Unearthly Powers

Religious and Political Change in World History

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Alan Strathern
  • Cambridge, England: 
    Cambridge University Press
    , April
     2019.
     408 pages.
     $25.95.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781108701952.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Yuen Yung Sherry Chan forthcoming.

Description

Why was religion so important for rulers in the pre-modern world? And how did the world come to be dominated by just a handful of religious traditions, especially Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism? Drawing on sociology and anthropology, as well as a huge range of historical literature from all regions and periods of world history, Alan Strathern sets out a new way of thinking about transformations in the fundamental nature of religion and its interaction with political authority. His analysis distinguishes between two quite different forms of religiosity - immanentism, which focused on worldly assistance, and transcendentalism, which centred on salvation from the human condition - and shows how their interaction shaped the course of history. Taking examples drawn from Ancient Rome to the Incas or nineteenth-century Tahiti, a host of phenomena, including sacred kingship, millenarianism, state-church struggles, reformations, iconoclasm, and, above all, conversion are revealed in a new light.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Alan Strathern is Associate Professor of History at the University of Oxford, and Tutor and Fellow in History at Brasenose College, Oxford.

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