Although the authors share many of the concerns of Alain Guerreau , it nonetheless seems useful to use the label ‘the history of religion’ to bring together a particular body of data which, of course, only reveals all its significance when placed in context and when linked to other perspectives in medieval history, with a total history as the ultimate aim. This field within medieval history underwent profound changes in the last century, notably a marked laicisation of the historians who specialised in this area and an opening up of new fields of research within it . In France, the law of 1905 brought about a division between faculties of theology and state universities  which placed the history of religion within social history. Moreover, it became generally accepted that historians should not make overt reference to any religious convictions which could detract from the objectivity of their work.
For a long time confined to the institutional history of the Church , the history of religion has now for many decades considered the beliefs and religious practices of the majority. This leads the history of religion into such shared fields of study as historical demography, the history of collective representations, and anthropology. That said, this productive broadening of view has not resolved the problem of the margins. Magic, for example, is sometimes considered by the history of science, sometimes by the history of religion.
This profound reorganisation of the history of religion has brought in its train a number of conceptual revisions and the emergence of a certain relativism. It is now normal to speak not of medieval religion but of medieval religions, and to explore their specific regional expressions . Finally this area of research tends to become a history of ‘belief’ and of ‘having believe’, considering individual and collective dimensions from the perspective of a total history.
In this new interpretative framework, the clergy has been studied as an instrument of the propagation of religious norms. The prosopography of this group has made it possible to identify more clearly its place in society, its capacity for action and its ability to assert control over discourse. Recent historiography includes research into the relations between the religious and the political based on the concept (still rather ill defined) of ‘sacrality’. New studies have considered canon law, images, cultural artefacts and music in relation to liturgy. Finally, the history of theology, even if it cannot ignore the great thinkers, now considers less well known figures, in an attempt to understand the development of their thought, the means by which their works were diffused, and how they were received. The study of preaching, meanwhile, borrows conceptual tools from the science of communication.
Historians of religion and of medieval religions do not all speak with one voice, of course. Different schools and diverse approaches complement one another and take on varied forms of research, leading to fruitful debates.
 Alain Guerreau, L’avenir d’un passé incertain. Quelle histoire du Moyen Age au XXIe siècle ?, Paris, Seuil, 2001, ch. ‘Dérives et impasses’, La survie indéfinie des ‘histoires spéciales’, p. 133-136. sur les ‘histoires spéciales.’
 This brief introduction owes much to the reflections of an international colloquium Interlinked histories of religion: an Franco-German balance sheet for the modern era (16th-17th centuries), no. 43, 2007, p. 18-26.
 with the exception of Strasburg for historical reasons.
 A. Fliche and V. Martin, eds., Histoire de l’Église des origines jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1939-1956.
 Heresies are included in a global approach to religions. See Jacques Berlioz, Le Pays cathare. Les religions médiévales et leurs expressions méridionales, Paris, Seuil, 2000 (Points Histoire).