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Inspired by the social theories of Max Weber, David d'Avray asks in what senses medieval religion was rational and, in doing so, proposes a new approach to the study of the medieval past. Applying ideas developed in his companion volume on Rationalities in History, he explores how values, instrumental calculation, legal formality and substantive rationality interact and the ways in which medieval beliefs were strengthened by their mutual connections, by experience, and by mental images. He sheds new light on key themes and figures in medieval religion ranging from conversion, miracles and the ideas of Bernard of Clairvaux to Trinitarianism, papal government and Francis of Assisi's charismatic authority. This book shows how values and instrumental calculation affect each other in practice and demonstrates the ways in which the application of social theory can be used to generate fresh empirical research as well as new interpretative insights.
In Rationalities in History the distinguished historian David d'Avray writes a new comparative history in the spirit of Max Weber. In a strikingly original reassessment of seminal Weberian ideas, d'Avray applies value rationality to the comparative history of religion and the philosophy of law. Integrating theories of rational choice, anthropological reflections on relativism, and the recent philosophy of rationality with Weber's conceptual framework, d'Avray seeks to disengage 'rationalisation' from its enduring association with Western 'modernity'. This mode of analysis is contextualised through the examples of Buddhism, Imperial China and sixteenth-century Catholicism - in the latter case building upon unpublished archival research. This ambitious synthesis of social theory and comparative history will engage social scientists and historians from advanced undergraduate level upwards, stimulating interdisciplinary discourse, and making a significant contribution to the methodology of history. D'Avray explores the potential of this new Weberian analysis further in his companion volume, Medieval Religious Rationalities.
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