Among the greatest challenges facing Europe in the twenty-first century is the attainment of peaceful co-existence of religious groups. Finding constructive ways through which to deal with religious and ecclesiastical plurality is a task that did not emerge for the first time in the present. Instead, it has been a factor in the history of Europe since its beginnings. The direction for all modern developments of a political and legal basis for the coexistence of religious or confessional groups emerged from these religious peace agreements since the 15th/16th centuries, especially the Reformation. These ordinances constitute essential building blocks for the construction of the modern European political system and provide significant insights into the ways in which societies dealt with religious plurality and developed the concept of tolerance. The goal of the project »European Religious Peace Agreements – a Digital Edition« is to offer a key for understanding Europe in the early modern period by means of an online publication of these political-legal regulations for co-existence and the ways in which they took form in history. This key also makes possible a better estimation of current developments that is sensitive to the problems to be confronted.
The cooperation between the hermeneutical-historical approach of the humanities and cultural studies and the hermeneutical-technical approach of the digital humanities presents a genuine partnership at the same scholarly level. With its digital edition, the project creates a bridge between these disciplines and thus promotes research in the sources by both in historical and theological disciplines as well as in the digital humanities.
The edition is suitable for inter-disciplinary use in university instruction and research because it permits working with questions posed in historical studies, jurisprudence, history of theology, history of languages and digital research. Its introductions in German and English offer all interested users insight into the practice of religious freedom, which in Europe (understood as a space of communication) took root much earlier to a degree than has been previously recognized. Among other things, the edition makes it possible to study the development of religious peace settlements, to analyze the relationships between the texts of these peace agreements that have previously not been recognized and to assess the reception of these agreements in different cultural regions. To make this possible the texts are being edited, with commentary, prepared for analysis through digital methods and made accessible through different interfaces.
Since April 2020 the project is being funded by the Academy Program of the Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities as a long-term project. It is being conducted by the Academy of Sciences and Literature | Mainz, the Leibniz-Institute of European History Mainz, and the University and State Library Darmstadt as cooperation partners. The work is being carried out in Mainz and Darmstadt.
The project was preceded by a pilot study, »Religiöse Friedenswahrung und Friedensstiftung in Europa (1500–1800): Digitale Quellenedition frühneuzeitlicher Religionsfrieden«, which the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) supported from 2013 to 2019. The experience won through this project laid the foundation for the research design of the project »European Religious Peace Agreements – a Digital Edition«.