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God's Soldiers: Adventure, Politics, Intrigue, and Power--A History of the Jesuits Paperback – October 18, 2005

3.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

They numbered 20,408 at the start of the 21st century, and their 400-year history is marked by crisis, accomplishment and persecution. They are the Jesuits, the Society of Jesus founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1534; and Wright, a British historian, tells their amazing story in this thoroughly documented account. Given the scope of his subject, Wright's was no small task and he has neatly compressed the four-century Jesuit saga into a reasonably concise and balanced history. Along the way, he does not shrink from the darker side of that history, whether he is addressing the hatred the order engendered among its detractors or describing the failings of individual members and methods. But he is largely forgiving, allowing for human frailty as an explanation for times when the order's history was marred by less than exemplary behavior. Although Wright acknowledges there have been "Jesuit villains, Jesuits possessed of unseemly ambition, [and] Jesuits who preferred politicking to preaching," he believes the order as a whole has not deserved to be painted with a negative broad brush. Besides recounting the facts of Jesuit history, Wright's chronicle also sheds light on the roots of tensions between Catholics and Protestants that still simmer and even flare up today despite the new spirit of ecumenism fostered by the 1960s Second Vatican Council. Given the Jesuits' missionary spirit and their wide reach in the worlds of education, science and religion, a large and diverse audience should find this book to be of interest.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

British historian Wright provides a digestible account of one of the world's most accomplished and controversial religious orders. Founded in 1534 by Ignatius of Loyola, the Society of Jesus quickly evolved into one of the largest and most influential arms of the Catholic Church. Individually and collectively the Jesuits have zealously pursued missionary work, independent scholarship, holistic education, and political activism for five centuries. Most recently, many members have embraced liberation theology, a radical strategy aimed at achieving social justice and political reform. Despite their undeniably amazing theological, spiritual, scientific, educational, and cultural contributions, the Jesuits have been consistently steeped in intrigue and controversy, alternately revered and reviled by contemporaries and church historians. Seeking to separate fact from fiction and to set the often romanticized or exaggerated record straight, Wright offers a balanced overview that represents and preserves all the gore and glory of the Jesuit past. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Image; Reprint edition (October 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385500807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385500807
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #444,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Frank J. Konopka VINE VOICE on June 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The history of the Society of Jesus is an extremely interesting and exciting one, as is perfectly clear after reading this extremely well writen book. Unfortunately, the book is much too short, and we get a very cursory history, with a lot of mentions of things that hapened, but no explanations as to what these things were. I wish that the author would have expanded his book more, so that there would have been more detail to it. One small example is the missionary activity of Francis Xavier: it's mentioned, but we don't really find out anything about it in the book. Perhaps this is just the author's way of getting us to read more deeply into the subject, but i don't know. I learned a lot about the Jesuits in this book, but I was left with the hunger for more detailed knowledge.
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Format: Paperback
For the history buff, this glimpse into the world of the Jesuits and their role in educational institutions, missionary work and Catholicism, this book leaves something to be desired. While reading it I was completely enthralled but after each reading session felt like I had missed something. Was it the author's language, often very academic and intellectual or was it something else? I came away in the end thinking it was a combination of factors, one of which is the lack of detail to any number of events and the jumping around to different time periods and locations. It is almost like the author expects you to have knowledge of all the people and events he is talking about. There was not enough "color" to the events and people; they were all shaded in black and white academia. Was this enough to make the book uninteresting? No, by no means, actually I was really drawn into the material but it was just a little dry. With so many martyrs and bloodshed in the name of Christ surely the events could have been described with more attention to detail. There are times when he is describing the various events, like the acquisition and eventual selling of relics in very graphic terms; however, there is just not enough of this. At times the story is disjointed; something that fit a tight chronlogical order may have made it easier to read. By no means is this an easy book. You need to have your thinking cap on. The long history of the Jesuits is condensed but in the process the different "stories" within are somewhat lost in a blurr. To the author's credit he did an amazing job to even tackle such an esoteric subject within the confines of a three hundred page book. It is almost like there is too much information.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
The history is fascinating - so many martyrs, so many enemies. The telling of that history, in this instance at least, is somewhat weighty. No doubt Mr. Wright is a very bright man and he does have a great appreciation of his subject matter but his literary style smacks of academia. Save for the sexy sub-heading -"Adventure, Politics, Intrigue, and Power" the book reads like a thesis. His use of vocabulary borders on the obscure - not a trait inherent in bestsellers. Which this book could have been. All of the ingredients are there - " Adventure, Politics, Intrigue, and Power". Dan Brown has demonstrated a public fascination with arcana (albeit in a predictable and simplistic fashion) and Eco proved that one can be literary without being pedantic.

All in all, I was disappointed but stuck with it to find out how it would end!
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Format: Hardcover
When i bought the book i thought i was going to discover at least a big part of the huge and extraordinary jesuit history. I was wrong. The book lacks too many names, countries, and facts related to the jesuit order. The author emphasises too much on certain people and ignores jesuit saints , politicians, and kings under the jesuit influence. I would also say that the authors sources are very , very scarce.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yes, it is very brief, but it does pack a fascinating punch. Just when Wright gets to the meat of an interesting area he switches gears, from South America to India to Quebec to Rome. I guess you could say the book's pace mimmicks the Jesuit's agency. If you're curious about a few of the notable Jesuits mentioned than you should definately check out Ignatian Humanism: A Dynamic Spirituality for the 21st Century.
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Format: Paperback
God's Soldiers by Jonathan Wright is a good overview of the subject, though not very memorable. His method is to go through a vast amount of individual histories, often very briefly, which makes for exhausting and sometimes confusing reading. For this reason I find it strange that some people have commented on the book as being "academic" in style. I'd rather describe it as a not very well executed popular history. Some crucial information is also missing; he for example states that Ignatian spirituality aroused suspicions in some Catholics, but neglects to tell why, or even describe what it was about.

That said, the problem is mostly in execution. The focus is on the period between the creation of the society and it's temporary dissolution, though later events are also covered. Wright seems to have a good command on his subject, and though he is mostly apologetic, disproving the widespread "anti-myth", he does not appear overtly biased. The picture that emerges from his writing is that of a global organisation based on innovative individuals who often had to make the best of difficult conditions. As this mode of operation proved to be more than succesful, they ran afoul with emerging national hierarchies unwilling to share their power over people. This would be their undoing.

For those interested in the subject, I would recommend God's Secret Agents by Alice Hogge. It has no special relationship to this book, but is more readable and describes the Jesuit activity in Elizabethian England in fascinating detail.
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