Brad S. Gregory

 

On his book The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society

Cover Interview of January 25, 2012

A close-up

The book challenges common assumptions about historical explanation and method, the nature of the Reformation, the making of the modern world, and the character of contemporary life in North America and Europe.  For this reason, the Introduction is critically important.  It explains the rationale for proceeding as I do.  In order to understand the book’s aim and structure, the Introduction must be read first.  The Conclusion is also important, as it draws together the six chapters into a concise narrative summary.

A reader browsing randomly through the book might wonder what divergent metaphysical theories, the culture wars, climate change, intractable moral disagreements, and the secularized academy have to do with each other or with the Reformation.  One of the book’s arguments is that disciplinary specialization and the fragmentation of knowledge prevent us from seeing important connections among phenomena ordinarily studied separately.  Moreover, the tendency of many historians to concentrate on different types of history—cultural, social, economic, political—to the relative exclusion of others diminishes our comprehension of the past.  All these types must be incorporated because of their combined explanatory power, a corollary of their interrelated historical influence.