The Kongolese Saint Anthony, Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706by John K. Thornton (review)
- The Catholic Historical Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 85, Number 1, January 1999
- pp. 141-142
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- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS141 defense of personal and Church rights," but not in a specifically Catholic political party. Regrettably, the full text of neither encyclical appears in an appendix. The author interprets the papal statement against specifically Catholic parties to mean that the Church had removed itself from politics when nothing could be further from the truth. The book cries out for the kind ofmicro-historical analysis pioneered in Mexico by Luis González y González where a scholar writes the history of a small town or area. Only through that kind of technique could a scholar attempt to understand the "mentality" of devout Catholics when faced with the possible destruction of the only institution that gave meaning to their lives. Instead, the author makes no attempt to analyze why the faithful marched and wrote and joined conservative groups and ran for office. There is no discussion of the relationship between local priests and their flocks, nor is much written about women's contributions to the cause. The second problem appears near the end of the work when Professor Sherman attempts to give the conservatives more power over Mexican politics than they deserve by coming to conclusions about the events from 1939 to 1941 from a single perspective. During those years, President Franklin Roosevelt and many others believed it essential to ensure Mexican loyalty should the United States enter the war in Europe on the Allied side. Beginning in 1939, the United States made a concerted effort to court Mexico in a variety of ways from coparticipation in art exhibits to easing up on demands that Mexico repay the former owners of the oil industry it had expropriated in 1938. In exchange, first President Cárdenas and then President Avila Camacho easily saw the benefits of a steady drift to the right that has continued, almost uninterruptedly, until the present. Ultimately these failures weaken the work, depriving it of the depth of analysis needed to sustain its arguments and transforms a promising study on a neglected subject into a catalogue of events. Barbara A.Tenenbaum Hispanic Division Library ofCongress African The Kongolese Saint Anthony, Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706. By John K. Thornton. (NewYork: Cambridge University Press. 1998. Pp. viii, 228. $49.95 clothbound; $15.95 paperback.) The kingdom of Kongo was the only major African polity to adopt a Catholic identity from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Many scholars have assumed that the Kongolese appropriated only the trappings of this identity, and they have taken the Antonian movement, with its rejection of orthodoxy, as a notable proof of the superficiality of Kongolese Catholicism. After much sharply focused research, Professor Thornton reassesses the whole episode. 142book reviews The documentary sources for this period of Kongo history are relatively abundant; the problem, as in so much of African history, is that these sources were almost entirely produced by aliens, in this case Capuchin missionaries from Italy and a few Portuguese accounts from Angola. By drawing on the insights of anthropologists and linguists, and by carefully using oral traditions, Thornton is able to reconstruct the political, social, and even intellectual world of Dona Beatriz and her contemporaries. It is a most impressive study. The author dissects the multiple internal rivalries which beset Kongo, and he vividly portrays the suffering caused by the warfare and violence ofthe late seventeenth century. By placing these developments within the context of the Atlantic slave trade, he demonstrates the global significance of the Antonian movement, and much of his social analysis and description is of wide comparative importance for the study of precolonial Africa. Besides these achievements, he opens up the intellectual aspects of Beatriz's career at a far deeper level than previous studies. He begins by insisting that Beatriz did not seek to lead an anti-Christian movement. As a member of the lesser nobility, she had close contacts with Kongo teachers and interpreters. She knew the principal Catholic prayers and probably acquired a fair acquaintance with the catechism as taught by these teachers. Even at the height of her confrontation with the Capuchins, she never renounced this basic Christian identity. Her iconoclasm and her emphasis on the fundamental importance...