1280px-Papa_Clemente_VII_e_l'imperatore_Carlo_V_a_cavallo_sotto_un_baldacchino_(8_de_agosto_de_2018,_Museo_degli_affreschi_Giovanni_Battista_Cavalcaselle,_Verona)We will host the second of our two conferences, ‘Holy Wars and Sacred States: Religious Conflict, the State, and Sacred Power in Early Modern Europe’, at Queen’s University Belfast, 4-6 July 2019.

Four hundred years after the outbreak of the Thirty Years War is a good time to re-consider early modern European religious conflict in the round. That religious conflict profoundly shaped European modernity – from the Schmalkaldic War, the Thirty Years War and the Civil Wars in Britain and Ireland, to the Khmelnytsky Uprising, and beyond – is indisputable, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 is just one sign that the confessional age did not end in 1648. Was religious conflict always about hordes of irrational fanatics flinging themselves at each other with no regard for material wellbeing? How did religious militants and religious moderates differ in their approach to conflict? Can secular motivations be separated from sacred ones in what remained a religious culture? How did early modern nations conflate fighting for country with fighting for God, and vice versa? How did millenarian views, confessional orthodoxy, and patriotism interact in periods of conflict among rulers and ruled?  To what extent can the creation of areas of human life free from God be separated from the state’s appropriation of sacred power?

The organisers would like to explore these and similar questions in the context of discussions about early modern warfare, civil and religious conflict, toleration, and the confessional and sacred character of the early modern European state. Our conference will take the temperature of the study of religious conflict across sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth century Europe from the Stuart kingdoms to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. We hope to create dialogue between historians of political, social, religious, and intellectual life, ranging across all of Europe’s confessions. We are also interested in drawing the attention of the Anglophone world to the scholarship of Paolo Prodi (1932-2016), and the variety of the confessionalisation thesis which he advanced. Prodi argued that early modern Europe saw the reversal of the papal revolution of the twelfth century, the re-establishment of territorial churches (whether Anglican, Gallican, or Josephist), and the sacralisation of the European states, which reached its most extreme form in the development of the twentieth century political religions, whether fascist or communist. Irene Fosi (Chieti-Pescara) will lead a special panel on Prodi’s legacy.

Plenary lectures will be delivered by Eric Nelson (Harvard) and Stefania Tutino (UCLA).

We would be delighted to consider proposals for twenty-minute papers from graduate students, early career, and established scholars related but not limited to:

  • All aspects of religious warfare and conflict between and within early modern European states.
  • National and transnational movement between grades of religious conflict, from legalistic persecution, to civic rioting, to religious civil war.
  • The place of political violence in the search for confessional security, and the different grades of force that might be employed in evangelisation and conversion.
  • Toleration and the role of religion in peace-making.
  • Discourse among the faithful on the subject of warfare; the justice of wars in defence of religion; the justice of evangelisation by force.
  • The place of warfare in the Confessionalisation Thesis.
  • The relationship between religious conflict and the sacralisation of European states.
  • The merging and transposition of religious devotion, national interest, and violence in early modern states.

This conference, funded by the European Research Council as part of ‘War and the Supernatural in Early Modern Europe’, provides an opportunity to promote dialogue between scholars across national contexts, to establish the state of the field, and to mark out avenues for future progress. Please send a one-page CV, a title, and an abstract of no more than 400 words to Dr Floris Verhaart ( by 31 January 2019. Please direct any queries to the same email address. A limited number of travel bursaries will be available for graduate students submitting by the application deadline; please mention that you would like to be considered for such a bursary in your application.

The image above depicts Pope Clement VII and Emperor Charles V on horseback under a canopy, by Jacopo Ligozzi, c. 1580. Museo degli Affreschi ‘G. B. Cavalcaselle’, Verona.