Sacrifice: Theology and the Human Sciences in Early Modern Europe


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library during academic year 2011-2012


For many years, historians have traced the origins of the human sciences to a gradual secularization of knowledge in the wake of the Scientific Revolution. This project entirely recasts this history. It argues that it was in the domain of theology that these disciplines first took form. Specifically, they took form in the unusual theology of the seventeenth century, when the engines of polemic drove scholars to mobilize arguments from (modern) disciplines as various as legal history, comparative anthropology, geography, and even natural history. The problem of sacrifice concentrated all of these currents as a nucleus around which the intellectual, religious, and political problems of the day coalesced; through it, we can reveal anew the history of both the human sciences and theology.