Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Worlds of Difference: European Discourses of Toleration, C. 1100-C. 1550

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Worlds of Difference: European Discourses of Toleration, C. 1100-C. 1550

Article excerpt

Worlds of Difference: European Discourses of Toleration, c. 1100-c. 1550. By Cary J. Nederman. (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press. 2000. Pp. x, 157. $40.00 clothbound; $18.95 paperback.)

Recent study of the medieval West has emphasized, in the words of Robert I. Moore's title, The Formation of a Persecuting Society. Cary Nederman has undertaken the bold effort of arguing for a greater degree of toleration in medieval thought than might be expected. His examination of this theme is brief, and it focuses mostly on figures he has studied before. Nonetheless, the reader is offered a group of interesting arguments-some more persuasive than others. Both the first chapter and the sixth offer some thoughts on the practical limits of any theory of a unified Christendom, but the greatest part of the book examines a few key intellectuals. In the second chapter, with its emphasis on ideas of inter-religious dialogue, a distinction is drawn between imaginary dialogues which demonstrate the truth of Christianity and those that leave off without a final conclusion-which can be seen as exploring issues in an open way. Unfortunately, Nederman does not examine the one major attempt at a dialogue, the Barcelona Disputation, the Jewish and Christian participants in which both later claimed to have prevailed. The chapter on William of Rubruck also falls a bit short, failing to provide an overview of the failure of the medieval West to develop a missionary enterprise in Asia, away from the support of Christian kings. …

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