An American academic of liberal inclinations, Thomas Cahill has produced a series of thought-provoking essays on what he calls the ‘hinges of history’ which should engage any reader with an open mind. Starting with How the Irish Saved Civilization (Doubleday, New York, 1995), and progressing though The Gift of the Jews (1998); Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus (1999); and Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (2003). Cahill explores the foundations of Western culture with an easy and clear exposition that seems devoid of many of the rancorous ‘perspectives’ that haunt us now.
The latest volume in the series, Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Art and Science from the Cults of Catholic Europe (2006) is a title that might catch the attention of conspiracy-myth addicts looking for more tripe along the lines of The Da Vinci Code. Alas, they will be disappointed, although they might learn the real value of religion in determining the development of thought, art and culture. Cahill has an elegant grasp of faith and human nature, and a real talent for identifying how a simple idea can be revolutionary in the development of civilization.
These are well worth reading, particularly if you can set some time aside to mull over his observations.