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

  • Introduction
  • Handbooks
  • Data Sources
  • Journals
  • Measurement Issues
  • The Growth of Conservative and the Decline of Mainline Protestantism

Sociology Protestantism
Bradley Wright
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0102


Christianity is the largest religion in the world, and Protestantism is one of its major traditions. It encompasses Western Christians who are not members of the Catholic or Eastern Christian church. Protestantism got its start in the 16th century with the work of Martin Luther and other Protestant reformers, and since then it has experienced many splits over doctrinal differences, resulting in a wide range of Protestant denominations. Protestants account for about 37 percent of all Christians and about 12 percent of all people in the world. Although Protestantism played a key role in the development of modern Europe, its adherents are now spread widely throughout the world. For example, today more Protestants live in sub-Saharan Africa than in Europe. The study of Protestantism touches on many issues of interest to sociologists. Obviously it fits into the sociology of religion, but the study of Protestantism has also advanced sociological knowledge regarding social class, civic and political engagement, adolescent development, gender, race and ethnicity, and many other substantive and methodological issues. By and large, studies of Protestantism are published in sociological outlets devoted either to religion, in particular, or to sociology, in general; in other words, these studies are not limited only to Protestant journals or publications. Furthermore, some studies of Protestantism focus exclusively on it, but many others nest their analyses of Protestantism into a broader focus of Christianity or religion as a whole. Because about half of Americans are Protestants, some measure of Protestantism shows up in many studies conducted in the United States. As a result, it is easy to underestimate the amount of attention given to the study of Protestantism. This bibliography points to some of the best-known works that explicitly focus on, or at least touch on, Protestantism, but this topic appears in a remarkably wide array of sociological works.

General Overviews

Protestantism, being spread throughout the world, can be studied at the global level or within specific countries. General overviews of Protestantism tend to focus on specific countries, quite frequently the United States, but useful cross-national comparisons are also available.

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