New Worlds


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A Religious History of Latin America

John Lynch

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A brilliant capstone work that analyzes the entire history of Latin America's reception of Christianity

This extraordinary book encompasses the time period from the first Christian evangelists' arrival in Latin America to the dictators of the late twentieth century. With unsurpassed knowledge of Latin American history, John Lynch sets out to explore the reception of Christianity by native peoples and how it influenced their social and religious lives as the centuries passed. As attentive to modern times as to the colonial period, Lynch also explores the extent to which Indian religion and ancestral ways survived within the new Christian culture.

The book follows the development of religious culture over time by focusing on peak periods of change: the response of religion to the Enlightenment, the emergence of the Church from the wars of independence, the Romanization of Latin American religion as the papacy overtook the Spanish crown in effective control of the Church, the growing challenge of liberalism and the secular state, and in the twentieth century, military dictators' assaults on human rights. Throughout the narrative, Lynch develops a number of special themes and topics. Among these are the Spanish struggle for justice for Indians, the Church's position on slavery, the concept of popular religion as distinct from official religion, and the development of liberation theology.

John Lynch is Emeritus Professor of Latin American History and former director of the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London. He is the author of more than a dozen books on Latin American topics. He lives in London.

“This is a magisterial survey based upon decades of research and reflection by a scholar of the finest quality. The range and depth of John Lynch's knowledge across time and theme is formidable. His writing is beautifully clear, and his judgments always compelling. I can think of no better guide to take us through a history as complex and controversial as this, from the post-conquest debates over the humanity of indigenous Americans, through the ‘Jesuit state’ in Paraguay, to the Liberation Theology of the late Cold War.”—James Dunkerley, author of Americana: The Americas in the World, around 1850

“Trenchant and mature . . . a wonderfully realized account . . . a superb retelling of a story that needs to be studied.”—Publishers Weekly

“John Lynch’s New Worlds is the most authoritative, reliable and comprehensive study of its subject to have appeared for a very long time.”—Fernando Cervantes, Times Literary Supplement

“A remarkable achievement. It oozes authority. . . . Lynch is an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and expansive guide: his book will be the perfect introduction to this complex subject, providing as it does quick and discrete explanations of all the historical, social and political processes that underpin the analysis. But it will also be a valuable text for experts on Latin American history, who have never before had access to such a wide-ranging, deliberately comparative and chronologically-broad account.”—Matthew Brown, History Today

“John Lynch has furnished an important and intricate piece of the puzzle of the story of global Christianity. . . . He practices history at its best. . . . For many years to come New Worlds should stand as a key reference point.”—Kenneth P. Serbin, Christian Century

“Lynch gives us a fascinating account of a Church over five centuries changing in response to developments and challenges in society, more successfully in some ages than others.”—Paul Richardson, Church of England Newspaper

“A masterly, in-depth study of religion in its many forms in Latin America.”—Jeffrey Klaiber S.J., America

“An ambitious work . . . informative.”—Gabriela Ramos, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

“Lynch’s narrative is fluid and captivating. . . . [T]he strength of the book lies in Lynch’s concise and perceptive analysis of the complex relationship between the Catholic Church and the State . . . an invaluable study in the field.”—Charlotte Lange, Bulletin of Spanish Studies
ISBN: 9780300166804
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
424 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
16 pp. b/w illus.
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