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Secularization
(6,702 words)

1. The problem

1.1. Terminology

The verb “secularize” is first attested in English in the early 17th century in the sense of “put [church property] to profane use,” the derivative noun secularization in 1706. This sense, which derives from canon law (saecularisatio, from saecularis, “of this age”, “worldly,” “pagan”), predates a broader sense of “dissociation from religious concerns,” the shades of which are captured in a larger lexical field in German.

The first distinction in German i…

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Graf, Friedrich Wilhelm, “Secularization”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 14 August 2022 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_COM_026906>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20210601



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