In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Religious Networks

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Primary Sources

Atlantic History Religious Networks
Susanne Lachenicht
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 February 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0151


Research on religions and religious migrants in the Atlantic world (and beyond) has made evident that these groups had a rather important impact on historical change in the economy, societies, politics, and cultures within the Atlantic world and beyond. Particularly in the early modern period, the history of religious groups and their networks is central to our understanding of the history of the Atlantic world. Networks of religious communities are crucial for transnational, translocal, and circum-Atlantic exchange, including the exchange of goods, knowledge, and peoples. Religious networks were by no means exclusive networks, but were established within and without specific religious communities in order to satisfy these communities’ needs. While religious groups such as Sephardic Jews, Puritans, Quakers, Huguenots, Moravians, Anglicans, and others in the Atlantic world have been studied for a long time, thorough analyses of their internal and external networks are of a more recent date. Furthermore, up to the present day, most research has focused on one specific religious group, and it has included neither these various groups’ external networks nor their shared networks. Future research may focus more on religious groups’ “internal” and “external” networks and how they are intertwined. This will provide a better understanding of how religious migrants became “in-betweens” and “cross-cultural brokers,” linking peoples and regions with each other. It will also broaden our understanding of Atlantic exchange, entangledness, and reciprocity. Establishing the existence of religious networks in the Atlantic world, both internal and external, is difficult and can be a tedious undertaking. First, it requires an abundance of primary sources, such as correspondence, journals, and lists of transferred goods and peoples over long periods of time. For many religious communities within the Atlantic world, these primary sources have either not survived or are scattered over various countries, towns, and archives. Second, wherever primary sources relevant to establish networks have survived, it is a rather time-consuming task to reconstruct networks out of them. This bibliography looks at networks of a variety but not all of the religious groups within the Atlantic world. While other religious groups might have created and sustained important internal and external networks, they are understudied as of yet. Thus, this entry offers works on Anglican Church/SPG, Irish Catholics, Jesuits, Methodists, Moravians/Herrnhuters, New England Dissenters/Puritans, Lutherans/Pietists, Portuguese and Sephardic Jews, Quakers, and Reformed (Dutch Calvinist, German, Huguenot) networks. It also includes a section on Trade Networks, which were more often than not created and sustained by specific religious groups, and thus help us understand the role of these groups as agents of transfer and exchange.

General Overviews

The history of religious networks, from a holistic perspective, has never been a subject within Atlantic history. Indeed, it would be difficult to write such a history, as it would require a vast amount of knowledge coming out of different subdisciplines that have rarely been connected with each other. Nonetheless, there are a few publications that deal with networks in a more theoretical or abstract perspective (Business History Review 2005, Grabher and Powell 2005), or that are collections of articles on the subject (McCabe, et al. 2005; Bailyn and Denault 2009; Schulte Beerbühl and Vögele 2004). With regard to religious networks in a holistic perspective, there are no reference works.

  • Bailyn, Bernard, and Patricia L. Denault, eds. Soundings in Atlantic History: Latent Structures and Intellectual Currents, 1500–1830. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

    Proceedings of the tenth anniversary conference of the International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World, with essays by Rosalind J. Beiler and J. Gabriel Martínez-Serna on dissenting religious communication and Jesuit networks in the Atlantic world.

  • Business History Review 79.3 (2005).

    This special issue of the Business History Review focuses on modern (and sometimes early modern) economies, and it brings together a variety of articles on trade networks (also in the Atlantic world) and provides a definition of networks.

  • Grabher, Gernot, and Walter W. Powell, eds. Networks. 2 vols. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2005.

    This two-volume collection presents a comprehensive overview of studies of the emergence, functioning, and forms of networks, focusing on their role in the economy. While only tackling the later 20th century, knowledge on network structures can be useful for scholars of networks of the early modern Atlantic.

  • McCabe, Ina Baghdiantz, Gelina Harlaftis, and Ioanna Pepelasis Minoglou, eds. Diaspora Entrepreneurial Networks: Four Centuries of History. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2005.

    While this edited volume does not cover the Atlantic world and mostly focuses on the modern period, its chapters make evident how much the comparative analysis of minority groups’ networks will contribute to our understanding of international trade and exchange at large.

  • Schulte Beerbühl, Margrit, and Jörg Vögele, eds. Spinning the Commercial Web: International Trade, Merchants, and Commercial Cities, c. 1640–1939. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2004.

    While this edited volume focuses on early modern webs of trade and commerce, some articles deal with religious minorities’ share in it.

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