UCL Uncovering Politics

The Origins of the Secular State

Episode Summary

This week we are looking at secular political institutions. Why do they matter? And what explains whether they emerge?

Episode Notes

Some states are secular, while others are based, to a greater or lesser degree, on religion. The difference matters. Secular states are more likely to respect the diverse perspectives of their citizens and protect a range of social and political rights.

So what explains variation in institutional secularism? Why did some state secularize centuries ago, while others underwent a secular shift more recently, and yet others remain religious to this day?

This is one of the key questions about political development, but it has gone relatively under-studied.

A new book, however, changes that. Called The Origins of Secular Institutions, it takes a sweeping view of political development across half a millennium and several continents. It combines statistical analysis with exploration of deep historical narratives. And it tells a new story about how the development of printing, the extent of censorship, and the timing of the emergence of secular movements have shaped the nature of politics around the world today.

We are delighted to be joined by the author of this book, Dr Zeynep Bulutgil, who is Associate Professor in International Relations here in the UCL Department of Political Science.

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