Saturday, February 26, 2022

Charles H. Parker's "Global Calvinism"

Charles H. Parker is professor of history at Saint Louis University. He is the author of Global Interactions in the Early Modern Age, 1400–1800 and Faith on the Margins: Catholics and Catholicism in the Dutch Golden Age.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Global Calvinism: Conversion and Commerce in the Dutch Empire, 1600-1800, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Global Calvinism goes into detail about the establishment of diaconates (boards of deacons) that administered charity in Dutch colonies in Sri Lanka (then, Ceylon) and South Africa (then, the Cape of Good Hope). The deacons functioned as the social welfare brokers within Calvinist (Reformed Protestant) churches in the Netherlands and the Dutch trading companies exported them overseas in their territorial holdings

Alas, the Page 99 Test does not work well for this book, as a reader will get no sense of the broad themes of the book from these two and a half paragraphs.

The broad argument of the book is that Dutch Calvinists, typically regarded as the progenitors of Western European modernity (think Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic) actually belonged to all the gritty grimy stuff of world history. Dutch ministers accompanied the Dutch East and West India Companies and tried to convert “pagans” and Muslims, supported the companies’ commercial initiatives and empire building operations, including enslavement. One of the colonial functions of the Dutch Reformed Church was to provide a modicum of social welfare in colonial societies. Deacons oversaw orphanages, almshouses for the disposed, and distributed alms. Calvinism contributed to commercial empire building around the world and page 99 illustrates the role of poor relief in this effort.
Learn more about Global Calvinism at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue