- Series: Worlds of Christopher Dawson
- Paperback: 324 pages
- Publisher: The Catholic University of America Press; Paperback Edition edition (December 4, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0813210836
- ISBN-13: 978-0813210834
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,239,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Making of Europe: An Introduction to the History of European Unity (Worlds of Christopher Dawson) Paperback Edition Edition
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The early parts of this book dealt with Mesopotamian influences on Western Civilzation. Dawson then dealt that the concept of "Europe" meant Hellenic Greece. When Augustus Caesar's (63 BC-14 AD) forces won the battle of Actrium in 31 BC, the concept of Europe expanded to include the Greek world and the Roman Empire. The intellectual and cultural influences of these events could not be over estimated.
Dawson explains that as the Roman Empire declined, the emergence of Christianity held its followers as the old religions became stagnant. The ruinous taxation and the divisions within the Roman army led to the phrase, "Enrich the soldiers and scorn the rest." The early Christian martyrs were not impressed by Rome's power and cheerfully faced martydom which showed firm resolve. The early Catholic Bishops became de facto authorities because of their organization and influence. The bishops and clergy became the economic and social forces that absorbed functions that the Roman authorities could no longer afford such as refuge from famine and social collapse. Esubius (c. 260-c.341)mentioned that the Catholic Church preserved intelligent tradition over chaos. As history students may know, the differences between the Eastern Church and the Latin Roman Catholic Church gradually resulted in schism. Dawson gave credit to the Byzantine Greek Church as having more astute thought, but the Latin Catholic Church was more disciplined. Dawson also gave credit to St. Augustine (354-430)for creating "The Church Intellectual" which helped attract intelligent men and woman especially when he wrote THE CITY OF GOD.
The Byzantine Greek Orthodox Church was closely tied to the Byzantine ruler via Caesaropapism which meant that secular and religious authority were under the Byzantine emperors and kings. While the Latin Western Catholics and Greek Eastern Orthodox were divided, the status of the Pope still had some influence in the East, but this ended by the Iconoclastic Controversy re the use of icons and images in churches.
Due to the apparent differences between early Christianity and Classical learning, there was the expected tension of comparison/contrast between beliefs and philosophy-especially Greek philosophy. Tertullian (c. 160-225) denegrated Greek thought while St. Clement (d. 215)argued that Greek philosphy was a blessing in knowing about the mystery of Creation and God. St. Clement's view was mirrored in Boethius' (c. 480-535)book titled THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY.
In the midst of the emergence of Catholicism, Dawson gave careful attention to the barbarian intrusions into the Roman Empire. Many of the barbarians considered themselves as career Romans and not barbarians. However, after the rule of the Roman Emperor Theodosius (379-395), the Roman Empire faced disaster. St. Jerome (346-420), who translated the Vulgate Bible, argued that God was for eternity while the Roman Empire, like all empires, would disappear.
One of the problems for the Latin Catholic Church was to appeal to the barbarians whose model was the hero warrior and whereby war was the ideal. To penetrate this view would be difficult. However, the Catholic West clergy had literate men who gained influence because of their usefulness as administrators. When Clovis (480-520)converted to Catholicism in 493, the Catholic Church found fertile ground for conversion and influence.
Dawson then compared/contrasted the Latin Catholic Church with the Byzantine East whose Christians were not as well organized. After the Council of Chalcedon (451), the Egyptians and others in the Greek East literally massacred bishops and authorities because of local loyalty to personalities rather than concepts. The Latin Church authorities faced outside pressures as well as doctrinal threats from the Gnostics who believed that an intermediary and not God Himself made Creation. The Manichians argued that the material world was evil and part of an evil God as opposed to Christ who was good. The Monophysilism heresy argued only for Christ's divine nature and not His human nature.
The rise of Islam was a serious threat to both the Greek Orthodox Christians and the Latin Catholics. The Byzantines lost considerable territory and the loss of the library in Alexandria, Egypt. Yet, the Byzantines who faced such threats started the Iconoclastic controversy during the reign of Leo III (717-740) and got worse in 1054 when the Byzantines need allies and not more enemies.
Yet, the Byzantines were able to recover from their refusal to examine and learn from Ancient Greek thought. Photius (815-897), who was responsible in part for the Iconclastic Controversy, and Psellus (1019-1079)helped to resurrect Greek thought and wisdom the realm of Byzantine rule.
While the Byzantine was more advanced than the Latin West, Dawson made a good point that intellectually the Latin West was more dynamic. Dawson cited the work of the Irish Celtic monks whose missionary zeal took them to Iceland before the Vikings arreivd. The Benedictines, started by St. Benedict (480-543)and his twin sister St. Scholastica (480-543)gave the Western Latin monasticism discipline and learning. The Benedictines created the great library at Monto Cassio. The Benedictine monastary at Jarrow, England produced such great scholars as St. Bede (680-735). St. Boniface (c.680-755)helped to spread Catholicism to Germany.
These efforts were embellished by the Franks. The Merovingian Franks were secular while the Carolingians were religious. Dawson argued that Charlemagne (768-814)was the protector of the Latin Catholic Church via his military exploits and his encouraging of learning especially at the school at Aachen. Dawson informed readers of the important work of Alcuin (735-804)whose scholars developed minuscule writing and "Bookhand." Their work embellished teaching and learning for subsequent generations of students.
The efforts of Charlemagne and the Franks was almost destroyed by the Viking invasions. Victories by the forces of Alfred the Great (848-899)at Eddinton, and victories by Charles III 898-922)stopped the Viking invasions, and these North Europeans became absorbed in Catholic culture and religion. The successful invastion of England by the forces of William the Conqueror (1066-1087)gave the English better administration and organization. The military success of Otto I (912-973)against the Magyars (Hungarians)were important in expanding European culture and thought in what were then considered non European areas.
Dawson wrote an informative account of European History. As mentioned above, Dawson was a devout Catholic. He cited the failures of the Catholic Church, but he also gave readers a good assessment of the vast achievements during the History of Catholic Church and the making of Europe. This book should be slowly read and absorbed.
James E. Egolf
June 23, 2011
by Christopher Dawson
London: Sheed and Ward, 1932; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2003; new introduction and reprint
Review by Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Published in The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, vol. 27, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 43
We have waited a long time to see the works of Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) reappear. One of the joys of the new millennium is to discover this expectation partially fulfilled.
The Catholic University of America Press now lists Progress and Religion, Medieval Essays, and The Making of Europe as again in print. Also an edited collection of his works, Christianity and European Culture, contains The Historic Reality of Christian Culture (1960) and selections from The Making of Europe (1932), The Judgment of the Nations (1943), and Medieval Essays (1959). There is still a void for his 1928 classic, The Age of the Gods.
Dawson had a fine British education, thanks in part to his religion. However, Dawson never had a university teaching position in Britain because he changed his religion in 1914. As a Catholic, he was refused when he applied for a post as professor at the University of Leeds shortly after the 1932 publication of The Making of Europe. The author of the new introduction, Alexander Murray, sees some good in this. It made Dawson a kind of "historian prophet" who gained respect and an eager audience in the English-speaking world outside the academic establishment. Dawson finished only two of his planned major works, and The Making of Europe is one of them.
The Making of Europe treats the period between 300 BC and 1000 AD. Let us remember that the Renaissance mentality saw no real good after the classical period which effectively came to an end with the Emperor Constantine. The mood of the Enlightenment was even more severe in accepting nothing good from the past when it replaced "the myth of the golden age" with "the myth of progress". Marxism pushed this further taking the stance that "all history is the history of oppression". But Dawson brought light where there was darkness, and his work rejected the concept of the Dark Ages. His thought was original when he saw the complex history of Europe as more akin to the myth of the Phoenix--something new and vital arising from the ashes of the old when Christian Europe was born.
In just over 250 pages Dawson shows how conflicting movements eventually coalesced into a vibrant medieval unity. Roman institutions and learning, barbarian spirit and energy, contact with the East--both the Byzantine State and Islam, and the fusion of church and state in the Carolingian period, all had a role in the story. There had been partial revival and partial reversal with Justinian and Charlemagne, but by the eleventh century what we know as Western culture was in place, and it has continued without interruption to the present.
Though The Making of Europe dwells upon the past, it ends with a warning about the present. Dawson says that the deeper spiritual needs of man were met by the medieval synthesis which he has outlined in the manner of a "meta-history". But in the last four centuries this spiritual aspect has been muted in favor of secular culture and material advantage. He warns that this is not enough. Surely since 1932 his warning seems correct. The fashionable Nihilism of our day does not satisfy, and Europe is poised either to regain her lost soul or to lose it to alien forces.