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Christians and Pagans: The Conversion of Britain from Alban to Bede Hardcover – October 26, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“A captivat­ing narrative . . . an important contribution . . . thoughtful, enjoyable, and valuable.”A. M. Juster, First Things
(A. M. Juster First Things)

“Fascinating . . . Lambert’s account has numerous strengths [including] his treatment of the “lost church” . . . and insightful treatment of major figures.”—Alan Kreider, International Bulletin of Missionary Research
(Alan Kreider International Bulletin of Missionary Research)

“The complex story of the Christianization of Britain . . . can be told well only by someone with Lambert’s erudition. [A] useful and fascinating work.”—Lawrence S. Cunningham, Commonweal
(Lawrence S. Cunningham Commonweal)

About the Author

Malcolm Lambert has taught history and theology at the universities of Bristol and Reading and is the author of Franciscan Poverty, Medieval Heresy, and The Cathars.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300119089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300119084
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,269,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Let me tell you a story. An old man, whose first book was published in 1961, finds a wonderful library with a great cafeteria in the basement, the National Library of Wales, in Aberyswyth. There he settles in the Reading Room on and off for a period of seven years, surveying various works of scholarship and taking copious notes. This man was once a reader at Bristol University.

Great Expectations. Perhaps you ordered Malcolm Lambert's book based on the loving review by Lawrence S. Cunningham in the June 2011 "Commonweal." Clearly, Cunningham only read the courtesy promo blurbs from the publisher. Poor you.

Writing history is not so obtuse, so complex, so opaque, that the reader is flummoxed. It should be clear, with a story to tell. I'm familiar with the work of archaeologists throughout the British Isles, and Lambert's book is like some cartoon version. The history is deplorable, Lambert can't maintain a consistent narrative from one paragraph to the next. He consumes a whole page to say what could be described in only a few sentences. The most egregious example actually involves a digression on Harriet Tubman, the Mason-Dixon line in the antebellum South, and Saint Patrick that is both insulting to all parties. A bizarre addition to this unwieldy, patronizing tomb.

This is a work of hack academia, without a clear thesis, but loads of opinion are run through a blender. Lambert lambasts the oral traditions recorded in the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," stating that "both African and early medieval Germanic societies" undermine the use of these fragments (2010:54). Hey, that lunch down in the basement must have been pretty good; Welch Rarebit, anyone? On Scotland's ancient Dunadd, he mixes three historic periods in one sentence, with no logic or clarity.
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