HIST201 - Religious and Political Tolerance, Then and Now

Can we all just get along? Did we ever? That John Locke’s Letter on Toleration (1689) inaugurated a new era in which neighbors no longer had to kill each other for what they believed is a founding myth of modern, capitalist, liberal polities. How did minorities survive before then? This seminar will explore how groups that hated each other in principle ever got along in practice, from the rise of Constantine to the “interfaith utopia” of Islamic Iberia until the disaster of the Wars of Religion. It was these final massacres that many political theorists have envisioned as the watershed moment for tolerance. Was exhaustion the difference? Enlightenment? A new commitment to consumer goods wrought by the commercial and industrial revolution? Together we will investigate some of the most significant works and thinkers that formed Western traditions of tolerance and intolerance including the Qur'an, Bible, Porphyry, Augustine, Aquinas, Hobbes, Milton, Locke, Girard, and Rawls. These texts interacted with and tried to shape the reality of social conflicts, which we will examine through inquisitorial cases, witch trials, economic records, martyrological tracts and other accounts. By studying the conditions of living together in the past and comparing them with the news of the present, students will be prepared to consider the prospects for tolerance in the future. This seminar may be taken to fulfill the following requirements for Penn History Majors: Pre-1800, SEM, Europe, and the Intellectual History Concentration.
Day and Time: 
M 0600PM-0900PM


Cross Listings: 
    This is an LPS course. Registration may be limited to LPS students.