1st Edition

Women and Religion in the Atlantic Age, 1550-1900

By Emily Clark, Mary Laven Copyright 2013

    Bringing the study of early modern Christianity into dialogue with Atlantic history, this collection provides a longue durée investigation of women and religion within a transatlantic context. Taking as its starting point the work of Natalie Zemon Davis on the effects of confessional difference among women in the age of religious reformations, the volume expands the focus to broader temporal and geographic boundaries. The result is a series of essays examining the effects of religious reform and revival among women in the wider Atlantic world of Europe, the Americas, and West Africa from 1550 to 1850. Taken collectively, the essays in this volume chart the extended impact of confessional divergence on women over time and space, and uncover a web of transatlantic religious interaction that significantly enriches our understanding of the unfolding of the Atlantic World. Divided into three sections, the volume begins with an exploration of ’Old World Reforms’ looking afresh at the impact of confessional change in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries upon the lives of European women. Part two takes this forward, tracing the adaptation of European religious forms within Africa and the Americas. The third and final section explores the multifarious faces of the revival that inspired the nineteenth century missionary movement on both sides of the Atlantic. Collectively the essays underline the extent to which the development of the Atlantic World created a space within which an unprecedented series of juxtapositions, collisions, and collusions among religious traditions and practitioners took place. These demonstrate how the religious history of Europe, the Americas, and Africa became intertwined earlier and more deeply than much scholarship suggests, and highlight the dynamic nature of transatlantic cross-fertilization and influence.

    Contents: Introduction, Emily Clark and Mary Laven; Part I Old World Reforms: What are the women doing in Foxe’s ’Book of Martyrs’?, Patrick Collinson; From devilry to sainthood: Mère Jeanne des Anges and Catholic Reform, Robin Briggs. Part II European Encounters with Africa and the Americas: Islands of women in a sea of change: Havana’s female religious communities in the 18th-century Atlantic world, John J. Clune; When is a cloister not a cloister? Comparing women and religion in the colonies of France and Spain, Emily Clark; Crossing denominational boundaries: two early American women and religion in the Atlantic world, Annette Laing; Njinga of Matamba and the politics of Catholicism, Cathy Skidmore-Hess. Part III Revival: Religious sisters and revival in the English Catholic Church, 1840s-1880s, Susan O’Brien; Women and religious revival in post-Revolutionary France: Jeanne-Antide Thouret and the Sisters of charity of Besançon, Hazel Mills; Religion and the rise and fall of female benevolence in antebellum Savannah, 1801-60, Timothy J. Lockley; Index.


    Mary Laven is Reader in Early Modern European History, University of Cambridge, UK. She is the author of Virgins of Venice: Enclosed Lives and Broken Vows in the Renaissance Convent, winner of the 2002 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and Mission to China: Matteo Ricci and the Jesuit Encounter with the East. Her articles on early modern Italy and Europe, with particular focus on religion, gender and sociability, have appeared in Historical Journal and Renaissance Quarterly. Emily Clark is Clement Chambers Benenson Professor in American Colonial History atTulane University in New Orleans. Her work on women, race, and religion has appeared in the William and Mary Quarterly and in Masterless Mistresses: The New Orleans Ursulines and the Development of a New World Society, 1727-1834 (Chapel Hill, 2007).

    'This collection ... explores women's responses to religious reformations (and revolutions) along three Atlantic coasts: Europe, Africa, and America. ... Readers researching women's history and spirituality, American studies and religious studies will be interested.' Magistra 'The essays cover a range of topics starting with the familiar in the old world and moving into new territory including Cuba and West Africa concluding with religious revival in the nineteenth century. We see women in a remarkable variety of situations ranging from the extraordinary; danger of ritual execution on the death of their monarch to the more usual; leadership of religious foundations. Several essays demonstrate the value to be obtained from reconsidering the ways historians approach familiar topics.' Recusant History ’...the collection is excellent and enjoyable to read.’ European History Quarterly