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« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | Just what is your name, anyway? »

March 14, 2009


Jonathan Dresner

Reading your description, I can't help but wonder if it might have been better as a shorter work, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the answer is no.

Bourgeois Nerd

I know you hate it when people mistake you for a historian and not a historicist, but I really would like to know something: if one were to judge by the novels that you work on, you'd think that conversions every which way were going on at a breakneck speed in the 19th century. But were they actually? Were the demographics actually ever changing, or was everyone just writing piles of bad novels about something they WISHED would happen, but which didn't all that much?

Oh, and about the prevalence of "Eustace," apparently Eustachius was a Roman general who was converted to Christianity by a cross appearing in the antlers of a stag he was hunting and died a martyr. Seems like that kind of story would appeal to your writers.


That's a...complicated question. There were a lot of people converting (and deconverting) in various directions, and there was considerable growth in England's Catholic population (a lot of it from Irish immigrants), but the numbers involved vary according to time, place, and denomination. D.G. Paz has some interesting stats on the growth of the English Catholic population by 1851, which shows that converts made up a tiny portion of the community; as Chris Brooks points out, while the Catholic population kept growing by leaps and bounds, converts were not the ones responsible for the leaping and bounding. In other cases, the literature is on target some of the time, very not on target other times. The Jewish conversion narratives seem to be unusually divorced from reality, in large part because, as historians like Todd Endelman have noted, the middle- and upper-class Jews who converted to the CofE were rarely the Jews who got evangelized.

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