The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody is book three of a five-part series on the history of evangelicalism. The author, David Bebbington, is a professor of history who has focused much of his life studying British evangelicalism and culture during the last three centuries.
If you are looking for a biographical account of Spurgeon & Moody, along with a sketch of their times, this is not the book for you. On the other hand, if you want to read a thorough account of broad evangelical trends from the 1840s to the 1890s and are comfortable with a 'thick' read, then there is much to interest you in this book. Bebbington gives a survey of the movements of evangelicalism during that time, their effects on culture, and the degree to which culture may have influenced the development of evangelical theology and action.
Though not a popular-level writer like the secular historical works of Stephen Ambrose and David McCollough, Bebbington provides a great deal of helpful information on Christianity in that day. At times, you may wish that he was more clear about certain trends being unbiblical and outside the pale of what is genuinely evangelical, for at the outset he defines 'evangelical' as (1) holding to a strong allegiance to the Bible, (2) attached to the cross and substitionary atonement, (3) concerned for personal conversion and regeneration, and (4) active, to the point of often being activists. However, as he proceeds to unfold history, the groups he ranks within the context of 'evangelical' appear separate from these four marks and no mention is made of the discrepancy.
Bebbington's knowledge of that time period runs deep. It is too bad that there is not more analysis and evaluation within this volume to help the reader better understand the strengths and weaknesses that developed within evangelicalism in that time. Mark Noll, Iain Murray, S.M. Houghton, and David Wells are all good, if different, examples of how history can be analyzed and learned from. Bebbington's book provides ample information, with perhaps a slight emphasis on the sociological, as compared to the aforementioned authors, and largely leaves it to the reader to read critically and thoughtfully. John Pleasnick, Christian Book Previews.com