn between them. Jacqueline Holler examines birthing practices in colonial Mexico and shows that inherited religious practices and lore surrounding childbirth remained in circulation, despite counter-reforming efforts to attack Non-Christian beliefs. Where birth was concerned, New World Inquisitors generally left women to customary practices. The interior world of the household, moreover, proved to be one site resistant to the efforts of purist reformers aiming to eliminate religious heterodoxy. In seventeenth-century Venice, for instance, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Anabaptists, Lutherans, and Calvinists circulated relatively freely, despite draconian efforts to root out “heretics” and infidels from the Republic. The domestic world of the house could prove a refuge from attempts to enforce uniformity, and as Federica Francesconi shows. Jewish households, in particular, often became multi-ethnic sites, inhabited with Christian and Muslim servants and slaves who worked for Sephardic masters. The final contribution of the volume, a chapter by Christine Marie Koch, is the only piece treating British North America, and examines the migration of Salzburg’s Crypto-Protestants to colonial Georgia under the aegis of German Pietists and the approving eyes of British officialdom. Here on the colonial frontier the victims of Salzburg’s famous 1731 expulsion, as well as a good admixture of unpersecuted Halle Pietists, were imagined as founding a biblical Ebenezer, a bulwark against the encroachment of Spanish Catholics in nearby Florida and Louisiana. In this way victims of Catholic intolerance might thus be deployed to encourage Protestant loyalty.
This is an unusually coherent and intelligent conference volume in which each paper contributes to creating a greater whole. The methods employed here reveal a maturation in attending to Christianity’s globalization. Older narratives—those that stressed a one-way movement from metropole to colonies, or that noted a top-down flow of ideas and reforms from ecclesiastical elites to the masses, or that argued that Christian expansion was only a tool of empire and acculturation—have been here joined to new emphases on cultural dialogue and entanglement. Consequently, the results are worth the time of students of late medieval and early modern religion.