Introducing the works of Christopher Dawson
Coming from a family steeped in history, Christopher Dawson studied history at Oxford from 1908-1911, where his tutor, Ernest Barker, later described him as “a man and a scholar of the same sort of quality as Acton and von Hügel”.
Dawson’s inspiration to write history came to him as he was sitting on the steps of the Capitol in Rome, where he was filled with the desire to write a wide-ranging history of culture. This vision came to fruition with the publication of his first book, The Age of the Gods in 1928, which was the product of nearly 20 years of research. The work was well received and, had he continued along these lines, he would perhaps have become an academic historian of a more conventional type.
However, his meeting with the Catholic publisher Frank Sheed encouraged him to give a more contemporary slant to his works and reach out to a wider public. There followed Progress and Religion, The Making of Europe and twenty or so more over the course of his life, as well as many essays, articles and series of radio talks and lectures, including the Gifford Lectures of 1946-1947. These were subsequently published in two volumes, Religion and Culture and Religion and the Rise of Western Culture and have recently been made available online by the Templeton Foundation.
His works cover a wide area, from world religions to the historical study of Christianity and the clash between the religious and secular world views. Most of his works are now in print or are scheduled for re-publication in English, with versions in several foreign languages such as Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Korean.
All his works are distinguished by their erudition, their lucid and elegant style and their attempt to give the study of history the central place it deserves in human culture.