Tuesday, 22 March 2016

JEH 67/2: Today Cambridge, tomorrow the world

Normally with a new number of the JEH out, I'd flag up a particular article, but this time there's a slightly broader point to be made. As we say in an editorial at the beginning of the number: the Journal's remit is the history of Christianity as broadly conceived as possible, without geographical, chronological or disciplinary restrictions. Naturally we have traditional areas of strength (early modern England, for example), and that's fine and good - please keep them coming, folks. But sometimes it's good to stir the mix a bit. So, a few years ago (before I became an editor), we launched an annual prize for the best essay in early church history, up to the year 700. (I can't help mentioning that the first prize was won by a former Durham colleague of mine, now in Melbourne.) It's got us some excellent essays in itself, but has also helped build up the Journal's strength in that area more widely.

So, early church, tick: next on our list of concern is the global history of Christianity. We're a traditional journal, and we like it that way, but traditional shouldn't mean parochial, and we have tended to be rather Eurocentric. With the help of several members of our advisory editorial board (not least the still keenly lamented John D. Y. Peel), we've been making a concerted push to put this right: expanding the remit of our reviewing and seeking out first-rate articles which take us out of the North Atlantic region.

The first really visible fruits of this are in the new number, two of whose six articles are non-Euro/American in focus. James Fujitani has done a precise, elegant piece on how the early Jesuit mission to Japan negotiated penitential practices with their converts, adapting them to Japanese expectations and patterns. David C. Kirkpatrick has a significant analysis of the Ecuadorean evangelical theological C. RenĂ© Padilla, looking at how his encounters with Marxism helped to shift global evangelicalism's consensus towards embracing social action as well as narrow proselytization in the 1970s.

There's more goodies of this sort to come. Without giving away too much ... In the pipeline we have a piece on indigenous evangelists in British Africa c. 1900, a piece on the Mexican influences on Ivan Illich, a couple of articles on Christianity in 20th-century Israel/Palestine, and most recently one on 1990s Sudanese refugee camps as sites of church growth.

But, we're greedy and we want more. So we're launching another prize: a World Christianities Prize, we're calling it provisionally, which will be 500 good British pounds for the best essay each year whose main focus is Christianity outside Europe and North America after the year 700. (Inevitably the field will be dominated by 19th- and 20th-century entries, but as Fujitani's essay reminds us, global Christianity is not a new phenomenon.) Full details in the next issue, but in the meantime, anyone who wants both to win a prize and fund a decent mini-break somewhere should get writing.

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