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Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  2,669 ratings  ·  448 reviews
A historian of antiquity shows how the Christian Revolution forged the Western imagination
Crucifixion, the Romans believed, was the worst fate imaginable. It was this that rendered it so suitable a punishment for slaves. How astonishing it was, then, that people should have come to believe that one particular victim of crucifixion-an obscure provincial by the name of Jesus
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Published 2019 by Little, Brown
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Terralynn Forsyth I'm listening to it via Audible and it's pretty easy listening so far! Another trick I use is pairing audio with the actual book if I want to absorb i…moreI'm listening to it via Audible and it's pretty easy listening so far! Another trick I use is pairing audio with the actual book if I want to absorb is a bit more than just audio - this might help, too.(less)
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BlackOxford
A Theory of Christian Civilisation

I have spent the better part of the last 6 months discussing this book with a close friend who happens to be a Catholic priest. I think a summary of that discussion and my conclusion is the best review I can provide.

Tom Holland isn’t a Catholic. But I think he wants to be. This is good news, almost gospel-type good news, because he is able to appreciate fully the paradox that is Christianity. This paradox is what makes Christianity important. And the only way to
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Nick Imrie
This is the story of the molding of the Western Mind, and the main point is that the Western mind is, to a large extent, formed by Christianity. So deeply embedded are Christian assumptions in Western thought that we don't even think of them as Christian, we think of them as universal, self-evident, or we try to credit them to the Enlightenment or ancient civilisations. So in many ways, this is the story of Christianity as much as it is of Western thinking. That's more than two thousand years pa ...more
Darryl Greer
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The copy of "Dominion" by author, Tom Holland that was lent to me bears the subtitle 'The Making of the Western Mind' (which is how it appears on Amazon) whereas, at least in Goodreads, it is shown as 'How the Christian Revolution Remade the World'. A sign of the times perhaps, that the publishers decided a subtitle with the word “Christian” in it wasn’t going to sell books. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Whatever the subtitle, "Dominion" stylishly charts the making of society as we kno ...more
Tim O'Neill
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Holland's provocative and thought-provoking history of Christianity's intrinsic influence on what we can call "Western thought" is remarkable for its cogency, given the vast sweep of its scope. Every time his narrative seems to be simply rehearsing the history of Christianity, Holland deftly brings it back to his key themes. Over and over again he shows that ideas we consider to be "self-evident" (to use the words of the framers of the US Constitution) are actually nothing of the sort - they are ...more
Luke
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dominion – a selective reading of history

Tom Holland’s latest book clocks in at over 500 pages; yet manages to miss out several key points.

Ostensibly a history of how Christianity affected the West, we are instead offered Holland’s own selective view of Christianity and the Ancient World. The Pagan emperors of Rome are caricatured as brutal and bloodthirsty while the early Christian emperors get off lightly. For example, a great deal is made of how wicked Nero was for killing his mother and his
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Sanjay Prabhakar
This is the latest, and probably the most accessible, book in the genre of "Christianity in modernity" - the attempt to uncover how (Western) modernity is radically indebted to the tradition of (Western) Christianity for its values and modes of thinking. Living, as we do, in A Secular Age, it is easy to think such a project silly or partisan - but it is perhaps the greatest coup of such histories that secularism itself, and all the claims to universality and neutrality that come with it, are a c ...more
Vagabond of Letters, DLitt
6/10.

I have read all of Tom Holland's non-fiction except for 'Dynasty', and have liked and learned something from it all. Not so here: unlike what's written on the cover, this work is not much about the making of the Western mind - at least not in the way that books like 'The Unintended Reformation', 'A Secular Age', and others are. It is a decent, but not first-rate, social history of Christianity in one volume from an agnostic-atheist standpoint, with space constraints leading to superficial c
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Jeremy
Here, Holland resists the idea that the modern, post-Enlightenment West is devoid of Christianity; rather, he uses radioactivity as a metaphor to say that Christianity has affected everything, even if we don't realize it. Instead of using this metaphor, the book says that the West swims in Christian waters.

Glen Scrivener interviews the author here. Breakpoint interview here. Wilson review here. Keller review at TGC. Comments at WORLD.

From Shane Morris: "One of the best takeaways from Tom Holland
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MarinaS
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The central thesis of this book devolves into the Goodness Gracious Me sketch about the Indian father. Everyone was Christian! Diderot? Christian! Voltaire? Christian! Karl Marx? Christian! Charlie Hebdo? Christian! (The Nazis were not Christian, but) Harvey Weinstein (yes, really)? Christian! The Women's March? Christian! It is almost always asserted rather than argued for properly, and it makes the last third of the book very dull indeed.

The trick of describing something, somewhere or someone
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David
Tom Holland (not the guy who plays Spider Man!) has written a few of my favorite works of history, specifically on ancient Sparta and Rome. A couple years back he wrote an article explaining how he realized that, as much as he admired Leonidas or Caesar, he was nothing like them in his own morals or ethics. Whether he liked it or not, his morality was distinctly shaped by Christianity. This book is his effort to demonstrate how the Christian revolution totally shaped our modern world.

The book is
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Mark Jr.
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book, audio, 2020
There are two important ways to show that the “liberal” and “secular” values of human rights would never have come into being without Christianity: you can show that those values are logical extensions of Christianity and not of other worldviews, or you can trace the history of those values and see whether they ever actually arose in non-Christian lands and how they fared in Christian ones. Holland has done both, but the real strength of his book is the historical tour. It’s relentless. It’s wel ...more
Toby
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church-history
Ask my three children about why the sky is blue and you will get three answers: Because it is (primary school); something complicated about light wavelengths and refraction (secondary school science); it isn't (GCSE philosophy and ethics). It occurred to me that Tom Holland in this book asks a similar question as to why modern society still seems so rooted in its Christian past. He attempts the middle answer, though at times the other two might be equally good answers.

Tom Holland is a greatly ac
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Alis
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Tom Holland has a great easy to read writing style, but the argument in this book was ... not his finest. The first half that explores the origins of Christian ideas and the growth / making of the Catholic Church is very interesting. Well researched, well told. I found the connections between Persian religious tradition and early Christianity especially compelling.

The second half is the work of someone who is cherry picking ideas to fit a predetermined thesis. The argument he is making is simpl
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Matthew
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, ab
Holland attempts far too much in 600 pages and yet the result is still quite astonishing.

One might quibble about some specific points of historical or theological interest (it is a popular history, after all) but here we have a center-left atheist deftly skipping over landmine after landmine of the usual tripe in order to land a devastating series of blows to contemporary multicultural assumptions.

Secularism, it turns out, is not a phase of human cultural evolution, or the taming of Religion's
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Vidur Kapur
Tom Holland, in this lengthy tome, purports to establish that those of us who hold secular, liberal, Enlightenment values are all in fact Christians, whether we realise it or not. The truth, as we shall see, is precisely the reverse: liberalism was not a vehicle for the spread of Christianity; Christianity was a vehicle for the spread of liberalism, which in turn was a vehicle for the spread of utilitarianism, or what we might call sentientism.

The claim that some of the Enlightenment thinkers,
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Omar Ali
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tom Holland started off writing vampire novels but moved on to non-fiction and has since written an excellent history of the Persian invasion of Greece, several books about the Romans, one about Islam and one about the slow rise of Christian Europe that started around 1000 AD ; in retrospect at least, all his non-fiction books have had a hint of Christian Western European apologetics (some of it is probably well deserved reaction to the excesses of contemporary wokeness) but this book makes it e ...more
Mark
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a brilliant book, as many have noted. Holland is a popular historian of the first order and he has mastered vast swathes of church history to such an extent that he is able to pick out not simply ‘les mots justes’ but ‘les scènes justes’ which epitomise an era or major shift.

There are times of possible if not probable overreach, especially towards the conclusion, and it’s a moot point whether or not the progression towards what is best about modern society (in his view) is all down to C
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Samuel
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I should start out by saying I am the choir, I've been making the argument made in Holland's book for years, Christianity is in the air that we breath, the water we drink, we take it for granted and we do so at our peril.

What Tom Holland, who it is worth pointing out is not himself a Christian, has done is painstakingly laid out the case that yes indeed, the West owes many (most) of its ideas and morality to its Judeo-Christian roots, it has been influencing the world from its inception and the
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Liviu
Erudite but written in a popular style that the author is known for (and sometimes these aspects clash and some awkwardness ensues but one can easily forgive and forget it), though in some ways it points out the obvious in less ideological style that similar other books (whether pro or against Christianity and its influence today). I think that the early parts that really show the huge difference in outlook we have vs say (what we still consider our cultural ancestors, the Greeks and the pre-Chr ...more
Barnaby
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love history. This is some work, charting the course and effects of Christianity over two millennia. The broad sweep of analysis is masterful, setting up each development with a relatively unknown story that unfolds into the stories and characters many will know. Engaging and wonderful.
But also, I love Jesus. Which means to see the effect that this one Nazarene has had on the globe, on the very social, political and moral fabric of the Western World, has been nothing short of exhilarating. Wh
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Chad D
Jul 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you’re looking for a highly readable one-volume treatment of how Western culture got to its present pass, you should probably try this one. One of the most important books I've read in a long time, probably the most successful macrohistory I've ever read. Tom Holland calls himself a Christian who doesn't believe in God, a Christian in morals but not metaphysics, and the rest of the book starts in 479 BC and tells the prehistory of how such a creature could come to be. Over and over again, che ...more
Andrew Norton
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my teenage years, to use one of the many nice turns of phrase in Tom Holland’s Dominion, ‘like a dimmer switch being turned down I found my belief in God fading.’ But despite no longer praying or going to church I still saw myself, even in a militant atheist phase, as a small-p protestant. My upbringing shaped me too much to pretend that Christian ideas did not still influence how I saw myself, how I behaved towards others, and the content of my political beliefs.

Dominion argues for a radica
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Jonny Thomson
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a 5* experience in terms of magnificent readability, content and just what I have been after for a while. This is, essentially, a broad but comprehensive overview of the major moments in the development of Christianity and modern thought. It goes as far back as the ancient Persians, and even to the font of civilization with the Sumerians and Babylonians around the Fertile Crescent and finishes with Merkel, MeToo and Pulp Fiction. It seems as if the roots of Christianity are deep.

The
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Graychin
Jul 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tom Holland made his name as a historian of Greece and Rome but Dominion is his masterpiece. I have some quibbles with him here and there but Holland’s doorstop of a book is remarkably thrilling to read and his argument is, I think, undeniable. Anyone who wants to understand Western values and their origins should read this book. Anyone who thinks they understand Christianity, whether they look at it in a positive or negative light, should read it too.

Bravo, Mr. Holland. Three cheers for intell
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NinaB
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-2020, read-2020
I borrowed this from the library twice (and waited months in between borrows) and was running out of time that, sadly, I had to rush through the second half of the book. I initially rated this 4 stars but have changed it to 5 after I’ve pondered through what I read. I learned so much just reading the Preface.

The author is far from being a Christian apologist, but he affirmed so much of the truth that Christian authors like Francis Schaeffer and Charles Taylor have made famous in their own works.
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Kumail Akbar
This was phenomenal read, regardless of the arguments raised by Holland throughout the book. Previously, Holland has written some spectacular popular narrative histories, of the Rome Republic, of the House of Caesar, of the Greco Persian wars, of Classical Islam and of medieval Christianity. Dominion, however, is not another fascinating narrative history of Christianity, or more specifically Western Latin Christianity (Catholic and later Protestant). There is no linear narrative of what event oc ...more
Wagner Floriani
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic. Compelling presentation of Christian history, rightly demonstrating both the progressive and conservative impulses within Christianity throughout the centuries. One of the best books I read this year.
Scriptor Ignotus
Tom Holland, much like myself, is not naturally inclined by aesthetic or intellectual disposition to fasten his imagination to the moribund renunciationism exacted by the bellowing, thrice-pierced, blaspheming God of Christianity. The author of boyish, documentarian expeditions to the Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great and the Mediterranean basin over which armies of beplumed and iron-shelled legionaries hammered one another to satisfy the rival ambitions of ducal oligarchs, it was only from a se ...more
Tuomas Auvinen
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In his latest work, Tom Holland offers a comprehensive history of Western thought from Ancient Greece and Rome to our time. The book's main idea is what modern Christian apologists always argue: Western axiomatic moral and the values, like equality, freedom and human dignity nested in it, are derived from Christian theology, mainly carved by Catholic cannon lawyers in the Middle Ages on the basis of St. Pauls letters, not from ideas spawned in the Enlightenment era, as contemporary secular human ...more
Ed Greening
Jan 17, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is easily the worst book Holland has written; each chapter begins with increasingly grating, florid prose that lacks references mainly because it likely only ever occurred in the mind of the author. The central argument is weak; the cases covered are cherry picked, and most arguments are utterly unconvincing. Indeed the focus is less on relevant examples, and rather more on Holland's personal interests, the end result being a strange intellectual autobiography of sorts. ...more
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Tom Holland is an English historian and author. He has written many books, both fiction and non-fiction, on many subjects from vampires to history.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Holland was born near Oxford and brought up in the village of Broadchalke near Salisbury, England. He obtained a double first in English and Latin at Queens' College
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  Mary Roach is a science author who specializes in the bizarre and offbeat. With a body of work ranging from deep-dives on the history of...
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“A myth, though, is not a lie. At its most profound—as Tolkien, that devout Catholic, always argued—a myth can be true. To be a Christian is to believe that God became man and suffered a death as terrible as any mortal has ever suffered. This is why the cross, that ancient implement of torture, remains what it has always been: the fitting symbol of the Christian revolution. It is the audacity of it—the audacity of finding in a twisted and defeated corpse the glory of the creator of the universe—that serves to explain, more surely than anything else, the sheer strangeness of Christianity, and of the civilization to which it gave birth. Today, the power of this strangeness remains as alive as it has ever been. It is manifest in the great surge of conversions that has swept Africa and Asia over the past century; in the conviction of millions upon millions that the breath of the Spirit, like a living fire, still blows upon the world; and, in Europe and North America, in the assumptions of many more millions who would never think to describe themselves as Christian. All are heirs to the same revolution: a revolution that has, at its molten heart, the image of a god dead on a cross.” 5 likes
“The concept of natural law had no place in Torah. Yet Paul – as he struggled to define the law that he believed, in the wake of the crucifixion and the resurrection, to be written on the heart of all who acknowledged Christ as Lord – did not hesitate to adapt the teachings of the Greeks. The word he used for it – syneidesis – clearly signalled which philosophers in particular he had in mind. Paul, at the heart of his gospel, was enshrining the Stoic concept of conscience.” 1 likes
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