The English Soul: Faith of a Nation (Hardcover)

The English Soul: Faith of a Nation By Peter Ackroyd Cover Image
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From celebrated historian and writer Peter Ackroyd, a magisterial portrayal of English Christianity over the centuries.
This book portrays the spirit and nature of English Christianity, as it has developed over the last fourteen hundred years. During this time, Christianity has been the predominant faith of the people and the reflection of the English soul. This fascinating new history is an account of the Christian English soul, which recognizes the fact that Christianity has been the anchoring and defining doctrine of England while accepting respectfully that other powerful and significant faiths have influenced the religious sensibility of this nation. Peter Ackroyd surveys the lives and faith of the most important figures of English Christianity from the Venerable Bede to C. S. Lewis, exploring the mysticism of Julian of Norwich and William Blake; the tumultuous years of the Reformation; the emergence of the English bible; the evangelical tradition, including John Wesley; and the contemporary contest between tradition, revival, and atheism. This is an essential, comprehensive, and accessible survey of English Christianity.

About the Author

Peter Ackroyd is one of Britain’s most respected historians and novelists. His many books include London: The Biography, Hawksmoor, and the History of England series.

Praise For…

"Ackroyd’s new book is about the evolution of Christianity in England, from the venerable Bede to Justin Welby. The book carries the title The English Soul, what he defines now as 'a convenient shorthand for qualities which we don’t understand.' As with all of Ackroyd’s books, you arrive at the end of this procession of mystics and evangelists, heretics and headbangers, briefly cleverer than when you began. His history takes in lives of a multitude of believers from Julian of Norwich, through John Donne and John Wesley, to GK Chesterton and CS Lewis, with numerous enjoyable diversions along the way."
— Observer

"Ackroyd’s history of Christianity in England is a lively and detailed book. . . . In The English Soul, Ackroyd sets himself the task of capturing the ‘spirit and nature’ of English Christianity."
— Daily Telegraph

“Undeterred, Ackroyd takes us on a breezy tour of the nation’s religious history, from the Venerable Bede to the present. . . . The story of the English soul.”
— Spectator

The English Soul is a book about the history,
 spirit and nature of English Christianity. . . . The book is excellent on several notes. Firstly, it vividly describes the huge array of figures in the history of English Christianity, not only well-known individuals but others who are less so—and how they were influenced. It is very well researched. Secondly there are many portraits and photographs of the most famous of those he discusses. This brings their characters to life.
Thirdly it is written in a non-partisan way. The book is a brilliant history of the English Church and the people who built and are building it.”
— Arts Centre Group

"It is the gift of the historian to accompany a compelling narrative with a passionate intensity that helps the reader see why it matters so much, an analytical detachment that offers rewarding evaluation, and a playful predilection for anecdote that charms and cheers. Ackroyd combines all four in this marvellous episodic depiction of faith in England, which wisely eschews comprehensiveness for the relish of close encounter. In doing so, Ackroyd describes how the word has most characteristically and distinctively become flesh in this green and pleasant land. By the end you know Christianity better—and you know England better."
— Samuel Wells, Vicar, St Martin-in-the-Fields, London

"Since before there was an England, the English have been defined by their relationship with Christianity—both positive and negative—in its many, ever-changing forms. Through Ackroyd’s calm gaze we see the leading characters and moments of that story, facile judgements suspended in favour of a warm, rigorous humanity."
— Alec Ryrie, professor of the history of Christianity, Durham University

"A wonderful, occasionally breathless, often enlightening and always entertaining pilgrimage through 1,400 years in search of the faith of the nation, or, more broadly, the English soul, which exists beyond the confines of institutional religion. As a guide to its history and spiritual drama, Ackroyd is colourful, opinionated and thought-provoking."
— Peter Stanford, author of "If These Stones Could Talk: The History of Christianity in Britain and Ireland through Twenty Buildings"

“England’s history has been interwoven with Christianity for the past 1,400 years. ‘The spirit and nature’ of that faith is now the subject of this book. . . . This character-led account, from Bede to Wleby, is clear and instructive. At his best, Ackroyd distils with dexterity.”
— Country Life
Product Details
ISBN: 9781789148459
ISBN-10: 1789148456
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication Date: May 22nd, 2024
Pages: 416
Language: English