A review of Tom Holland ‘Dominion – The Making of the Western Mind’

Jan 11, 2020 by

by Martin Barrett Davie:

What Dominion is about.

Tom Holland is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster who has written extensively about the ancient world and the early Middle Ages. His most recent and highly acclaimed book Dominion – The Making of the Western Mind is much broader in scope in that it traces the development of Western thought from the fifth century BC to the present day.

As Holland explains in his Preface, the purpose of this book is ‘to explore how we in the West came to be what we are, and to think the way we do.’ (p. xxiv) The argument that he puts forward is that what has inescapably shaped the Western world is the influence of the Christian faith. As he puts it:

‘To live in a Western country is to live in a society still utterly saturated by Christian Concepts and assumptions. This is no less true for Jews or Muslims than it is for Catholics or Protestants. Two thousand  years on from the birth of Christ, it does not require a belief that he rose from the dead to be stamped by the formidable- indeed the inescapable – influence of Christianity. Whether it be the conviction that the workings of conscience are the surest determinants of good law, or that church and state exist as distinct entities, or that polygamy is unacceptable, its trace elements are to be found everywhere in the West. Even to write about it in a Western language is to use words shot through with Christian connotations. Religion, secular, atheist: none of these are neutral all though they derive from the classical past, come freighted with a legacy of Christendom. Fail to appreciate this, and the risk is always of anachronism. The West, increasingly empty though the pews may be, remains firmly moored  to its  Christian past.’ (p. xxv).

How Dominion is structured. 

The book is divided into three main parts.

Read here

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