Constructing Modernity by Writing Religious History*This article is my contribution to the symposium ‘Godsdienstgeschiedenis en de moderne wereld’, held on 27 September 2002 in honour of Dr. L.P. van den Bosch on the occasion of his retirement from the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 57, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 2542-6583
  • E-ISSN: 2590-3268



This paper presents a re-description of the rise of comparative religion between 1870 and 1920. It argues that the reconstructions of the past depended on a critical evaluation of the presence. Using comparative methods, scholars identified elements of ancient, oriental and tribal religions in their own culture – in the beginning as survivals, later as powerful manifestations of a culture not subdued by rationality. Their historical reconstructions implied different diagnoses of the modern world.


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