University of Notre Dame

Christianity, Commerce, and Consumerism: The Last 1000 Years

Course Number: HIST 10390

The capitalism and consumerism that now influences the entire world arose within a religious culture -that of Western Christianity – whose central figure extolled poverty and self-denial, and whose most important early missionary wrote that “the love of money is the root of all evils.” How did this happen? This course takes a long-term view of the emergence of modern economic life in relationship to Christianity beginning with the upturn in commerce and the monetization of the European economy in the eleventh century and continuing through the relationship between markets and Christian morality in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It pays particular attention to the ways in which the religio-political disruptions of the Reformation era laid the foundations for the disembedding of economics from Christian ethics and thus made possible modern Western capitalism and consumerism.