Item #90 The Education of a Historian: A Strange and Wonderful Story. S. J. John W. O’Malley.

The Education of a Historian: A Strange and Wonderful Story

Price: $30.00

Date Published: 2021
ISBN: 9780916101121
Book ID: 90


2021 / hardcover / 192 pp. / index / $30.00

In this autobiographical memoir, John W. O'Malley recounts how his life-story is unintelligible apart from his craft as an historian and from the passion his craft inspired. The narrative is the straightforward story of how a young man of modest background from a small town in Ohio achieved international eminence as a historian of the religious culture of modern Europe. In some detail, therefore, this book tells how four of the twelve monographs that O'Malley published during his career had field-changing influence: Praise and Blame in Renaissance Rome (1979), The First Jesuits (1993), Trent and All That (2000), and What Happened at Vatican II (2008). The book is, however, much more than a tedious review of scholarship. It teaches the reader lessons in historical method and lessons in what good history does for us. They are lessons easy to digest because they are taught not by abstract principles, but by following a historian in action as he learns in fits and starts how to interpret the past in ways that do less injustice to it than other ways.

1. Growing Up in Tiltonsville
2. Trained as a Jesuit: America and Austria
3. Trained as a Historian: Harvard and Rome
4. Ever Deeper into the Renaissance
5. From the Renaissance to the Jesuits
6. Cultures, Councils, and Early Modern Catholicism

“Father O’Malley’s compelling narrative is at once a memoir of a rich, productive, and influential life as a scholar, teacher, and committed member of the Jesuit Order, and an introduction to the religious culture of both the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. It introduces us also, in clear, simple prose and by speaking directly to his audience, to the writer himself and to the ways in which his practice of history and his practice of living have formed a seamless whole. ‘The past,’ writes Father O’Malley, ‘tells us who and what we are.’ Memory, he tells us, constitutes identity, and the person who emerges . . . is a man whose own history has led him . . . from intellectual history to theology and church history and art history and to a clear-sighted view of the nature of historical scholarship and its essential methods.”
Hanna Holborn Gray
President Emeritus & Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor
Emeritus, The University of Chicago

“On a scaffold getting a close look at the Sistine chapel; in Florence during the 1966 flood; meeting a young Jorge Bergoglio; attending sessions at the Second Vatican Council. John O'Malley's marvelous memoir of his scholarly career and his life as a Jesuit includes all of this and more. Here the historian places himself in history. And here his readers can better understand much about the American academy of the last sixty years and even more about the life of the Church.”
John T. McGreevy
Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

“To begin with, this is a delightful book about ‘Aha!’ moments. How a boy from a village on the Ohio River decided to enter a religious order he had never encountered firsthand. How an unplanned trip to Italy and a taste of gelato changed his field of study. How at various times a poster in a Harvard hallway, a comment at an academic meeting, and a lunchtime conversation sent his life in new directions. But The Education of a Historian is much more, a testament to the importance of history and a revelation of the ways in which a probing mind and much hard work can transform seemingly fortuitous encounters and insights into scholarly breakthroughs. John O’Malley opened new vistas in Renaissance studies, demonstrated the impact of humanism on religious sensibility, reframed our understanding of modern Catholicism, and integrated church and cultural history, winning countless prizes and honors along the way. . . . Ultimately, he changed the way that many of us, Catholics foremost, understand who we are—and this book shows how he did it.”
Peter Steinfels
University Professor of Religion and Culture
Fordham University

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