The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity

Front Cover
John McManners
OUP Oxford, Mar 15, 2001 - Religion - 736 pages
1 Review
This richly illustrated book tells the story of Christianity from its origins to the present day. Written by a team of scholars, all authorities in their fields, it spans 2000 years of colourful incident to give an uniquely authoritative history of Christianity for the general reader. Every aspect of the faith is explored. The introduction discusses Christian interpretations of the historical process, and the links and tensions between religious and artistic inspiration. The first section runs chronologically from the earliest Christian communities to 1800, and includes chapters on Eastern Christendom, Christianity and Islam, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the expansion of Christianity. The second section is divided by geographical area, and covers the period from 1800 to the present day. There are special studies of Britain and Europe, North America, South America, Africa, India, the Far East, and the Orthodox Churches of Eastern Europe. The final section 'Christianity Today and Tomorrow' considers questions of Christian theology, conscience and belief and explores new images of the Christian community, ending with a glimpse of the future of Christanity. Throughout, the book, reflects the changing world in which Christians have found themselves, and gives full weight to events and movements where the Christian response has been challenged and re-evaluated. There are over 350 illustrations, and 32 full colour plates, all specifically chosen to complement the broad-ranging text. Authoritative, comprehensive and highly readable, this book captures the richness and vitality of Christian art and thought in a wide variety of cultures and times.

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John McManners, the author of “Oxford history of Christianity”. appears to have allowed his ‘world expert’ ambitions to get the better of him. The over ambitious scope of the book, and more so, purportedly by one author is a dead give away. But the association with the Oxford press made me give it a try.
However, just reading page 499 to 500 on Sri Lanka fully confirmed my suspicions. Obviously the author has no understanding about Sri Lanka although he has written authoritatively about it. McManners says that the Kandyan kingdom of Sri Lanka was the stronghold of the Govi caste and that ordination in the Buddhist sangha was reserved for that caste. The first statement is an absolutely erroneous. Such a situation didn’t arise even after the creation of a Govigama caste and a ‘British Radala’ pseudo aristocracy by 19th century British administrators. All Sri Lankan castes ordained as Buddhist monks prior to 1764 and it was a coup by a group of Govi monks in 1764 that prevented other castes from ordaining. However this un-Buddhistic aberration lasted only from 1764 to 1800. From 1800 onwards all other castes established numerous Buddhist sects
McManners also says that the converts to Catholicism, Dutch reformed and Anglican Christianity came mainly from the Karava and the Salagama castes. The social conditions of the three different colonial periods (Portuguese, Dutch and British each ruling for approximately 150 years in succession) were vastly different. And similarly the attraction to Christianity during the three colonial periods too were vastly different from McManners’ naively simplistic generalization. McManners even uses inaccurate and derogatory occupational labels to describe the Karava and the Salagama castes and appears to be completely unaware that the Govigama caste and the Radala families of Sri Lanka were formed by natives who had converted to Anglicanism.
A simple Google search would have saved McManners from committing such gaffs into print. After encountering so many glaring errors on just two pages I was disinclined to waste anymore time with John McManners and his hyped title “Oxford history of Christianity”.


Christian communities in 100 and the journeys of St Paul 145
The Early Christian Community
Christ in Majesty wall painting possibly fourth century from the catacomb
From Rome to the Barbarian Kingdoms 330700
The Roman world to c 6oo 867
The Age of Conversion 7001050
St Boniface from a Fulda massbook early eleventh century
Eastern Christendom
Christian Europe in 1490 on the eve of the expansion 3023
North America
Latin America
Christianity in Contemporary Africa
The Orthodox Churches of Eastern Europe
What Christians Believe

The Transfiguration of Christ c 1403 icon by Theopan the Greek
Christianity and Islam
Muhammad leads the prophets Abraham Moses and Jesus in prayer
Christian Civilization 10501400
Italy in the thirteenth century
The Late Medieval Church and its Reformation 14001600
Central Europe after the Reformation 16i8
Great Britain and Europe
New Images of Christian Community
The Christian Conscience
i9 The Future of Christianity
The Syon Cope c 1300 197

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The Moral Economy
John P. Powelson
Limited preview - 2000
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About the author (2001)

John McManners is Emeritus Professor of Ecclesiastic History and Fellow and Chaplain of All Souls College, Oxford. An established authority in his field, he has written many popularly acclaimed books, including Death and the Enlightenment, which won Britain's Wolfson Literary Award for History and was chosen by The Times as one of the ten best non-fiction books of the year.

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