Chadwick provides his readers with a thorough historical account of the early Christian church. He begins with the Jewish context into which the church was born, tells how the church grew and developed in the ensuing centuries, and takes the reader all the way to the Germanic invasions and their aftermath. The book is written in Chadwick's usual scholarly style, and has gained a wide reputation as an excellent source for the student or the layman who wishes to find out more about the early church.
His unromantic approach is one of Chadwick's strongest points, and is quite clear from the way he deals with, for instance, the conversion of Constantine and the Council of Nicaea in chapter 8. Constantine's conversion is not portrayed as spectacular and immediate as we find in certain history books. Rather, we see a military strategist who initially did not quite know the difference between Christianity and the 'Unconquered Sun', the deity to whom the Roman senate attributed Constantine's legendary victory over the troops of Maxentius at the Milvian bridge in 312, but one who nevertheless gravitated from solar monotheism to Christianity.
In my view Chadwick has done the church an immense favour by writing this book. The book has been reprinted many times, and it is widely used and referred to as a reliable source on the early church. The book does not read quite as easy as some modern works on church history, and this might be due to the fact that it was written in 1967, before the concept of 'user-friendliness' were popularised. The paragraphs are sometimes long (a single paragraph would often be longer than an entire page), and one wonders if the time has not perhaps arrived for a newer and easier to read version, edited to compensate for the collective attention deficiency disorder of the culture we live in. By doing so the book might be accessible to a much wider audience.