Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind

Written by Tom Holland
Review by Charlotte Wightwick

Dominion is a big book. Not only in length – although topping 500 pages, this shouldn’t be discounted – but in the sheer amount of history it covers and the themes it explores.  Its central thesis is that Christianity is at the core of the ‘Western Mind’ and that its ‘trace elements’  are so deeply embedded in our ways of thinking that they seem to those brought up in the West as obvious truths.  To evidence this, Holland covers a vast sweep of time and place, from ancient Persia right up to modern protestors dressed as Atwood’s Handmaids. He highlights three themes: the repeatedly revolutionary nature of Christian thinking, with a new cycle of subversive rebellion beginning every time the previous wave becomes ‘the establishment’; the rise of the idea of human rights and thirdly that of secularism (with religion as its counterpart) as distinctly Christian creations. It is an impressive and highly readable synthesis. Like all books of such breadth, it necessarily leaves a lot out, and like all which explore themes of religion and culture, it will excite debate. But it has left me intrigued and thinking in new ways about old questions, and as such, is to be recommended.