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"Historian of the spirit": an introduction to the life and ideas of Christopher H. Dawson, 1889-1970

Carter, Stephen G. (2006) "Historian of the spirit": an introduction to the life and ideas of Christopher H. Dawson, 1889-1970. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



What follows is an intellectual biography of the English Catholic historian Christopher Henry Dawson (1889-1970). If there is one overarching thesis to this dissertation, it is that Dawson's place within the history of Britain and the United States and within the historical academy in general has been hitherto underappreciated as a result of unfair categorization of his work by critics, and equally unhelpful credulous assessments imd subsequent politicization of his scholarship by overzealous admirers. Even though his perspectives will probably never be completely embraced by the historical academy due to current trends in historiography, it is hoped that this dissertation will demonstrate that Dawson’s scholarship is deserving of study because of the breadth of his intellectual and practical activity in Britain during the twentieth century, and his groundbreaking role in identifying the importance of culture and religious belief to historiography. The introduction includes a review of the most important secondary literature about Dawson that will be used throughout the work. The main text of the dissertation develops chronologically, and is in eight parts, each part representing a distinct phase of Dawson's life. Part Chie (1889-1914) examines the formative years of his childhood, his education, his conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, and how his experiences formed the basis for his opinions about history, religion, and world around him. Part Two (1915-1929) explores the schools of thought that shaped Dawson’s ideas as a young scholar, and the ideas expressed in his first two books. Part Three (1930-1934) represents the most active time of Dawson's career, and the period during which he became a widely read Catholic intellectual and historian of Europe. Part Four (1935-1939) examines Dawson's commentaries on European political movements during the 1930ร. Part Five (1940-1945) discusses Dawson's role as the vice-president of die wartime ecumenical movement 'The Sword of the Spirit', as well as his book written at the height of the Movement's success. Part Six (1946-1952) covers Dawson's ideas from his Gifford Lectures, and his interest in American Catholicism. Part Seven (1953-1962) covers Dawson's vision for American Catholics and education, and his position at Harvard University, which he held from 1958 until a series of strokes forced him to retire, and return to England in 1962. Part Eight (1963-1970) briefly discussed the events of the last years of his life. The conclusion serves as a summary of his contribution and legacy as a major twentieth-century intellectual.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2006
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 09:57

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