The English historian Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) was the first Catholic Studies professor at Harvard University and has been described as one of the foremost Catholic thinkers of modern times. His focus on culture prefigured its importance in Catholicism since Vatican Council II and in the rise of mainstream cultural history in the late twentieth century. How did Dawson think about culture and why does it matter? Joseph T. Stuart argues that through Dawson’s study of world cultures, he acquired a "cultural mind" by which he attempted to integrate knowledge according to four implicit rules: intellectual architecture, boundary thinking, intellectual asceticism, and intellectual bridges. Dawson’s multilayered approach to culture, instantiating John Henry Newman’s philosophical habit of mind, is key to his work and its relevance. By it, he responded to the cultural fragmentation he sensed after the Great War (1914-1918).
Stuart supports these claims by demonstrating how Dawson formed his cultural mind practicing an interdisciplinary science of culture involving anthropology, sociology, history, and comparative religion. Stuart shows how Dawson applied his cultural thinking to problems in politics and education.
This book establishes how Dawson’s simple definition of culture as a "common way of life" reconciles intellectualist and behavioral approaches to culture. In addition, Dawson’s cultural mind provides a synthesis helpful for recognizing the importance of Christian culture in education. It demonstrates principles which construct a more meaningful cultural history. Anyone interested in the idea of culture, the connection of religion to the social sciences, Catholic Studies, or Dawson studies will find this book an engaging and insightful intellectual history.
"Offers the best overview (as well as depth) of Dawson that I’ve seen. The writing, the research, and the analysis are top notch. I was especially taken with Stuart’s command of the resources in and around Dawson. He has solved many puzzles, I think, regarding Dawson’s life and intellectual biography."~Brad Birzer, author of Sanctifying the World: The Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher Dawson