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Title: European multiconfessionalism and the English toleration controversy, 1640-1660
Authors: Coffey, John R. D.
First Published: Jun-2011
Publisher: Brill
Citation: Coffey, J. R. D., 'European multiconfessionalism and the English toleration controversy, 1640-1660', ed. Safley, T. M., in 'A Companion to Multiconfessionalism in the Early Modern World', Brill (2011) pp. 341-365
Abstract: Old-fashioned histories of toleration typically assumed that ‘ideas rule the world’. As a result, they gave pride of place to a heroic line of progressive thinkers from Castellio to Voltaire who condemned persecution and argued for intellectual and religious freedom. In recent years, however, historians of toleration have started to ‘play down the power of ideas’. Intellectual history, which was once central to accounts of ‘the rise of toleration’, is now being displaced by the political and (especially) social history of religious coexistence. This historiographical shift is an important corrective to the overly idealist (and idealised) scholarship of earlier generations, for it gives us a sophisticated insight into the actual practice of tolerance and intolerance in states and communities across Europe. However, it raises questions. How do the old and the new history of toleration relate to each other, if at all. Is intellectual history now passé? Or should we be exploring the interface between early modern practice and early modern theory? Judith Pollman has suggested that this is the way forward. She wonders if the practice of coexistence was ‘the catalyst for new ideas on religious uniformity’, and whether ‘the everyday experience of living with pluralism’ caused ‘an intellectual orientation away from the Augustinian imperative compelle intrare’. In this essay, I want to address such questions and bridge the gap between theory and practice by considering what participants in the English toleration controversy had to say about the multiconfessional polities of continental Europe.
ISBN: 9789004206977
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Chapter
Rights: Copyright © 2011, Brill. Deposited with reference to the publisher’s open access archiving policy, available at
Appears in Collections:Books & Book Chapters, School of Historical Studies

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