Born Bad by James Boyce | Black Inc.

Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World

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About the author

James Boyce

James Boyce is a multi-award-winning historian. His first book, Van Diemen’s Land, was described by Richard Flanagan as ‘the most significant colonial history since The Fatal Shore’. He is also the editor of Inga Clendinnen

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Praise for Born Bad

‘This highly original, readable book shows how the Christian idea that we are all somehow fundamentally warped has helped to shape democratic politics, free markets, sexual anxieties and even debates about whether dead babies go to heaven.’ —Marion Maddox, author of God Under Howard and Taking God to School


‘This is an exceptional, highly recommended work, innovative and creative in surprising ways.’ —Publishers Weekly, starred review

‘James Boyce has.... written a brilliant and exhilarating work of people scholarship. I pencil vertical lines in the margins of the books I read whenever a sentence or paragraph seems especially striking. My copy of Born Bad carries such scribbles of every other page.’ —Michael Dirda, Washington Post


‘Fascinating … James is a lucid and frequently amusing writer’ —Messenger


‘An imaginative and utterly unpredictable book. Alleluia.’ —Australian


‘[A] very readable work … 260 pages of brisk, clear writing with excellent endnotes.’ —Arena


‘Ambitious, thought-provoking … an easy read on an ignored but central and timely topic.’ —Tablet


‘This is a fascinating revisionist account of modernity... The book is clear, elegantly written, beautifully paced and encourages rich reflection.’ —Andrew Hamilton, Eureka Street


‘It is a treat for the reader that a subject as bold, intricate and dense as original sin has been examined by the eloquent James Boyce. In his hands, what may seem a terrifying subject is thoroughly examined and put through its historical, theological and psychological paces.’ —Mercury


‘James Boyce is the best kind of historian of ideas. He does not reduce the complexity of his subject to a few easy lessons. He opens up the history of the idea of original sin rather than narrowing it down… [Here] is an unblinking regard for the efforts the human race has made to understand itself.’ —Age


‘Boyce finds fascinating marks of the idea of original sin in the big liberal ideas of free-market economics, Darwinian evolution and psychological analysis, but no compensating marks equivalent to the Christian idea of sanctifying grace.’ —Monthly


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