The Jesuits: A History

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The Jesuits: A History | Markus Friedrich

The Jesuits: A History

Markus Friedrich

John Noël Dillon

Princeton University Press

March 2022


872 pages

Since its founding by Ignatius of Loyola in 1540, the Society of Jesus—more commonly known as the Jesuits—has played a critical role in the events of modern history. From the Counter-Reformation to the ascent of Francis I as the first Jesuit pope, The Jesuits presents an intimate look at one of the most important religious orders not only in the Catholic Church, but also the world. Markus Friedrich describes an organization that has deftly walked a tightrope between sacred and secular involvement and experienced difficulties during changing times, all while shaping cultural developments from pastoral care and spirituality to art, education, and science.

Examining the Jesuits in the context of social, cultural, and world history, Friedrich sheds light on how the order shaped the culture of the Counter-Reformation and participated in the establishment of European empires, including missionary activity throughout Asia and in many parts of Africa in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He also explores the place of Jesuits in the New World and addresses the issue of Jesuit slaveholders. The Jesuits often tangled with the Roman Curia and the pope, resulting in their suppression in 1773, but the order returned in 1814 to rise again to a powerful position of influence. Friedrich demonstrates that the Jesuit fathers were not a monolithic group and he considers the distinctive spiritual legacy inherited by Pope Francis.

With its global scope and meticulous attention to archival sources and previous scholarship, The Jesuits illustrates the heterogeneous, varied, and contradictory perspectives of this famed religious organization.

Markus Friedrich is professor of early modern history at the University of Hamburg. His books include The Birth of the Archive. He lives in Hamburg, Germany.

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

Prologue: Ignatius of Loyola Founds an Order

1 The Inner Life and Structure of the Society

2 The Society, the Churches, and the Faithful

3 Saeculum and the Kingdom of God: The Jesuits “in the World”

4 The Global Society

5 A World without the Society of Jesus: Hostility, Suppression, Revival

 Epilogue: The Modern Society

Afterword to the English Edition
Translator’s Note
Works Cited
Names Index
Subject Index

“A fast-paced and richly researched history. . . .Friedrich’s sweeping chronicle has much to offer.”
Publishers Weekly

“Except perhaps for the church it serves, the Society of Jesus has had more global reach and resonance than any other institution over the past half millennium. Clearly, deftly, and deeply, Markus Friedrich explains how it happened against all odds. In this book, we follow the fortunes of the Company, meet Jesuits of every stripe of sin and sanctity, and learn what has made the order so profoundly loved and so heartily hated.”
Felipe Fernández-Armesto, University of Notre Dame

The Jesuits is amazingly comprehensive, unfailingly judicious, and magisterially translated. In this book, Markus Friedrich provides the most authoritative single-volume treatment of the religious order that most completely rose to the challenge of making Roman Catholicism the first global religion.”
Simon Ditchfield, University of York

“This masterfully crafted book is a major achievement. The Jesuits offers a comprehensive and compelling account of one of the most influential religious orders in global history.”
Ulrike Strasser, author of Missionary Men in the Early Modern World: German Jesuits and Pacific Journeys

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