"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

In Praise of Maps and Atlases

Every semester for more than a decade I have made regular use of maps in my classes, especially those devoted to Muslim-Christian relations both ancient and modern. I am an unapologetic believer that understanding the lay of the land--noticing, e.g., where the river valleys are, or mountain ranges, etc.--is crucial to understanding much of the history. 

In that light, I am looking forward to getting my hands on Christianity: A Historical Atlas by Alec Ryrie with maps by Malcolm Swanston (Belknap/Harvard UP, October 2020), 224 pages + 121 color maps, 18 illus.

About this book the publisher tells us this:

With over two billion practicing believers today, Christianity has taken root in almost all parts of the globe. Its impact on Europe and the Americas in particular has been fundamental. Through more than one hundred beautiful color maps and illustrations, Christianity traces the history of the religion, beginning with the world of Jesus Christ. From the consolidation of the first Christian empire—Constantine’s Rome—to the early Christian states that thrived in Ireland, Ethiopia, and other regions of the Roman periphery, Christianity quickly proved dynamic and adaptable.

After centuries of dissemination, strife, dogmatic division, and warfare in its European and Near Eastern heartland, Christianity conquered new worlds. In North America, immigrants fleeing persecution and intolerance rejected the established Church, and in time revivalist religions flourished and spread. Missionaries took the Christian message to Latin America, Africa, and Asia, bringing millions of new converts into the fold.

Christianity has served as the inspiration for some of the world’s finest monuments, literature, art, and architecture, while also playing a major role in world politics and history, including conquest, colonization, conflict, and liberation. Despite challenges in the modern world from atheism and secularism, from scandals and internal divisions, Christianity continues to spread its message through new technologies while drawing on a deep well of history and tradition.

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