Connected histories? Expectations of the Latter Days in Islam, Judaism and Christianity from the 15th to the 17th century
From the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, numerous apocalyptical and messianic movements came to the fore across Eurasia and North Africa (a region sometimes called Afro-Eurasia). Bohemia, Germany, France, Britain, Lithuania or Muscovite Russia experienced the blossoming of reformation movements which drew on the idea that the Last Days were near, or were even millenarian (the Taborites and the Levellers, e. g.). Generally speaking, the belief that the Last Days were near or had come was central to some streams of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Catholicism (especially in the mendicant orders), Protestantism (especially in the radical Reformation), and Sufism. It inspired also Jewish messianic movements in the early sixteenth century and in the mid-seventeenth century, and was present in Jewish mysticism and kabbalah. It played a great role in Savonarola’s Florence, in the French wars or religion or at the court of Shah Isma’il in Iran, Dom Manuel in Portugal, Muhammad al-Shaik in Morocco, Ivan the Terrible in Muscovite Russia, the Moriscos of Spain, or the Mughal emperor Akbar in India. Judaism experienced also important messianic movements in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Since the 1980s, scholars have been exploring the history of Jewish-Christian cross-religious exchanges and inter-religious perceptions. They have shown that the reception of Jewish apocalyptical ideas was critical to the Christian developments of eschatological expectations and vice versa. Almost twenty years ago, Sanjay Subrahmanyam extended this thesis. He suggested that there may be a connection between these phenomena in Islam and Christendom. Since the turn of the millenium, historians have increasingly explored the cross-religious history of apocalyptics and messianism. Besides the realm of Christian-Jewish history, much work has already been done in scholarship about Iberia. However, other connections between the Islamic and Christian, and between Islamic and Jewish history are still barely known.
The aim of the conference and the book is to check to what extent we can write a connected history of messianism and apocalyptics in the monotheistic religions from the 15th to the 17th centuries. The conference is conceived as a framework for discussing hypotheses and exploring possible connections between Islamic, Jewish and Christian beliefs about the Last Days.