A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years has earned British historian Diarmaid MacCulloch the 2010 Cundill Prize in History at McGill University, the world’s most important non-fiction historical literature prize.
“At a time when quarrels between believers and non believers, new atheists and old faithfuls, dominate so much of our public discourse, Diarmaid MacCulloch has given us the one thing that we most need – not polemic but history, high, wide, and lucid, and, given the enormity of his task, often winningly light of touch. Taking as his subject nothing less than the whole history of the faith, MacCulloch has written a social history that illuminates changes in belief; and a history of belief that helps us see how our society got so much of its structure. Without scanting the horrors of fanaticism, he does not scoff at the meaning of belief: we see Christian martyrs and Christian persecutors, repellent sinners and authentic saints.
Does being gay make you a better historian? ‘Immensely, immensely,’ says Diarmaid MacCulloch. ‘From a young age, four or five onwards, I began to realise that the world was not as it pretends to be, there are lots of other things there. You learn how to listen to what is being half-said or implied, and that’s a transferable skill.’
Christianity, one of the world’s great religions, has had an incalculable impact on human history. This book, now the most comprehensive and up to date single volume work in English, describes not only the main ideas and personalities of Christian history, its organisation and spirituality, but how it has changed politics, sex, and human society. Diarmaid MacCulloch ranges from Palestine in the first century to India in the third, from Damascus to China in the seventh century and from San Francisco to Korea in the twentieth. He is one of the most widely travelled of Christian historians and conveys a sense of place as arrestingly as he does the power of ideas. He presents the development of Christian history differently from any of his predecessors. He shows how, after a semblance of unity in its earliest centuries, the Christian church divided during the next 1400 years into three increasingly distanced parts, of which the western Church was by no means always the most important: he observes that at the end of the first eight centuries of Christian history, Baghdad might have seemed a more likely capital for worldwide Christianity than Rome. This is the first truly global history of Christianity.