Posts Tagged ‘Marilyn Dunn’

Adventures in Bookland: The Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons c.597-c.700 by Marilyn Dunn

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Since Henry Mayr-Harting’s The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England, which was first published in 1972 with revised editions in 1977 and 1991, there’s been little published academically, at least in book form, about the single most momentous, and unexpected, change that took place among the newly arrived Anglo-Saxons. After all, why should the pagan Anglo-Saxons decide to adopt the religion of the people they had defeated and driven from the land? For the Britons, the original inhabitants of Britain, were largely Christian, and saw themselves as Christian Romans holding off the barbarian, pagan invaders.

Marilyn Dunn’s book looks at these events through the lens of the academic fashion of the day, cognitive anthropology, which does provide some fresh insights. There is, however, as always with academic books on religious change a tendency to view conversions as evidence for other things: power shifts, diplomacy, cultural appropriation. All of these play a part, but it would be good to see an account that made more use of the considerable number of studies that have been made on the psychology of conversion. Even better one that combined the psychology of conversion with the theology of it too. You won’t find that in this book, but it does provide an excellent overview of the current academic thinking within its purview and Dunn is a clear and concise writer. Recommended for those people (not, I suspect, many) with a specific interest in the area.