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How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization Hardcover – May 2, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"Engaging and engrossing.... A mine of information on the debt we owe to Catholic life and thought." -- Michael P. Foley, Ph.D., assistant professor of Patristics, Great Texts Program, Baylor University

"Puts the Church back where it should be: at the center of values, science, laws, and institutions of Western civilization." -- Dr. Paul Legutko, Stanford University

"Superb and scholarly.... Highly recommended." -- Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, professor emeritus, the City University of New York

From the Publisher

Ask a college student today what he knows about the Catholic Church and his answer might come down to one word: "corruption." But that one word should be "civilization." Western civilization has given us the miracles of modern science, the wealth of free-market economics, the security of the rule of law, a unique sense of human rights and freedom, charity as a virtue, splendid art and music, a philosophy grounded in reason, and innumerable other gifts that we take for granted as the wealthiest and most powerful civilization in history. But what is the ultimate source of these gifts? Bestselling author and professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr. provides the long neglected answer: the Catholic Church. Woods’s story goes far beyond the familiar tale of monks copying manuscripts and preserving the wisdom of classical antiquity. In How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, you’ll learn: · Why modern science was born in the Catholic Church · How Catholic priests developed the idea of free-market economics five hundred years before Adam Smith · How the Catholic Church invented the university · Why what you know about the Galileo affair is wrong · How Western law grew out of Church canon law · How the Church humanized the West by insisting on the sacredness of all human life No institution has done more to shape Western civilization than the two-thousand-year-old Catholic Church—and in ways that many of us have forgotten or never known. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization is essential reading for recovering this lost truth.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery History (May 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0895260387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0895260383
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (202 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I hold my master's, M.Phil., and Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and my bachelor's from Harvard. I've written numerous books, including The Church Confronts Modernity (Columbia University Press) and two New York Times bestsellers -- Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. My two latest books are Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse and Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century.

My wife and I have four young daughters and live in Topeka, Kansas.

My full biography can be found at My upcoming appearances, in addition to plenty of free audio, video, and articles, are also available at my website.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

241 of 247 people found the following review helpful By James E. Egolf VINE VOICE on August 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thomas Woods' book titled HOW THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BUILD WESTERN CIVILIZATION is an unanswerable antidote to anti-Catholic bashers and their mindless sychophants. Prof. Woods provides a compelling case that Western Civilization could not have thrived without the valuable achievements of the Catholic Church over the past 2,000 years.

Prof. Woods survey of the Catholic Church in late Ancient History and during the Dark Ages makes clear that the Catholic Church authorities and especially the monks were invaluable in preserving learning. He makes clear that the early Catholic monks and nuns were the only literate people in Europe, and they preserved learning by handcopying books and teaching. Prof. Woods' treatment of this historical episode gives the thoughtful reader an insight as to how crucial those who were in religious orders were to European recovery.

Prof. Woods' chapter on Medieval universities is solid. He gives the conditions under which teachers and students operated and makes clear that the "Age of Scholasticism" was an intllectually vibrant age. The books gives examples of the curriculum and the emphasis on logic and reason both in learning and solving intellectual issues. The Age of Reason actually began in the Medieval Catholic universities rather than in the 17th and 18th centuries. Prof. Woods' evaluation of Medieval Scholasticism compares favorably with John Baldwin's THE SCHOLATIC CULTURE OF THE MIDDE AGES, 1000-1300.

Chapter five of this book undermines the notion that the Catholic authorities tried to undermine scientific study. For example, Prof. Woods cites numerous examples of Catholic university officials supporting scientific study and lending considerable resources to the study of astronomy.
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438 of 463 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Craughwell on April 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those eye-opening books that put to rest widely accepted but nonetheless misguided notions about the past. In 225 information-packed pages Tom Woods reveals how, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church single-handedly revived and rebuilt Western civilization. The Benedictine monks, for example, transformed wasteland and swamps into fertile fields, harnessed water power, and bred healthier strains of livestock. The Jesuits became pre-eminent in astronomy and developed a scientific approach to archaeology. The Church fostered village schools and the great universities of Paris, Bologna, Oxford, and Cambridge; operated hospitals and orphanages; sheltered and fed the poor; and formulated the idea of basic human rights. Thanks to this book, people who use the term "medieval" as an insult are going to be awfully embarrassed.
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394 of 423 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Beckman on May 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
About the Catholic Church that is. Ask the average layperson about the Middle Ages and he'll probably say it was a time of ignorance and superstition, where the Church ruthlessly stamped out dissent. Surprise! Woods shows just the opposite is true: it was the Church that gave us the university system. It was the Church, the monks specifically, that preserved the wisdom of the ancient world and drove technological innovation for centuries.

But the Church crippled scientific progress right? Wrong. Woods proves again that just the opposite is true: science as we know it would not have arisen without Christian presuppositions, i.e. God's creations operate according to laws that can be discovered by man. This is in stark contrast to other ancient cultures which believed nature was unpredictable and the gods were capricious.

Charity, morality, economics, international law, the idea that all men are created equal, and many other things we take for granted all have foundations in Catholic thought. The title is accurate: the Church built Western civilization. I'm sorry the book is so short at 225 pages. Each chapter could easily become a book in its own right. Woods has a gift - also evident in his other books - for swift narratives, delightful anecdotes, and discovering astonishing facts that were there all along but somehow became great secrets. Woods says that our debt to the Church is one of history's greatest secrets. I hope more people are able to learn this secret. Woods's book is a great start, and the bibliography provides other excellent sources.
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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful By R.R. Driscoll on August 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm normally a lurker here on Amazon, benefiting from other people's reviews but never contributing any of my own. That's changing, starting now. This is an extraordinary book.

Let me first correct the reviewer below me, who complains that the book fails to mention the trouble Giordano Bruno got into over heliocentrism. He seems unaware that most modern scholars reject the idea that Bruno's troubles had anything to do with his cosmology. Do a Google search for "Richard W. Pogge," a professor at Ohio State University, for more on this.

Back to my review: this is one of those books that comes along once every five to ten years that changes the intellectual landscape. Thomas E. Woods has brought so much evidence to his argument that the old anti-Catholic arguments we hear all the time will never be the same again. They will have to take Woods into account, or look foolish.

It took a special kind of author to write a book like this. The author seems equally at ease when discussing science, economics, philosophy, theology, law, history, and many other topics.

The author is also a wonderful wordsmith, his writing flows effortlessly.

A wonderful book to educate yourself, to learn about why you should be PROUD TO BE A CATHOLIC, and to give to your friends who have fallen away: it gives them thousands of reasons to return.
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