Saturday, December 10, 2016

Continental Ambitions; Roman Catholics in North America

I accept review copies of books--usually non-fiction. Next time, I'll ask the number of pages and font size. Kevin Starr's "Continental Ambitions; Roman Catholics in North America, the Colonial Experience" has 639 page, a 32 pg. index, a 38 pg. essay on sources, a preface, a prologue, acknowledgements and notes. I can barely hold it on my lap, and the print is tiny. It begins in 1511 and ends when John Carroll returns to Maryland in the 1700s. So there's more to come. The prologue covers the Christian missionary work in Greenland and Iceland in the 12th century. Because I'm a Lutheran, I know nothing between Paul's journeys/letters and the 16th century so this is some deep diving for me. Starr has been the city librarian of San Francisco and the state librarian of California. Publisher is Ignatius Press, 2016. ISBN 978-1-62164-118-6. And here's something I haven't seen in awhile: Printed in the United Sates of America!

 Continental Ambitions 
"Starr begins this work with the exploration and temporary settlement of North America by recently Christianized Scandinavians. He continues with the destruction of Caribbean peoples by New Spain, the struggle against this tragedy by the great Dominican Bartolomé de Las Casas, the Jesuit and Franciscan exploration and settlement of the Spanish Borderlands (Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Baja, and Alta California), and the strengths and weaknesses of the mission system.

He then turns his attention to New France with its highly developed Catholic and Counter-Reformational cultures of Quebec and Montreal, its encounters with Native American peoples, and its advance southward to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. The volume ends with the founding of Maryland as a proprietary colony for Roman Catholic Recusants and Anglicans alike, the rise of Philadelphia and southern Pennsylvania as centers of Catholic life, the Suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, and the return of John Carroll to Maryland the following year.

Starr dramatizes the representative personalities and events that illustrate the triumphs and the tragedies, the achievements and the failures, of each of these societies in their explorations, treatment of Native Americans, and translations of religious and social value to new and challenging environments. His history is notable for its honesty and its synoptic success in comparing and contrasting three disparate civilizations, albeit each of them Catholic, with three similar and differing approaches to expansion in the New World." Ignatious Press
"Asking Kevin Starr a question is like turning on a fire hose. First there's a blast of erudition. Then, as his intellect gathers, information rushes out in a deluge. He's talking, but it's as if an invisible scholar inside his head is yanking books off shelves, throwing them open, checking the index, then racing off to find the next volume. On the outside, Starr is an avuncular 72-year-old, but his brain is sprinting like an Olympian." LA Times, April 12, 2013

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