The rise of atheism and unbelief is a key feature in the development of the modern world, yet it is a topic which has been little explored by historians. This book presents a series of studies of irreligious ideas in various parts of Europe during the two centuries following the Reformation.
Atheism was everywhere illegal. The word itself first entered the vernacular languages soon after the Reformation, but it was not until the eighteenth century that the first systematic defences of unbelief began to appear in print. Its history in the intervening two centuries is significant but hitherto obscure.
The leading scholars who have contributed to this volume offer a range of approaches and draw on a wide variety of sources to produce a scholarly, original, and fascinating book. Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment will be essential reading for all concerned with the religious, intellectual, and social history of early modern Europe.
About the authors
Michael Hunter, Reader in History, Birkbeck College, London. David Wootton, Professor, Lansdowne Chair in Humanities, University of Victoria.
'wide-ranging collection of essays... Many readers will find particular value in David Wooton's opening essay, a succinct overview which tackles the conceptual and methodological problems... This lively and important collection provides evidence that the study of early modern atheism has already experienced its resurrection.' Bernard Capp, Early Modern History
'Michael Hunter provides a deeply researched account of the latest execution for heresy in Britain, that of Thomas Aikenhead in 1697. This is a rewarding and meticulously presented volume.' Ecclesiastical History vol 46, no 1
'an important and perhaps essential acquisition for the person seriously interested in atheist and freethought history ... The emphasis is scholarly, but the text readable.' Gordon Stein, Free Inquiry, Summer 1993
'The book covers some fascinating ground, and provides a stimulating discussion of the conceptual and methodological issues the subject raises. It is suitable for a postgraduate and scholarly audience.' Susan Hardman, Theological Book Review, Vol.6, No. 3, June 1994