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 in this period. 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 years is significant but problematic and 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.
'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
'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
Notes on Contributors; Introduction; 1. New Histories of Atheism; 2. Unbelief and Atheism in Italy 1500-1700; 3. Pierre Charron's `Scandalous Book'; 4. The `Christian Atheism' of Thomas Hobbes; 5. The Charge of Atheism and the Language of Radical Speculation 1640-1660; 6. Jewish Anti-Christian Arguments as a Source of Irreligion from the Seventeenth to the Early Nineteenth Century; 7. The First edition of the Traité des trois imposteurs and its
Debt to Spinoza's Ethics; 8. `Aikenhead the Atheist': The Context and Consequences of Articulate Irreligion in the Late Seventeenth Century; 9. Disclaimers as Offence Mechanicms in Charles Blount and John Toland; 10.
The Atheism of d'Holbach and Naigeon; Index.