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New Religious Movements before Modernity?
Considerations from a Historical Perspective
Can the study of new religious movements be extended historically towards a longue dur´ee history of religious innovation? Several sociological theories suggest that fundamental differences between premodern and modern religious configurations preclude this, pointing to a lack of religious diversity and freedom of religion in premodern centuries. Written from a historical perspective, this article questions this view and suggests historical religious movements within Christianity as possible material for a long-term perspective. Using the Franciscans and the Family of Love as examples, it points out possible themes for productive interdisciplinary research. One suggestion is to study the criticisms surrounding premodern new religious movements, which might be used to analyze the historical differentiation of religion. Another avenue is the study of premodern terminologies and concepts for religious communities, which could provide a historical horizon for the ongoing debate about the typology of new religions.