The reason for launching the Action is the need to coordinate, to stimulate and to promote a genuinely comparative and pan-European overview of religious culture and change in late medieval and early modern Europe and to present a better-calibrated image of the role played by the laity in this process, through the creation of new "communities of interpretation" and thus by their active participation in the development of new religious and cultural identities.
Immediate benefits of the Action will be the enhancement of scientific exchange amongst scholars working in different countries, and the substantial increase in scientific discussion about scholarly methods and research possibilities. Future benefits will be on societal, scientific and economic levels:

* societal: by recovering and analysing the cultural dynamics and connections between religious knowledge and laity in late medieval and early modern Europe, this Action will remould our understanding of one of the most critical moments in Europe's cultural history, at the same time challenging the existing narratives of the development of (early) modern identities that seem to dominate the self-understanding of contemporary society. It will moreover better evaluate the contribution of culture, cultural manifestations and language to the development of (early) modern societies and their impact on social and religious change;

* scientific: the Action will provide scientific benefits in History, Linguistics, Literary, Religious and Cultural studies through supporting networking and outreach activities, as well as by the creation of a virtual centre of expertise accessible to a broad range of researchers;

* economic: the Action will generate and support capacity, especially by helping young researchers to build up European scientific backgrounds and to develop interdisciplinary research skills, enabling them better to progress in their scientific careers and enhancing their employability at European research institutions.

The means needed for the immediate and future benefits are the organisation of international expert meetings to address and research problems and results and to discuss new methodological approaches. A virtual platform (in the form of a website) will enhance these possibilities of encounter and discussion. The activities developed in the framework of the Action will also include Summer Schools, Training Sessions for PhD-students and series of public lectures.

The main objective of the Action is to develop and communicate a better calibrated, nuanced and broader understanding of one of the most fundamental moments and complex turning points in European religious and social history as well as to stimulate new interdisciplinary and multilingual approaches to late medieval and early modern culture. The Action will investigate and reconstruct religious, cultural and social transformations in the "long fifteenth century" in terms of activity, transfer, acculturation, appropriation, interpretation and negotiation of meaning and values, instead of merely concentrating on a binary system based on some kind of restrictive national or linguistic model (Sponsler 2002). By stressing cultural dynamics and strategies of appropriation within formal and informal lay communities, instead of merely focussing on texts and objects with fixed meanings, the Action will emphasise the seminal relevance of processes, functions, uses and the values each individual and group brings to questions of culture and knowledge. These processes, functions, uses and values were of course open to continual adaptation and change.

The Action's objectives are to:
* improve and propose new approaches in cultural history, challenging the traditional divides of Middle Ages/Renaissance, Catholic/Protestant, lay/religious, manuscript/print, Northern/Southern/Central Europe;
* contribute to a re-evaluation of traditional approaches to late medieval and early modern European cultural history and to a more concretely informed and considered understanding of how cultural and religious networks can (and did) work;
* deepen theoretical and methodological reflection on the study of religious and social transformations in late medieval and early modern Europe;
* develop new methodological approaches in order to reconstruct processes of religious change and transformations in the period;
* analyse the agency of lay individuals and groups in religious transformations and reformations;
* develop new research strategies to reconstruct the dynamics of development of lay communities of interpretation of religious texts and knowledge, going beyond the traditional collocation of these communities in the sphere of religious dissent and heterodoxy (Stock 1990);
* contribute to the creation of research networks within and outside academia including experienced scholars, upcoming generations of researchers as well as regional and national archives and libraries;
* consolidate and develop interdisciplinary research on late medieval and early modern religious culture;
* create a platform for new national, European and international research and research projects in the field of late medieval and early modern cultural history;
* Quantifiable targets: min. 13 countries represented (with an average of 10 experts per country); at least 100 MA students participating in Summer Schools and at least 80 PhD students attending Training Sessions: this would bring the total number of researchers involved (from early-stage to experts) to at least 300.

Click here for the complete project description (pdf file).