Karen Armstrong
Biography & Resources


Karen Armstrong is one of the best known and most popular writers on religion today. She has authored twelve books, including the best-seller A History of God, and created a six-part documentary television series in England on the life of Saint Paul. At age seventeen she took vows of chastity and poverty, and entered the Roman Catholic order of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. Seven years later she left the convent and in 1982 published her first book, Through the Narrow Gate, which chronicles her life as a nun. Shortly thereafter she published a second autobiographical book about the religious life, Beginning the World.

Ms. Armstrong studied at Oxford University, where she read literature and wrote a doctoral thesis that was subsequently rejected by an external examiner and which prompted her departure from academia. She took a position teaching English at a girls' school for several years, and is presently teaching Christianity at London's Leo Baeck College for the Study of Judaism.

Armstrong's achievements as an independent scholar focusing on the three great monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, have earned her a reputation as a major contributor to interfaith understanding and respect. Her books on Islam and Muhammed have given many Westerners their first clear and unbiased insight into the history and teachings of this great tradition and its prophet. With the recent publication of a biography of Buddha, she is extending her reach into the East and offering readers another accessible, if unconventional, account of one of the most influential religious teachers of all time.

Ms. Armstrong writes regularly for The Guardian and is at work on her thirteenth book about religion in the axial age.

selected books

Through the Narrow Gate
St. Martin's Griffin (2005) (original publication 1981)
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A Short History of Myth
Canongate U.S. (2005)
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Penguin Books (2004) (original publication 2000)
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The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness
Knopf (2004)
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Islam, a Short History
Modern Library (2002) (original publication 2000)
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Holy War: the Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World
Anchor (2001) (original publication 1988)
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The Battle for God
Knopf (2000)
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In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis
Knopf (1996)
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Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths
A. A. Knopf (1996)
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A History of God: The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam
Ballantine Books (1994) (original publication 1993)
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Muhammad: a Biography of the Prophet
HarperSanFrancisco (1993) (original publication 1992)
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The Gospel According to Woman
Anchor (1991) (original publication 1986)
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Beginning the World
St. Martin's Press (1983)
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selected articles

Interview about Islam, a Short History

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly interview

selected video, audio, dvd

Life of Buddha
Audio interview from The Smithsonian Associates

articles & interviews

Articles & interviews in EnlightenNext magazine

A New Axial Age