Recommended readings in Catholic history

1) The early Church and the Patristic age: 33-450AD [The Church grows from obscurity to become the dominant religion in Rome.  The orthodox creed is ironed out amid numerous heresies and schisms.]

  • The Early Church by Henry Chadwick
  • The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark
  • The Spirit of Early Christian Thought by Robert Louis Wilken

2) The Dark Ages: 450-1000AD [The Roman empire disappears in the West, and the Church forges a new civilization.]

  • The Making of Europe by Christopher Dawson
  • The Rise of Western Christendom by Peter Brown

3) The High Middle Ages: 1000-1300AD [The Church asserts her independence.  The clash with secular powers.  Universities and scholasticism.  The crusades.]

  • The Papal Monarchy by Colin Morris
  • Religion and the Rise of Western Culture by Christopher Dawson
  • A Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas Madden
  • Inquisition by Edward Peters
  • The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy by Etienne Gilson

4) The Renaissance: 1300-1500AD [The Great Schism.  Conciliarism and the corruption it fostered.  The flowering of Italian civic culture.  The worldly popes.]

  • haven’t found any particularly good books on this era yet

5) The counter-reformation: 1500-1800AD [Trent and the reform of the clergy.  The wars of religion.  Missionary efforts throughout the world.]

  • The Refashioning of Catholicism, 1450-1700 by Robert Bireley
  • The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico by Robert Ricard
  • The Lost Paradise:  an account of the Jesuits in Paraguay by Philip Caraman

6) The battle with liberalism: 1800-1960AD [Enlightenment, Revolution, persecution.  The secular powers embrace godlessness, but the Church holds firm.]

  • The Popes and the European Revolution by Owen Chadwick
  • Prosperity and Plunder:  European Catholic Monastaries in the Age of Revolution, 1650-1815 by Derek Beales
  • The French Revolution and the Church by John McManners
  • A History of the Popes, 1830-1914 by Owen Chadwick
  • Religion and the People of Western Europe 1789-1989 by Hugh McLeod
  • Earthly Powers by Michael Burleigh
  • A Fight for God by Henri Daniel-Rops
  • The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century by Robert Royal
  • The Cristero Rebellion by Jean Meyer
  • The Spanish Civil War as a Religious Tragedy by Jose Sanchez
  • The Vatican in the Age of Dictators, 1922-1945 by Anthony Rhodes

7) Debacle: 1960- [Surrender, betrayal, heresy, apostasy, hedonism, ruin.]

  • The Desolate City by Anne Roche Muggeridge

2 Responses

  1. You might want to check out Charles Trinkaus’ two-volume _In Our Image and Likeness_ for a historical study of (mostly Italian) Renaissance thought which understands that its different spiritual tone was still Christian and not pagan.

  2. Hello Craig,

    Thank you for the recommendation. This sounds like a good couple of books, and a good way for me to fill a gap in my knowledge of Church history.

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