I am planning on teaching a class on Church History and I'm trying to get my lesson plans together. I'd like to be able to give my students some good on-line sources. I'd also like some for my own use. Suggestions?
Also interested in any books you've found helpful.
I've got North's one volume A History of the Church; Sheldon's 5 volume History of the Christian Church; Eusebius' The History of the Church and Frend The Early Church
It helps to read the primary source documents whenever possible.
One place to start is wikipedia. For papal documents, try "www.papalencyclicals.net" or the vatican's website www.vatican.va
For early Church history you can't go wrong reading St.Augustine's "City of God" - and read between the lines so to speak: he wrote around 400AD and talks of miracles, cures, the topics of the day, the fact that he said mass with intentions for the deceased (and that was a normal, well established custom by then.) He casually mentions celibacy for priests - again, by the 4th century it already had been a custom for over 100 years.
Read the charter or "Rule of St. Benedict" (circa 500 AD if memory serves). Like the idea of monks or not, one thing is clear - monasticism "works"; sure some monasteries go bad, but by and large the Rule has survived the test of time. There must be an internal reason for this as all other utopian communes fail within a generation or two.
Read something about St Patrick - circa 500AD... he too wrote things as unremarkable and without comment that would be surprising for some who have a proto-Protestant idea of "early Christianity". For one thing, he was a bishop; i.e. it was unremarkable for him that THE Church was hierarchical, not democratic.
But on the other hand, there WERE elections - as in the election of abbots to monasteries (who also invented the secret ballot).
Throughout history you will see sordid tales, almost too bad to be true stories of corruption and decay...but also stories of saints which depending on one's point of view/personal foibles seem almost too good to be true. For those who would seek to destroy the Catholic Church, history shows that almost every imaginable (and some unimaginable) means have been employed to that end, including corruption from within, infiltration, outright execution, to heresy. It never seems to work... the meek always inherit ruins and rebuild from within in surprising ways - like St Francis in the 13th century.
History is prelude.
Studying the history of the bible brought up some church history too.