A History of Christianity

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Overview

Owen Chadwick, an eminent church historian, has written an original, sweeping history of the Christian faith from the perspective of a people's religion. A History of Christianity will be fascinating reading for anyone interested in one of the most powerful influences on global civilization. Starting with Christianity's origins as a Jewish sect, the author shows how Europe was converted; and then how the Christian faith was accepted by the Americas, much of Africa and parts of the East. He discusses the effects of the faith on the lives of believers throughout two millennia: the mutually uneasy relationship of the early Christians with the State; the rise of great monastic and clerical institutions, the different holy orders and their roles in disseminating the faith; Christ's imitators, and the canonization of exemplary Christians; the coming of the Protestants, and their attitudes towards work, worship and religious toleration; and Christianity's decline in Europe but expansion into the wider world, alongside twentieth-century issues such as the emancipation of women, birth control, Muslim fundamentalism, Nazi racism and Marxist atheism. In addition, he explains the evolution of the faith's artistic expression: the development of ecclesiastical architecture, from discreet house churches in the Roman age, via the soaring splendour of the Middle Ages, to the studios of the TV evangelists; the rituals, including the interpretations of the sacred texts, vestments, and the rise of choral music, from oratorio to hymns and spirituals. He discusses the Church's role in caring within the community - both medical and pastoral care - and its shifting attitudes to cruelty and war, from the martyrdoms of the Spanish Inquisition to the pacifism of this century.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Chadwick Michael Ramsey: A Life, Oxford Univ., 1990 has written an accessible, easily readable history of Christianity. It is beautifully illustrated, with the text and pictures working well together to give the reader a clear meaning of basic Christian concepts. However, this book has faults. It attempts to be utterly noncontroversial, relating the traditional history taught in mainstream schools and omitting or downplaying much. The Spanish Inquisition is discussed in three paragraphs, and the Holocaust receives barely a half-page. Radical feminist theological movements of the 20th century are not mentioned at all. These oversights unfortunately give the book the sanitized narrative tone of a companion book to a PBS special. Further interrupting the work are the intrusive opinions of the author. Nonetheless, the facts are correct, the time lines are accurate, the voice is that of a lover of Christian history rather than a purely academic scholar, and if all the reader wants is a comfortable and entertaining historical introduction to this immense academic field, this book satisfies that need. Recommended for public libraries.Glen Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu
Booknews
The author infuses this history with a sense of the impact of Christianity on the lives and beliefs of ordinary men and women. In addition to tracing Christianity's origins as a Jewish sect, the history of its spread, and the growth of its institutions, he explains the evolution of the faith's artistic expression in architecture, painting, rituals, and music. He also discusses the Church's role in caring within the community--both medical and pastoral care--and its shifting attitudes to cruelty and war. The volume is abundantly illustrated with color and b&w reproductions and photos; and the author's integrated discussion of art, history, and beliefs gives it wide appeal to both scholars and general readers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Steve Schroeder
Beautifully illustrated though strikingly Eurocentric, Chadwick's single-volume "overview of the whole" of Christianity is so accessible it is sure to be in great public library demand. Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University from 1968 to 1983, the author is among the most eminent of church historians; he notes that any attempt at "an overview of the whole, by a single hand, is bound to contain an element of the personal, and the interest of a particular mind." Both could be taken as weaknesses, but they are among the book's greatest strengths: a personal view, an overview from Cambridge--and, viewed in that light, a singularly instructive and interesting introduction to a particular mind in relation to the historical development of a global tradition.
From the Publisher
"Graceful and vigorous . . . excellent."—Commonwealth

"A remarkable broad, comprehensive and well-balanced book . . . distinguished by a fabulous set of illustrations."—Parade

"Beautifully illustrated . . . Chadwick's single-volume 'overview of the whole' of Christianity is so accessible it is sure to be in great demand. Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University from 1968 to 1983, the author is among the most eminent of church historians; he notes that any attempt at 'an overview of the whole, by a single hand, is bound to contain an element of the personal, and the interest of a particular mind.' Both could be taken as weaknesses, but they are among the book's greatest strengths: a personal view, an overview from Cambridge—and, viewed in that light, a singularly instructive (and interesting) introduction to a particular mind in relation to the historical development of a global tradition."—Booklist

"The author infuses this history with a sense of the impact of Christianity on the lives and beliefs of ordinary men and women. In addition to tracing Christianity's origins as a Jewish sect, the history of its spread, and the growth of its institutions, he explains the evolution of the faith's artistic expression in architecture, painting, rituals, and music. He also discusses the Church's role in caring within the community—both medical and pastoral care—and its shifting attitudes to cruelty and war. The volume is abundantly illustrated with color and black and white reproductions and photos; and the author's integrated discussion of art, history, and beliefs gives it wide appeal to both scholars and general readers."—Book News, Inc.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312138073
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/1996
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 9.38 (w) x 10.94 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Owen Chadwick was Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge from 1968 to 1983. He has written many books, including The Reformation, The Victorian Church, The Popes and European Revolution, as a result of which he was awarded the Wolfson Prize for history, and Michael Ramsey.

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Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER 1: JEW AND GREEK
The Jewish inheritance
The religions of the non-Jews
The Christian way of life

CHAPTER 2: THE CHRISTIAN EMPIRE
The end of persecution
Monks and nuns
Saints
Time
The conversion of the northern tribes

CHAPTER 3: EASTROME
Constantinople
The law
Tradition
Mount Athos
The mystics
The effect of Islam

CHAPTER 4: WESTERN SOCIETY IN THE MIDDLE AGES
Popes
Society and religion
Architecture
The parish system
Confession
The Holy Grail
Cruelty
The imitation of Christ
The last of the Middle Ages

CHAPTER 5: THE NEW WORLD AND REFORM
The Americas divided
The East
Reform
The oratorio
Catholic reformation
Wars of religion
The Baroque
Bayle and Voltaire
Changes in Christian ideas

CHAPTER 6: THE MODERN ACE
The French revolution
Industry and the churches
The modern hymn
The 'end' of slavery
The shrinking world
Socialism
Conscience and war
The cold war
China
India
The decline of faith in Europe
Liberation in Latin America
Fundamentalism
Africa
Next?

CHRONOLOGY
FURTHER READING
INDEX
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2006

    Great graphics but missing important information

    Browsing in the bookstore, I was at first impressed with the beautiful photographs and graphics throughout the book. However, when I got it home and started the read-through, I was disappointed with some glaring omissions. As an Episcopalian, I was interested to see what Chadwick had to say both about Henry VIII and the Church of England, and about the early years of the Episcopal Church in America. Unfortunately, he mentions neither. No mention of Thomas Cranmer, no mention of The Book of Common Prayer. To me, that's a glaring omission. Common Prayer in the language of the people seems to be a major event in the history of Christianity, but obviously I'm alone in that opinion. I think this is a good book for someone who wants a VERY general overview of the church, however, I would never recommend it to someone who asked me. A much better choice (albeit with far fewer graphics) would be Bruce Shelley's 'Church History in Plain Language.' THAT is truly a book that leaves out nothing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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