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Call for papers
Patrimony, Business and Management of Religious Institutes in Europe, 1789-1914/18
Date: 7-8 November 2008
Venue: University of Leuven, Belgium

Unlike medievalists, modern historians have paid scant attention to the economic side of the history of Catholic religious institutes. Up to this day, most interest has been devoted to the spiritual aspects and apostolate of the different orders and congregations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Given the spiritual calling of religious institutes, the economic activities necessary to keep the institutes running in a technical sense are seen by most historians as irrelevant to the essence of an organization that consists of education, preaching, charity, contemplation, and liturgy. Yet many religious institutes were very successful in re-establishing themselves after the French Revolution, sometimes accumulating large patrimonies, against the background of often-hostile political forces.
The long nineteenth century is remarkable because, after the seizure of the estates of the regular clergy during the French Revolution, the religious institutes succeeded in building (or rebuilding) their material base over the course of the century. The religious institutes flourished and consolidated themselves, through the provision of educational and charitable services, but also through inheritances, gifts and sound investments. The newly built property and economy of the religious institutes aroused much political discussion until well into the twentieth century. Most governments were interested in this patrimony for financial and political reasons. Anti-clerical agitation was strengthened due to the success of the congregations in the fields of charity and education. The opponents of the religious institutes accused them of violating their vows of poverty.

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