A Historical Glimpse of Tolerance in the West

  • Aaron Tyler


Whether religious, linguistic, political, or cultural, difference is not a recent phenomenon of Western civilization. In fact, a persistent characteristic of the Occident has been diversity. The strategic and often violent interactions between Rome and the Germanic tribes of the European continent in the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries; the enclosing proximity of an imposing Islamic civilization beginning in the seventh century; the capricious coexistence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Spain and the Mediterranean from the eighth to fifteenth century, as well as the synchronous brutality and intolerance that resulted from numerous wars between Christian and Muslim kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula; the potent lure of transcultural commerce across the Mediterranean and Maghreb; the fall of Constantinople (1453) and the incessant geopolitical threat of the powerful Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries; and the West’s distressing conquests in the sixteenth century of the indigenous peoples of the New World are only a few of the many Western encounters with the religious and cultural Other. And it was from various historical encounters with otherness that theories and policies of tolerance, as well as intolerance, were conceived.


Western Civilization Sixteenth Century Fourth Century Christian Faith Religious Plurality 
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