In saecula saeculorum

Long-Term Perspectives on Religious History

In: Church History and Religious Culture


This article offers a personal perspective on religious history after the institutionalisation of this field in the History Department at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 2015. In essence and method, religious history is like history of religion(s). In German and Dutch, one can speak of Religionsgeschichte or religiegeschiedenis/godsdienstgeschiedenis. Different terms are in use in English and French, reflecting the different traditions in the disciplines of theology and history. History of religion(s)/histoire des religions is commonly associated with comparative studies of (non-Christian) religions, while religious history/histoire religieuse developed as a specialisation within general history (mostly concerned with Christianity and therefore close to what is known as church history or ecclesiastical history). While understanding religious history as general history with a focus on the religious factor in cultural, social, and political realities, various research traditions should be converged and integrated by means of conceptual exchange, cross-disciplinary approaches, and linked scholarly networks. Given the interest in global dimensions and long-term developments, computer-assisted research of digitalised sources is recommended for doing religious history today.