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Sanctifying the World: The Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher Dawson Hardcover – November 16, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Bradley J. Birzer is Assistant Professor of History at Hillsdale College. A Senior Fellow with the Center for the American Idea in Houston, he has written extensively on Tolkien, James Fenimore Cooper, the American frontier and American Indians, and Christopher Dawson.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Christendom Press; n edition edition (November 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0931888867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0931888861
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #755,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Normally, I hold the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies and am Professor of History at Hillsdale College, Michigan. I proudly serve on the boards of the Free Enterprise Institute and The Center for Cultural Renewal. I am also happily a "Fellow" and/or "Scholar" with the Foundation for Economic Education, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, The McConnell Center for Public Policy, the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, and the Center for Economic Personalism (Brazil). In 2010, I co-founded The Imaginative Conservative website, and, in 2012, I co founded, a site dedicated to the exploration of music in all of its various forms. I also write for Ignatius Insight, Catholic World Report, and CatholicVote. In 1990, I earned my B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, and, in 1998, I earned my PhD from Indiana University. I have had the great privilege to study with such excellent scholars as R. David Edmund, Bernard Sheehan, Russ Hanson, Anne Butler, Walter Nugent, Greg Dowd, and Marvin O'Connell. I am author of several books (please see below) and scholarly articles. Currently, I am completing an intellectual biography of Russell Kirk to be published by the University Press of Kentucky under the editorship of Steve Wrinn. Most importantly, though, my lovely wife (Dedra) and I have seven children and two cats.

For the 2014-2015 school year, I have the wonderful honor of being the "Scholar in Residence" and "Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy," University of Colorado-Boulder. I'm thrilled.

I have lots of loves: human liberty and dignity; baking; cooking; playing Legos with my kids; hiking and backpacking; good writing; Christian Humanism; Panera bagels; Apple products; and progressive rock and progressive jazz.

I've also been an customer since the fall of 1997.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Adam Schwartz on November 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As in his earlier J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth, Bradley Birzer provides an excellent overview of a major intellectual figure from the twentieth-century Catholic literary revival. Dawson is lesser-known than figures such as Tolkien, but was lauded in his day by the likes of T. S. Eliot, Arnold Toynbee, and Russell Kirk. For Dawson, a convert to Roman Catholicism, religion was the key of history and the basis of culture, and with that core principle in mind, he sought to analyze both the course of world history and the underlying currents of his own age. His scholarship was capacious, as he wrote studies in periods from pre-history to the modern age. He was also one of his era's most incisive social critics, especially in his early and consistent analysis of, and opposition to, totalitarianism. His historical works were regarded as incisive and innovative in their day, and his cultural criticism anticipated the work of contemporary thinkers like Michael Bureligh in seeing modern ideologies as "political religions."

Bradley Birzer traces the contours of Dawson's intellectual biography more fully than any previous scholar. Rooted in dispostive research and written with deep sensitivity to the centrality of Dawson's faith to his scholarship, Birzer provides both an outstanding introduction to Dawson's thought and much material for seasoned Dawson scholars to ponder. Sanctifying the World is a fine contribution to the ongoing revival of interest in Dawson's thought and in the Catholic literary revival generally.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Richard M. Gamble on February 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Bradley Birzer's Sanctifying the World provides an authoritative and comprehensive appreciation of Christopher Dawson's achievement. Meticulous researched, painstakingly documented, and gracefully written, Birzer's assessment of Dawson's life and work deserves a wide readership. The book's thorough bibliography alone makes an invaluable contribution to any serious effort to grasp Dawson's place in historical scholarship in the twentieth century. Historians seeking to understand the contours of Christian thought in the ideological wasteland of the twentieth century owe a debt of gratitude to Birzer for his labors. Scholars in particular concerned with the ongoing debate over the historical and normative relationship between Christianity and culture cannot afford to ignore this volume.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mirabilis on March 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Forgotten by some and unknown to others, Christopher Dawson's extraordinary mind comes to life in Birzer's thorough and insightful book. Dawson was a writer and thinker for writers and thinkers and (somewhat unexpectedly) also for artists. In an age of propaganda, Dawson proclaimed the truths that the ideologues chose to ignore, suppress and in many cases destroy.

Keenly aware of the horrors of totalitarian government, yet also aware of the dangers of "totalitarian" free-markets, Dawson recognized the reality that humanity thrives not as a manipulatable mass or a disinterested collection of free agents, but as a culture. In Europe this culture had Christian roots that grew out of the ashes of the Roman empire. That culture developed over the course of centuries. Dawson realized that though it took many generations to mature, culture could only be sustained by a people willing to live up to it's ideals and truths. And it could be destroyed in an instant by those seeking only the "new" and who somehow considered its past as of little consequence.

Dawson took up the challenge of trying to sustain and nurture Christian culture at one of its darkest hours. Like Chesterton, Dawson's insight and understanding is pertinent now more than ever. His influence can clearly be seen in the works of Eliot but more recently in the works of Pope John Paul II. For artists in particular, Dawson reminds that the power of poetry, paint and music does not aimlessly spew from the fountain of individual whim, but blossoms from the rich soil of works, and indeed the very lives, of those whose world we inherit.

Bradley Birzer has done a great service by resurrecting the story and the ideas of Christopher Dawson. Highly recommended to historians, theologians, philosophers and artists alike.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Michael Rizzio on June 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book came as a complete surprise, and I have to admit that when it arrived as a Father's Day present, I found that the publishing house sent it by mistake. When notified by my wife, they told her to keep

I don't know if this book will Sanctify the World, but I know it confirmed me in the work that I have been engaged in during the past four years---trying to help bridge the chasm that exists within my little section of the vineyard.

I felt the Holy Spirit speaking through this book from the outset and I commend Bradley for his evenhanded treatment of an enigmatic man whom 95 out of 100 Catholics alive today have probably never even heard of. I have not met a priest, sister, or layman in the past week (20 or so queried) that recognized the name. This first taste of Christopher Dawson has moved me to greatly desire to read more.

By today's standard of success/failure, Dawson's life seems a dismal failure, and yet isn't that the way of the prophets and saints?

He speaks to humanity in 2008 and seems to have known all along what this "end state" of western culture would look like. Like Aldous Huxley's extended vision in The Brave New World Revisted, Christopher Dawson predicted a de-humanized, overorganized world that would be arrayed against the Eternal City of God, Incarnate in the Catholic Church. They arrive at this conclusion from different persectives (humanist vs. Christian humanist) but as G.K. Chesterton would say, that is a sure indication that they are both glimpsing at the Christocentic truth, the center of all that is.
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