Til bevillingsoversigt

Lutheran legacy in Danish society in a longue durée perspective. Household, authority and social responsibility

Monograph Fellowships


The religious roots of contemporary western and non-western societies play a key role in national and international political, societal, and cultural debates, but these debates seldom build on historical knowledge. Simultaneously, the Nordic countries are subject to international attention due to their welfare systems, solidly founded trust culture, and focus on gender equality. This monograph investigates Lutheran legacy as a vital part of Danish societal development and offers a new explanation of the basis for modern Danish society. It does so through focussing on an examination and analysis of authority and social responsibility in the early modern household as a central institution for state-building and on the transformation of household authority into citizenship.


The impact of Lutheranism on Danish society is often addressed either by Reformation Studies, which focus on the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, or by welfare-state studies, which focus on the twentieth century. This monograph will, however, establish a vital bridge between these two traditions and give insights into path dependencies in the religious impact on society. Max Weber's work on Protestant ethics has been the key influence on studies of European societies' religious roots. As a result, the term "Protestantism" often implies a focus on the reformed tradition central to Weber's work. Through empirical studies from Danish contexts, this monograph will produce new knowledge about the societal impact of Protestantism and new understandings of the Lutheran Protestant ethic.


The book will introduce a new theoretical concept of confessional societies. This concept captures long-term historical influences coming from the realm of religion through the interplay between confessional influence on various levels in society (political, legal, childhood teaching in church and every day practices) not normally studied together. The interdisciplinary analysis combines political, legal, and cultural history with theology and will lead to empirical knowledge of the religious roots of present-day societies. The research will draw on numerous and multi-faceted sources as theological writings and catechisms, legislation, court records, petitions, and administrative correspondence from different segments of Danish society as well as parliamentary debates, and newspapers.


In order to understand religious and cultural conflicts of contemporary societies, it is important to understand history as formed by more than material and social factors. This book will deliver an empirically founded argument for the impact of the Lutheran legacy on the formation of modern Denmark. It will challenge theories of secularisation by elucidating the ongoing religious legacy within modern Western democracies and in societal institutions that we tend to understand as objective, neutral, and transferrable - such as welfare systems, citizens' rights, and even notions of democracy itself. This has the potential of generating crucial debates about secularization processes and the entanglement between religion and society even in societies, which we consider highly secularized.