Rational to Radical Dissent
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Undergraduate Studies
Department: Social Sciences
Course Number: NHIS 3861
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • History
  • Religious Studies
  • Social Sciences
The Protestant demand for the right to private judgment placed responsibility on individual Christians to interpret the scriptures according to their own reason. Recent scholarship reveals that heterodox understandings produced by such private interpretations were a pivotal force in the emergence of the freedom to dissent as a value of civil society. This course considers the tangled evolution of the concept of the right of private judgment, from Martin Luthers defiance of Pope and Emperor to the development of the modern understanding of the right of political dissent, through three historical case studies: 1) the religious wars between Catholics and Huguenots (Protestants) in 16th-century France, the consequent invention of the virtual Republic of Letters, and the effect of Huguenot skepticism on early modern liberal thought; 2) the English Civil War in the next century and the role of religious intolerance in the regicide and abolition of the monarchy and uneasy alternations between anarchy and order; 3) the grassroots struggles of 18th-century British rational dissenters to cast off second-class citizenship, which led to radical reinterpretations of patriotism (many supported the American colonists fight for Independence), abolition of the slave trade, expansion of the franchise to working-class men, even some attention to the wrongs of women.
Course Open to: Degree Students