Skip to main content

The Curve of Confessionalization: Tracking Religious Revival among Early Modern Armenians through the “Serial History” of the Armenian Book (Sebouh Aslanian, UCLA)

The CEU Campus
Friday, June 1, 2018, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

In recent years, historians have found that “confessionalization” was a global process manifesting its influence on diverse societies from the shores of the Danube in the heart of the Habsburg Empire to the Bosporus and Zayandeh Rud in the neighboring Ottoman and Safavid Empires in West Asia. Among Armenians living in the Ottoman and Safavid Empires, the global wave of confessionalization arrived late in the seventeenth century, crested in the first decade of the eighteenth, and finally ebbed in the closing years of the century. Confessionalization among the Armenians was not a top-down process but one shaped by non-state institutions such as the Armenian Church hierarchy and its diocesan network churches and primates as well as mobile and transimperial Catholic Armenian missionaries drove Armenian confessionalization. In addition, printers and publishers in the port cities of the Armenian diaspora in Europe and in the Ottoman Empire also acted as agents of confessionalization.This study relies on Annales-style histoire sérielle for a deep probing of some 1,000 published titles in the seventeenth and eighteenth century to see if the undulation of the curves of published material according to genres can reveal larger trends in the collective mentalité of Armenian readers in the diaspora. Through a combination of statistical and qualitative reading of books, the study suggests that a wave of confessionalization is reflected in the unusually high volume of printed books under the category of “Religion and Theology.” Remarks on the appearance of a “reading revolution” and accompanying “desacralization” of print late in the eighteenth century will conclude the study.

 Sebouh David Aslanian is the Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair of Modern Armenian History and Associate Professor in the Department of History at UCLA. Aslanian specializes in early modern world and Armenian history and is the author of From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011) which was the recipient of the PEN Center’s Exceptional UC Press First Book Award and winner of the Houshang Pourshariati Iranian Studies Book Award, Middle East Studies Association (MESA), 2011. His essay “A Life Lived Across Continents: A Global Microhistory of Marcara Avachintz, an Armenian Agent of Colbert’s Compagnie des Indes Orientales, 1666-1707,” is scheduled to appear in Annales: Histoire, Science Sociales in 2017. Aslanian is now completing his second book manuscript dedicated to early modern global print history and provisionally titled Early Modernity and Mobility: Port Cities and Printers Across the Armenian Diaspora, 1512-1800.