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February 2022

Dominion

by Tom Holland

Abacus

The book Dominion by Tom Holland is the history book with perhaps the most varied content that I have ever read. The central theme is the interaction between western thought and the world of religion, and, specifically, Christianity. The book presents the events  in  a chronological order, beginning with antiquity, and, more specifically, with ancient Greece and Persia and the religious beliefs of these peoples. The book then continues to link this into the story of the creation of a new religion, namely, Christianity, showing how the thinking of these cultures imprinted on early Christian theology. The narrative continues with the persecution of early Christians and then with the spread of Christianity which becomes the official religion of powers, such as, the Roman Empire. This transition starts a period where the Church will at last be established as a legal institution with political power. One of the most interesting parts of the book is the part about the Middle Ages where many of the greatest Christian thinkers and theologians can to be found.  Τhe ideas analysed include those of Thomas Aquinas and Francis of Assisi. The medieval period was formative for Christianity, as it contains the ecclesiastical schism of 1054 and the establishment of the institution of the Catholic Church (notably, the Orthodox Church does not feature prominently in this book seeing as it more focused on the "west"). One of the most important periods which is discussed  is that of "Reformation" the reformation and renewal in the Catholic Church which redefined many of the church's doctrines (such as, the celibacy of priests). The medieval period also saw the church become entangled in the affairs of the medieval kingdoms and the political system. The Middle Ages are followed by the reformation, which is also recounted in great detail. Martin Luther and other theologians put forward new ideas about Christian faith and challenged the idea of the Catholic Church as universal. Momentous changes took place, the bible was translated into the vernacular by Martin Luther and many churches would be created under the umbrella of Protestantism; like the Calvinist or Anglican churches. Moving on, within the climate created by the Reformation, the book will describe the religious freedom in England and how this freedom would lead to the creation of denominations, such as, the Quakers. An interesting aspect of the book is the spread of Christianity to the New World where idealists wished to start building society from the beginning (this is the case of Philadelphia: a city founded by the Quaker William Penn). Later, Christianity seems to begin a decline, beginning with the French revolution and continuing with philosophers, such as, Nietzsche. The book finishes with modern history and analyses western thought to this day (the final chapter is called "Woke"). The book is mainly a history of ideas. The events I have laid out above are mainly pretexts that are used to dive into the ideas that still influence the world today. Amongst other interesting theses, the book convincingly argues that religion is a profoundly Christian idea (as demonstrated by the British colonial administrations attitude to Hinduism) as is secularism, and the idea of protecting the weak, even if this idea is contrary to the natural order. Towards the end, the book will point out that Christianity was novel in glorifying the weak, especially, since Christ died on the cross and was not a mighty conqueror or king. Most interestingly, it also argues that many ideas we take for granted are Christian and Christianity is at the base of many important political movements: The Civil Rights Movement, for example, or even the woke movement as the author will argue. All in all, it is only fair to say that this book is a historical work of art because its author does not try to hide in a project of limited scope, he takes the theme on as a whole huge topic... It is indeed, a history of the western mind as the cover suggests

Νέα εικόνα (16).bmp
Νέα εικόνα (17).bmp

My copy

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