Religion, Magic, and Science in Early Modern Europe and America

by Allison P. Coudert


It was a time when highly educated men believed witches flew to "Sabbaths" on broomsticks and the backs of goats, had sex with the devil, and cooked and ate infant body parts. How did eminent artists, philosophers, and scientists pave the way for the modern age during a period of such outdated perceptions?

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Cover image for Religion, Magic, and Science in Early Modern Europe and America

October 2011


Pages 287
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics World History/Religion

This fascinating study looks at how the seemingly incompatible forces of science, magic, and religion came together in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries to form the foundations of modern culture.

As Religion, Magic, and Science in Early Modern Europe and America makes clear, the early modern period was one of stark contrasts: witch burnings and the brilliant mathematical physics of Isaac Newton; John Locke's plea for tolerance and the palpable lack of it; the richness of intellectual and artistic life, and the poverty of material existence for all but a tiny percentage of the population. Yet, for all the poverty, insecurity, and superstition, the period produced a stunning galaxy of writers, artists, philosophers, and scientists.

This book looks at the conditions that fomented the emergence of such outstanding talent, innovation, and invention in the period 1450 to 1800. It examines the interaction between religion, magic, and science during that time, the impossibility of clearly differentiating between the three, and the impact of these forces on the geniuses who laid the foundation for modern science and culture.


  • Illustrations
  • A bibliography


  • Explains how the modern world and modern ways of thinking came to be during the early modern period
  • Shows that religion and science were not always at loggerheads, that for long periods of Western history, religion fostered science and religious leaders and theologians were scientists
  • Provides the historical background necessary to understand the debates about "relativism," "humanism," and the effects of an increasingly global society that are such contentious issues in contemporary public debates
Author Info

Allison P. Coudert, PhD, is the Paul A. and Marie Castelfranco Endowed Chair in the History of Christianity in the Religious Studies Program at the University of California, Davis, CA. Coudert is author of The Impact of the Kabbalah in the Seventeenth Century: The Life and Thought of Francis Mercury van Helmont (1614-1698); Leibniz and the Kabbalah; and Alchemy: The Philosopher's Stone. She has been a fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton and The Institute of Advanced Judaic Study in Philadelphia.

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