Avner Shamir
Avner Shamir


Research area

  • The material book and religious thinking
  • History of the Bible
  • Miracles and wonders
  • Religious criticism, irreligion and impiety
  • Christian conceptions of Jews and Judaism

In my research, I approach religious, intellectual and ideational currents in the early modern world by looking at books as the primary cultural object. By focusing on the book as a meaningful object and a significant technology, rather than simply a cultural text, I recover ideas, emotions and behaviour that are often overlooked or marginalized. In other words, I am looking for signs of how early modern thinking worked in unusual places; not where ideas are openly and rationally formulated, but where ideas are enacted when human beings meet books. I believe that in the very period when the world was supposed to be “disenchanted”, written texts were gaining significance, often in a way that far exceeded what could be attributed to the their textual content.

Current research

I am currently working on the last chapters of a new book that might be considered the third part of a trilogy on books and materiality in the early modern world. After publishing a book about censorship in early sixteenth century Germany, I have recently finished a book manuscript about the burning of English Bibles, 1640-1800 (to be published by Ashgate). I am now working on a book about the significance and meaning of books that survived fire in early modern Germany. The project is an attempt to reassess how early modern Protestants perceived the inexplicable fact that books, made of combustible material, tended to survive urban and other fires. While earlier historians have tended to explain incombustible books as a proof of Protestant belief in the miraculous, my argument is that incombustible books were not necessarily perceived as supernatural. On the contrary, they were natural phenomena, and their material survival was an evidence of the religious and intellectual significance of books.

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