London: Sheed & Ward, 1949. Second impression. Octavo, original black cloth, original dust jacket. Mottling to cloth boards, excellent dust jacket with only a trace of soiling to both panels and faint foxing to the spine panel. A near-fine copy. Item #488
"THERE MUST BE A RETURN TO UNITY—A SPIRITUAL INTEGRATION OF CULTURE—IF MANKIND IS TO SURVIVE" Second impression of Christopher Dawson's 1947 Gifford Lectures, delivered at Edinburgh University by the influential historian at the height of his powers. Born in Wales, Dawson experienced the gradual spiritual awakening characteristic of the era, drifting from an early skepticism into Anglo-Catholicism at Trinity College, Oxford before ultimately converting to Roman Catholicism in 1914. Dawson's work was marked by a Catholic humanism fixed on the future: "He believed that Catholic culture was a central and overlooked feature in the West, and he was greatly concerned about the future of Western civilization" (Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts). The prestigious Gifford Lectures were established at four Scottish universities in 1888 to foster knowledge of natural theology as a science (William James’s Lectures, published as The Varieties of Religious Experience, were perhaps the most famous of the series). The Lectures, interrupted between 1942 and 1947 by World War II, were resumed by Dawson's tracing of the religious foundations of civilization's development of science and law. Each of the ten chapters is prefaced with a brief note of synopsis. Dawson was influential in Great Britain before the war but Maisie Ward claimed that he was quite popular with American audiences in the post-war period. "The twofold relationship between religion and civilisation has been worked out more fully by Christopher Dawson than by any other historian of today. He has shown how religion has been in most societies at once the origin of culture and social custom and the dynamic that gave vitality to society. This was a recurring theme in Dawson's work and the central theme of the Gifford Lectures. When these were published the following year by Sheed and Ward under the title Religion and Culture, Dawson received an enthusiastic letter from C.S. Lewis: 'I embarked on it at once and indeed by greedily reading it at lunch and splashing it with gravy have already deprived the copy of some of its freshness'" (Pearce). In 1958, Dawson was named the first Charles Chauncey Stillman Professor of Roman Catholic Studies at Harvard University where he taught for several years before returning to England because of ill health. First impression published in 1948.