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Religion and the Rise of Western Culture Paperback – Abridged, October 1, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

An essential work of European history, this classic study sweeps from the fall of Rome to the dawn of the Renaissance as it shows how Christianity, its leaders, and its institutions changed the face of Western culture.

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An essential work of European history, this classic study sweeps from the fall of Rome to the dawn of the Renaissance as it shows how Christianity, its leaders, and its institutions changed the face of Western culture.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Image; Image Books ed edition (October 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385421109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385421102
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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113 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on October 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
Historian Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) saw religion as the cornerstone of culture. Specifically, this Harvard scholar saw Christianity as the root system that grew into what we call, invariably capitalized and announced with great fanfare, "The West." As someone who recently acquired a master's degree in history, I can tell you that Christopher Dawson's name never came up in any of my classes. Sure, I mostly studied American history, which would pretty much preclude reference to a scholar whose work centered on the development of Europe, but even in the classes I took on European history his name never appeared on a single syllabus. His name also never came up in the myriad courses I took on Christian theology and history. After reading "Religion and the Rise of Western Culture," I think I know why. First, the book is an extremely tough slog. If this collection of his writings is any indication, Dawson's knowledge of European history is encyclopedic. No one outside of a graduate level seminar could hope to follow all the ins and outs of this book. Second, and most important, academia has little interest in promoting a historian who argues that Christianity shaped all aspects of modern life. Dawson's claims are unpopular and not morally relativistic.

The author sees Christianity as a unique force in human development, a force that constantly overcomes any obstacles placed in its path, either on purpose or by the vagaries of history. In the case of "Religion and the Rise of Western Culture," those obstacles range from the decline and collapse of the Roman Empire to the mass migrations of the early medieval period to the rise of cities and organized commerce. Presiding over and infusing all of these changes is the Christian faith.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By James E. Egolf VINE VOICE on July 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) had this book published in 1950, and the book is not dated. Dawson's research, knowledge, and wisdom made this book "a timeless classic" which no bona fide Medieval historian can ignore. The panoramic view Dawson presented gives readers a profound understanding of the history, ideas, and concepts of Western Civilization.

Dawson started this book with a good assessment of Europe during the collapse of the Roman Empire. He devoted the first chapter to terrible economic, social, and political conditions that befell Europeans from c. 500-750 A.D. Yet, the Catholic Church tenaciously held on to what was of left of Western Civilization. Dawson vividly described the importance of the Irish Celtic monks and the Benedictine monks in both preserving learning and spread their learning via their missionary zeal. It was the Benedictines, started by St. Benedict (480-544), who, upon meeting their Irish Celtic counterparts taught the Irish practicality and gave Irish monasticism a more sensible and less rigorous rule (The Benedictine Rule). Dawson did not fail to notice the influence of the Benedictines when one of their own was selected Pope-Pope Gregory I 590-604)who is credited for not only learning and Catholic leadership. Readers who appreciate classic music should note that Pope Gregory supported the music of Gregorian Chant which was the beginning of Classical Music. Dawson was aware of this and included it in his book.

Dawson wrote a good chapter on the Catholic Church's assimiliation of the Nothern Barbarians. The conversion of Clovis (480-520) was historically important when one considers that Clovis' empire (basically modern France)was open to the Benedictines and the spread of knowledge and learning.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas L. Snyder on June 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
I found something worthy to note on practically every page of this great book. One of the many important points in the book is the apparent fact that Christianity actually softened the warlike attitudes of the pagans but also that these warlike attitudes also sometimes influenced Christian attitudes as well. Even so, Christian values of mercy and peace did a great deal to lessen the ravages of war. The result is that one gets the sense that God is working slowly but effectively to reform human nature with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Regrettably, modern man, in rejecting God and rejecting Jesus, seems to be taking a step backward toward pagan brutality. You can see this in the cultural acceptance of extreme violence, the evils of Islam and the sex trade, including sexual slavery, which seems to be fueling the pornography trade.

Be that as it may, this is a marvelous book that shows the positive impact of Christianity on many aspects of human history, including the development of education through the university in the Middle Ages and into the Reformation. A very enlightening book packed full of interesting, valuable information.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Gerald Smidt on October 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book has given me some clues to european history. I never understood why northern Europe (England, Scandinavia, Germany...) developed so much since XVII century, becomming more prosperous lands than southern countries like Italy or Spain. Dawson explains what happened during the "Dark Years" (500-800 A.D) in Europe, and there we may find an important difference between northern and southern countries. Recomended for deep thinking people on History.
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