The Problem of Unbelief in the 16th Century: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Problem of Unbelief in the 16th Century

1st Edition

By Joseph Tendler

Macat Library

130 pages

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Description

Febvre asked this core question in The Problem of Unbelief: “Could sixteenth-century people hold religious views that were not those of official, Church-sanctioned Christianity, or could they simply not believe at all?” The answer informed a wider debate on modern history, particularly modern French history. Did the religious attitudes of the Enlightenment and the twentieth century—notably secularism and atheism—first take root in the sixteenth century? Could the spirit of scientific and rational inquiry of the twentieth century have begun with the rejection of God and Christianity by men such as Rabelais, writing in his allegorical novel Gargantua and Pantagruel – the work most often cited as a proto-"atheist" text prior to Febvre's study? The debate hinged on some key differences of interpretation. Was Rabelais mocking the structures of the Christian Church (in which case he might be anticlerical)? Was he mocking the Bible scriptures or Church doctrines (in which case he might be anti-Christian)? Or was he mocking the very idea of God’s existence (in which case he might be an atheist)?

The other great contribution that Febvre made to the study of history can be found not so much in the fine detail of this work as in the additions that he made to the historian's toolkit. In this sense, Febvre was highly creative; indeed it can be argued that he ranks among the most creative of all historians. He sought to move the study of history itself beyond its traditional focus on documentary records, arguing instead that close analysis of language could open up a gateway into the ways in which people actually thought, and to their subconscious minds. This concept, the focus on "mentalities," is core to the hugely influential approach of the Annales group of historians, and it enabled a switch in the focus of much historical inquiry, away from the study of elites and their deeds and towards new forms of broader social history. Febvre also used techniques and models drawn from anthropology and sociology to create new ways of framing and answering questions, further extending the range of problems that could be addressed by historians. Working together with colleagues such as Marc Bloch, his understanding of what constituted evidence and of the meanings that could be attributed to it, radically redefined what history is – and what it should aspire to be.

Table of Contents

Ways in to the Text

Who was Lucien Febvre?

What does The Problem of Unbelief in the 16th Century Say?

Why does The Problem of Unbelief in the 16th Century Matter?

Section 1: Influences

Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context

Module 2: Academic Context

Module 3: The Problem

Module 4: The Author's Contribution

Section 2: Ideas

Module 5: Main Ideas

Module 6: Secondary Ideas

Module 7: Achievement

Module 8: Place in the Author's Work

Section 3: Impact

Module 9: The First Responses

Module 10: The Evolving Debate

Module 11: Impact and Influence Today

Module 12: Where Next?

Glossary of Terms

People Mentioned in the Text

Works Cited

About the Author

What is the past and what can we really know about it? Relying on his groundbreaking technique championing ‘problem-based history,’ Febvre explores whether 16th-century French writer François Rabelais was he really one of France’s first atheists. Febvre's thorough research on Rabelais and the times he lived in challenges this accepted view.

About the Series

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With a growing list of over 180 titles across a broad range of subject areas, Macat works with leading academics from the world’s top universities to produce new analyses that focus on the ideas and the impact of the most influential works ever written. By setting them in context – and looking at the influences that shaped their authors, as well as the responses they provoked – Macat encourages readers to look at these classics and game-changers with fresh eyes.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HIS000000
HISTORY / General
LIT000000
LITERARY CRITICISM / General
PSY000000
PSYCHOLOGY / General