Although religious history has traditionally concerned itself with the transcendent dimension in human life, and social history with the mundane, the latter approach can also be used to illuminate the ways in which religion works itself out on the social plane. In fact, it might be argued that inquiries of this sort should occupy a prominent place on the agenda of any social and religious history of the Jews. Among historians of the Annales school, for whom the study of material life was long considered the backbone of historical inquiry, there has been a discernible move in recent years toward the study of religious life, especially in its popular forms. Whereas, for example, previous volumes in the valuable Johns Hopkins series of “Selections from the Annales” were devoted to such topics as food and drink in history, the one published in 1982 was entitled, significantly, Ritual, Religion and the Sacred.
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