How to Do Things with Belief

  • Ethan H. Shagan
Part of the Crossroads of Knowledge in Early Modern Literature book series (CKEML, volume 1)


This chapter challenges the scholarly commonplace of ‘Protestant interiority’. Rather than imagining the Reformation turn from ritual participation to individual belief as a turn inward, Shagan argues that Protestants developed and deployed new understandings of beliefs as performative actions that did things in the world. Part of a larger study of how the category of ‘belief’ itself changed over time, by analysing how English Protestants tried to do things with belief rather than merely believing things, Shagan elucidates the paradox that the very people usually charged by scholars with turning religion inward—English puritans—were also the people who most sought to use religion to change the world.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ethan H. Shagan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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