Database of Religious History

Prof. Ted Slingerland writes…

Some of you may know about our relatively new project, the Database of Religious History (DRH; If you had contact with the project in our early days, it has evolved considerably in the last year or two. My recent co-authored piece about it in JAAR gives a basic overview:

The DRH is an on-line, open-access, quantitative and qualitative encyclopedia of religious history. We are really hoping to have it become, for Religious Studies in general, what Chuck Muller’s Digital Dictionary of Buddhism has become for Buddhist Studies: a widely-used and comprehensive on-line resource for the field. In addition to the questionnaire answers and comments that now form the core of the DRH, we’ll soon be adding the ability to link rich qualitative information, such as images or texts. Scholars can create their own custom databases of images and texts and they will be hosted by the UBC library and given DOIs, to make them easy to reference directly; this qualitative information can then also be linked to individual answers in the questionnaire. We are also working on hooking it up with existing or planned online sources of qualitative data, including a big project on East Asian Buddhism based at UBC, projects involved in digitizing Chinese religious gazetteers, online textual corpora, etc. The idea is that the DRH will become a gateway into all sorts of online data related to religion that is currently scattered and hard to find.

Essentially, contributing an entry involves setting up a “religious group” (defined with some tags, a map and a date range) and then answering an on-line questionnaire about it, providing qualitative comments and references as you see fit. It’s something you can list on your CV as an encyclopaedia entry (we assign DOIs) and we provide an honorarium, which is currently CAD500. (This is scheduled to return to our usual CAD200 at the end of June, but we may extend if our grant funds hold out.) Most of all, though, I think the project is what we need as historians of religion to keep up with our field or fields in the 21st century, so you’d be helping to build something that should be of immense usefulness to your colleagues, students and the general public. We’ll also have new polls rolling out over the next year that use Places, Supernatural Beings, Texts or Rituals as units of analysis, for scholars who’d prefer to slice up the historical record that way.

Completing an entry for the DRH is also a great way for advanced grad students to consolidate and sharpen their knowledge on the relevant literature and give them a publication. Once they are a vetted expert, they can also comment on other people’s entries. If you have qualified grad students whom you think would be good candidates, please pass this along. We also have colleagues at U Miami who are planning to use it as a tool in the classroom, having advanced undergrad complete parts of the questionnaire under the supervision of a faculty member, as a way to learn about how to use sources and assess scholarly opinion. 

Here is a link to information about Getting Involved:

If you have any questions, please let me know. And please pass on to anyone else you think would be interested. (A Chinese version was previously available and will be working on the site again shortly, once we update after some recent changes, so if have colleagues who are more comfortable working in Chinese this is not a problem.) 

We’d love to have you as a DRH contributor!





Edward Slingerland 森舸瀾

Distinguished University Scholar

Professor, Department of Asian Studies

Director, Cultural Evolution of Religion Research Consortium (CERC) (

Director, Database of Religious History (DRH) (

Co-Director, Centre for the Study of Human Evolution, Cognition and Culture (HECC) (

Associate Member, Depts. of Philosophy and Psychology

Asian Centre, 607-1871 West Mall

University of British Columbia

Vancouver, B.C. Canada V6T 1Z2



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