Jesuits: Missions, Myths and Histories

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9780002571807: Jesuits: Missions, Myths and Histories

The Jesuits tells the story of the most provocative and prodigious religious order in Roman Catholic history. Over the course of five centuries members of the Society of Jesus have been accused of killing kings and presidents, they have travelled as missionaries to every corner of the globe, founding haciendas in Mexico, exploring the Mississippi and Amazon rivers, and serving Chinese emperors as map-makers, painters and astronomers. As well as the predictable roll call of saints and martyrs, the Society can also lay claim to the thirty-five craters on the moon named for Jesuit scientists. Jesuits have been pilloried and idolised on a scale unknown to members of any other religious order, they have died the most horrible deaths and done the most outlandish deeds. Whether loved or loathed, the Society of Jesus' dramatic and wide-ranging impact could never be ignored. It disrupted the certainties and hierarchies of the Roman Catholic Church, transformed the intellectual, cultural and spiritual landscapes of Europe, Asia and the Americas, and staked its claim as a potent force in the classroom, the pulpit, and the loftiest bastions of political power. Though facing fresh crises and controversies, today's Jesuits are still active in the worlds of science and politics, education and devotion, playing their part in the complex transformations of the modern Catholic church. Jonathan Wright's fascinating study draws the reader into a gripping tale of myth and counter-myth, of adoration and banishment, of extraordinary achievements and spectacular failures. Contained within the Jesuits' rise, fall and rebirth are the successive chapters of Discovery, Reformation, Enlightenment and Revolution that have shaped our modern world.

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About the Author:

Jonathan Wright was born in Hartlepool in 1969. He was educated at the universities of St Andrews, Pennsylvania and Oxford, where he gained his doctorate in History in 1998. He has recently written entries on crypto-Catholics and obscure sixteenth-century bishops for the NEW DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, entries on Atheism and the Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson for Scribner's NEW DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN HISTORY, and published papers on Reformation exiles and the worm of conscience in the Renaissance. Over the next year-and-a-half he looks forward to dividing his time between England, Venice and Istanbul as preparation for his next book, THE AMBASSADORS, also to be published by HarperCollins.

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