Posts Tagged ‘England’

Adventures in Bookland: A History of the Church in England by John Moorman

Monday, September 7th, 2015
A History of the Church in England

A History of the Church in England

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.

Bede the Gentle-man

Friday, September 27th, 2013

In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People the Venerable Bede invented the very idea of England. Reading the book today, I’m struck by its generosity, its concern for historical sources but most of all by the evident kindness of Bede himself. This was a good man. I wonder if the quintessence of the ideal of England – the gentle-man – was prefigured and, in a way, preformed by the man who invented England, Bede himself. I can think of few better patterns for a nation than the man from Jarrow.