Adventures in Bookland: A History of the Church in England by John Moorman
This is a delicious book – in the same manner that taking tea with an extremely well-read, gossipy and slightly camp vicar would be. In fact, it’s not hard to imagine sipping at the cup, with a slice of cake on the table, as Bishop Moorman (he was bishop of Ripon) holds forth on the failings and foibles of his predecessors in ecclesiastical office.
In fact, this might be the best one-volume history of England I’ve read. By using the church as the lens, it magnifies and illuminates history in all sorts of interesting ways; something comparable (although over two much longer volumes) was done by NAM Rodger in his Naval History of Britain, with similarly fascinating results. The history of a country is so multi-faceted that a single volume work can easily either lose itself in distinctions or fall into triviality – Moorman, and notwithstanding his occasionally waspish tone, does neither. The only regret is that the history stops just after the Second World War (although checking the records, there was a revised 1973 edition which would be worth reading – I read the original ’53 printing) and it would be fascinating to know his assessment of the last half century. As it is, Bishop Moorman must be looking at all our goings on with the wry amusement of the dead at the antics of the living.
Give him something else to be amused at: seek out and read his book.