We are applying for a planning grant to facilitate a major project and grant application to the Templeton and Luce Foundations. As part of this larger grant, we would digitize data on the activities of the Catholic Church in every diocese/ecclesiastical jurisdiction (EJ) in the world for at least 200 years based primarily on private reports from the bishops to the Pope (relationes diocesium) stored in the Vatican Secret Archive. We would also create digital maps reconstructing the historic borders of every EJ in the world back to at least 1815 so we can link the data through time. Moreover, because EJ borders typically mirror national and subnational borders, these digital maps can link data from censuses, government records, and Protestant missions. To date, no one has been able to reconstruct annual national border change on a global scale in the 19th century. Thus, this project will give scholars unprecedented ability to analyze long-term roots of different economic, political, social, and health conditions around the world, to measure the impact of various types of religious competition, and hopefully to provide secular arguments for religious liberty and for including religion in discussions of development. Because the data are a subnational time series, they are ideal for causal analysis: e.g., measuring bi-directional causation, selection effects, contextual scope conditions, and natural experiments. Moreover, because the relationes diocesium extend back to at least 1585, we could eventually use them to model the activities of the Catholic Church over the past 430 years.
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