Any attempt to “cover everything” would succeed only in producing a completely unmanageable mountain of data. Indeed, in proportion to its increase, which has been enormous in the past half century, the sheer volume of historical scholarship—what Daniel Lord Smail has recently called “the inflationary spiral of research overproduction, coupled with an abiding fear of scholarly exposure for not keeping up with one’s field”—paradoxically militates against comprehension of the past in relationship to the present. A different approach is needed if we are to avoid being overwhelmed by specialized scholarship, the proliferation of which tends to reinforce ingrained assumptions about historical periodization that in turn hamper an adequate understanding of change over time.
Brad S. Gregory The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society