Review: Judgment of the Nations by Christopher Dawson

This is Dawson at his finest amid the world at its worst. Written at the height of Nazi power in Europe in 1942, Dawson here takes on the prophetic voice indicated by the title. He announces the events swirling about him, engulfing Europe, and destroying its culture as what they are: the judgment of the nations.

Dawson begins by exploring the rise of Western Civilization. He pinpoints those features that have been its strongest and most fundamental elements, including Christian faith, scientific reason, and the notion of human freedom. He shows how each of these ideas led to the great flourishing of creative activity in art, literature, and thought that have been the mark of Western Civilization for over two thousand years.

He then goes on to show the slow but steady dissolution of these elements beginning already in the Renaissance, progressing in the Protestant Reformation and the Scientific Revolution, and finally reaching their boiling point at the turn of the 20th century. Dawson highlights the fracturing of Christendom, the turn to secularism, and the failure of 19th century liberal ideals as the driving forces behind the tumult of Europe.

Finally, having assessed and diagnosed, Dawson provides the prescription: a return to the center of European unity in the Christian idea of the Incarnation and its ramifications for thought on man, on society, and on the world. Through this recognition of its own center, the West can once again restore a proper view of humans and of the states, communities, and civilizations of which they are members. There is hope, Dawson assures us, even at the darkest hour of civilization, but this hope requires decisive action on the part of people.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in the rise and decline of Western Civilization and its consequences. I also recommend this for anyone interested in history and historiography more generally.

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One comment

  1. I haven’t read this one, but your review makes me want to check it out soon.
    Also, on another note. I too have my issues with Harold Bloom. Mainly it is his disdain for Tolkien and “The Lord of the Rings”. I have to disagree with him. For I believe that ‘Tollers’ belongs in the Western Canon.

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