The Cambridge History of Christianity

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The Cambridge History of Christianity. Vol. 9: World Christianities, c. 1914-c. 2000. Edited by Hugh McLeod. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006. Pp. xviii, 717. £105/$180.

This last volume in the new gold standard for general histories of Christianity is probably as successful as a multiauthored work can be in accounting for a stunningly diverse world movement during its period of greatest differentiation. The lion's share of the credit must go to editor Hugh McLeod, who not only coordinated the work of thirty-six authors from twelve countries but himself authored five synthetic chapters that lend an unusual measure of coherence to a work of this type. His bookend summaries on "being a Christian" at the beginning and end of the century wisely recall the weight of "Christendom" around 1900 and suggest that in 2000 "the biggest question mark hung over the present position and future prospects of Christianity in China" (p. 646).

The volume's first part treats five "institutions and movements" (the papacy, ecumenism, colonialism and missions, Pentecostalism, and independency) that, along with warfare and economic globalization, make up the thematic skeleton for the whole. Predictably, the freshest material appears on the Pentecostals (from Allan Anderson) and independent churches in Africa and Asia (Anderson with Edmond Tang).

Part 2, "Narratives of Change," is the longest and best part of the book, though its eighteen chronological- and geographical-specific surveys are occasionally marred by authors' ideological fixations. Overwhelmingly, however, they are superb in digesting research, periodizing significant developments, and providing instructive detail. Seven chapters treat Western Europe and the United States, three each Africa and Asia, two Latin America, one Eastern Europe, one Australia and the Pacific, and one racial issues in South Africa and the United States. …