Blog | July 2018, SSRC Forums

Crossing and conversion: Conclusion

by Peter van der Veer

One often starts with Christianity when discussing conversion. This is not so strange, since Christianity is inextricably connected to the early modern expansion of Spain and Portugal to the rest of the world, as well as to the imperialism of Britain, France, and the Netherlands in the nineteenth century. It is also central to the history of the transatlantic slave trade. One may want to “provincialize” Europe but the fact remains that Europe’s Christianity has played an oversized role in creating world-historical conditions of modernity, although certainly divergent pathways and interactions have created a great variety of conversions to multiple modernities. This is always a history of power, but never a simple one, since conversion under conditions of enslavement or colonial rule gives access to literacy and education, tools for mobilization against oppressors.

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